3 (Not So) Secret Habits of Digital Shoppers

We’ve all heard of the big three characteristics of the digital shopper: they’re increasingly mobile, hard to locate across devices, and impatient in finding what they want online. But there are three lesser discussed, but equally important characteristics that have more to do with people shop that are taking over the experience for brands in-store and online.

But first, let’s quickly review the original three:

They’ve Gone Mobile
Correct. More shoppers are engaging on mobile devices, prompted by events like emails and social notifications – driving traffic to your site. By this point, if you’re not prepared to personalize experiences or optimize on mobile, you’re missing out on a big opportunity.

They Shop Across Devices
Correct. In 2014 the average number of internet capable devices per household was 5.2, and 25% of households reported having 7 or more devices1. That’s a lot of screen time, and impressions if you can identify each shopper correctly across the array of devices.

They Won’t Tolerate a Bad Experience
Correct. Your shoppers have an expectation for personalization, and when it’s done poorly they take notice, and often jump ship to another retailer. Personalized experiences should be thoughtful and intentional, not a collection of overgeneralized interests that don’t resonate.

These all point to possible hiccups in the shopper’s process, but what may be more interesting or useful to your brand are their shopping habits. Let’s look at three habits shoppers have developed when engaging with your site, store, and content that are impacting your success.

1) Email Re-opens
Take the mobile thought above, but then also take into account that smartphones have turned email into an addiction. There are even studies devoted to the feeling of your phone ringing when it’s not — and those studies showed 90% of participants experienced phantom vibration syndrome2. We want our phones to ping, so we check them incessantly, and open engage digitally at all times of day.

Now think about the multi-device shopper and how that relates to email. Shopper’s engage minimally when they open a message. They scan for interest and either save or delete. It’s that simple, and done in seconds. A brand’s biggest goal is to achieve immediate click-through and engagement with personally and contextually relevant content for the reader.

But a secondary goal is to survive in the inbox for re-open. The brand experience should be “on-call” whenever the reader reopens, and may be more receptive to their message. By using dynamic email components, you can ensure that re-visited content is up to date, reflecting the current device and recent shopper activity powering product recommendations.

2) Showrooming
Showrooming is another new term, coined by the growth of smartphone usage for shoppers doing research, comparing prices, and looking for coupons while they are in a physical store. For many, it’s the best of both worlds — you get the tactile interaction with the product, the literal try before you buy, and the confidence to buy online at a lower price.

Some brands are bringing the battle into the physical stores, changing their prices daily to compete with online retailers. But showrooming is a habit that can be guided rather than fought.

In a physical store, there’s a sales associate to answer questions, talk up promotions, and help guide a final purchase. But this element of the research and purchase experience is sometimes missing from digital retail. To replicate this sense of “service”, brands are turning to personalization to streamline discovery and checkout, and this where recognizing a showrooming shopper creates an interesting opportunity.

It starts with assessing a visitors current context and intent right when they land on your site. Based on their location, you may be able to determine if they are in a physical retail store or close to one of your own brick and mortar shops. You may also observe the shoppers device, adapting your site for a better mobile experience, and capture their real-time intent through search queries, likely of an exact product name. These context clues build a pretty good profile for the hybrid instore/digital shopper, while giving you enough information to reinforce the bond between online and instore promoting pickup options or in store coupons, or pursue the digital conversion through a promotion like free two day shipping.

3) Cart Curation
While I am guilty of all of these practices, cart curation is my biggest fault as a shopper. My cart is an evolving favorites list on every site I visit, even on retailers like Amazon (where I have an actual favorites list). And I’m not the only one who does this. If I were, abandon carts wouldn’t be such a standard (and effective) email and eCommerce re-engagement practice.

A recent Salesforce study with Litmus showed that over 50% of retailers now send a series of emails, rather than one, to recapture an abandoned cart3. However, shoppers with a true brand affinity will revisit the site often, interspersed with the scheduled series, supplying new behavior, editing their in-cart favorites, and throwing a general curve ball at any pre-set emails in the queue.

To ensure these campaigns do their job (prompt return visits) and stay relevant, you need to be able to react to new shopper behavior. Otherwise, you run the risk of sending a campaign focused on an irrelevant item that warrants no engagement from your shopper. With dynamic email content, brands can automatically update merchandise in emails based on recent behavior. Ultimately allowing you verify continued interest before showing that product to the shopper again, or automatically swap out the old for a newly added item based on recent behavior.

While I agree one of the big problem facing retailers is meeting shoppers where they are, it’s also challenging to adapt your personalization process to how they shop. Channels are blurred and expanding, with in-store elements guiding online merchandising, and eCommerce practices interrupting the in-store browsing process. It’s a new world for retail, but it’s clear that as long as the individual shopper remains your focus, brands can adapt and address their needs.

1. Recode, More Than 90% of US Households Have Three or More Devices Pinging the Internet, November 2014 (http://on.recode.net/1qRYxHm)
2. NPR, Phantom Phone Vibration So Common They’ve Changed Our Brains, September 2013 (http://n.pr/1hKKVQ9)
3. Litmus, Nothing in Email Marketing is Set It and Forget It, June 2015 (http://bit.ly/1L6QseE)
Hillary Wilmoth

Hillary Wilmoth is the senior product marketing manager at Reflektion. Having worked in merchandising, consumer products, publishing, analytics and technology over the past 9 years, you might think she has ADD; but each marketing role was shopper-focused and research-driven. Hillary is a native of Baltimore, and, no, it’s not exactly like The Wire.