Online Consumer Shopping Habits and Behavior


Consumer Buying Attitudes deals with the actions that are undertaken by the consumer prior to the purchase of a product or service. This process encompasses employing search engines and interacting with social media posts among the wide range of other methods that are available. Businesses need to make sense of the above-stated process as it assists them in enhancing their market initiatives to the marketing efforts that have encouraged their respective consumers to purchase their goods and services in the past. In other words, consumer behavior is the study of the instant connection felt by most consumers when they see a certain product (which drives them to purchase the said product) and the reason behind having felt such a connection. Billions of dollars are spent by retailers every year with an aim to elicit this feeling, this connection among the consumers. Some of the common techniques that are often used by retailers to invoke such a feeling include digital campaigns, video and print promotions, social media marketing, and branding.

Apart from the effort and money spent by the retailer in order to invoke the feeling between a consumer and product, there exist a few external and internal factors that also influence their decision. A combination of different scenarios can be the driving force behind a particular individual to purchase a certain product and at the same time make another person not want to buy the said product.

Online shopping is perhaps more prominent in the affluent world of today than it was even a few years ago, and it is also expanding in India, with 120 million Internet users compared to the overall 1 billion Internet users in 30 emerging economies (McKinsey & Company, 2012). “Asia Pacific region hits for maximum worldwide Internet audience of 41% followed by Europe (27%), North America (14%), Middle East Africa (9%) and Latin America (9%) (ComScore, 2013).”[1] Customers view the internet to be an excellent way to shop for bargains, with most things available at much lower rates than in physical stores.

Factors that impact in consumer buying behavior are:

  1. Cultural Factors – apart from nationalities, it also revolves around a person’s associations, their religious beliefs and their location.
  2. Social Factors – aspects of a person’s environment that influence how they perceive products.
  3. Personal Factors – includes someone’s age, marital status, budget, personal beliefs, values, and morals.
  4. Psychological Factors – when a person is confronted with a product, their state of mind frequently decides how they feel about the item and the business as a whole.

Owing to the rise of eCommerce, consumer purchasing patterns have shifted dramatically over the years. Whereas shopping in a store used to be the preferred way of buying, online shopping is gradually becoming the preferred method of shopping for people all over the world.

The biggest advantage that eCommerce provides to the consumers is the flexibility to be able to shop from anywhere around the world at any given point of time. It is no longer needed for them to wait until store hours in order to make a purchase. While the ability to study and shop online has grown significantly, mobile has elevated eCommerce to a new level because customers may utilize the device at any moment during the sales cycle. Throughout the selling cycle, customers use mobile in a variety of ways. “A 2018 Forrester’s Retail Best Practices: Mobile Web study found that mobile devices will be used in more than one-third of total US retail sales in 2018.”[2] According to Nels Stromborg who is the North America managing director at Retale, “consumers use mobile in a variety of different ways throughout the sale cycle.”

These are some of the scenarios:

  1. in order to find items and compare prices,
  2. to make and keep track of shopping lists
  3. to review purchases
  4. to buy goods
  5. to learn about new products

However, this does not necessarily mean that physical stores are meeting their end. Tom Popomaronis, senior director of product innovation and business development at the Hawkins Group also explains how an experience that is flawless between offline and online shopping is needed to prevent physical stores from closing, thereby preventing the “kiss of death” of physical stores. In order to make this possible many companies have created apps, thereby optimizing their e-commerce stores and selling their products through various social media channels. In this way, these stores give consumers the freedom to choose where and when to shop. A buyer can order merchandise online at midnight, have it delivered the next day, and then return it to a physical store if they are displeased with it. The capability to offer a wider range of quality products is the strength of mobile eCommerce. Customers have come to appreciate this level of service.

Furthermore, a survey has been conducted by an organization called Invesp where they have ventured the reasons behind why online consumption rates are significantly higher. The statistics regarding consumer satisfaction levels with different aspects of online shopping are as follows –

  1. “ease of checkout – 81%
  2. variety of brands and products offered- 80%
  3. number of shopping options offered- 73%
  4. number of payment options available- 71%
  5. free or discounted shipping- 69%
  6. ease of making returns and exchanges- 62%
  7. ability to purchase through a tablet application- 61%
  8. ability to contact a live customer service rep- 58%
  9. ability to purchase through a smartphone application- 55%”[3]

The above-mentioned survey also discovered that more than 62% of consumers in the United States who have access to the internet shop online at least once a week.

The customer demands a shopping experience that is tailored according to their needs; that is tailored to them – one that is consistent regardless of the operating system they are using to shop or where they are in the purchasing process. According to Triangle Capital LLC partner Richard Kestenbaum,” challenge for retailers is they have to offer better experiences than they have in the past to motivate customers to come in or make a purchase.”[4] Moreover, marketing consultant Andy Betts also explains that, “companies are doing this by creating omni-channel, personalized experiences with content that resonates, engages and delights consumers at every stage of the buying process”[5]

Another reason behind the drastic change of the consumer behavior was the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only was the global population massively impacted, so were the businesses. Although ecommerce had started to gain steady popularity, this pandemic played a major role in propelling it to extremities. “The US Department of Commerce noted a significant difference in eCommerce sales: from 2010 and 2019, eCommerce sales increased 8% while in the year 2020 alone, within a span of a few months, there was a whopping 5% increase in eCommerce sales.”[6] From these above findings, it can be safely concluded that ecommerce was used by consumers all over the world as a medium to the “new normal”.

The importance of e-commerce can also be recognized through the Consumer Protection Act of 2019 as the only reason behind the amendment of the Consumer Protection Act of 1986 was to incorporate both the modern methods which includes online-sales, teleshopping and multi-media marketing as well as the with the traditional methods. The main objective of this amended act is to enhance the protection of consumer with the inclusion of their safety against the lucrative e-commerce industry as well.

One such example can be viewed under the Section 7 of the Consumer Protection Act of 2019, which states that a consumer is a person who:

  1. “buys any goods for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment and includes any user of such goods other than the person who buys such goods for consideration paid or promised or partly paid or partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, when such use is made with the approval of such person, but does not include a person who obtains such goods for resale or for any commercial purpose.
  2. hires or avails of any service for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment and includes any beneficiary of such service other than the person who hires or avails of the services for consideration paid or promised, or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, when such services are availed of with the approval of the first mentioned person, but does not include a person who avails of such service for any commercial purpose.”

It is further explained that the expression ‘buys any goods’ and ‘hires or avails of any service’ includes “offline or online transactions through electronic means or by teleshopping or direct selling or multi-level marketing.”

On the other hand, under the Consumer Protection Act of 1986, although the definition of the term ‘consumer’ has remained the same, this act does not expressly cover the inclusion of online transactions and teleshopping.

Consumers nowadays have access to information, the power to purchase on many platforms, and the desire to expand their shopping experiences. All of these wants have drastically changed their expectations and the way they shop. Customers’ consumption patterns will constantly change as technology improves, and businesses will need to respond to these desires and innovate accordingly to stay in the spotlight. The only way to adapt to the needs of the consumer is for the businesses to adapt their branding, content, and insights in response to changes in consumer behavior.

[1] Kalpana Mathur and Arti Sharma, A STUDY OF ONLINE SHOPPING HABITS OF

CONSUMERS IN INDIA, Volume 2 Issue 1, International Journal on Customer Relations, 23, March 2014

[2] Scalefast team, How eCommerce has Changed Customer Behavior, Scalefast, July 20th, 2021, https://www.scalefast.com/blog/customer-behavior/

[3] Kalid Saleh, Online Consumer Shopping Habits and Behavior, Invesp , July 20th, 2021, https://www.invespcro.com/blog/online-consumer-shopping-habits-behavior/

[4] Scalefast team, How eCommerce has Changed Customer Behavior, Scalefast, July 20th, 2021, https://www.scalefast.com/blog/customer-behavior/

[5] Scalefast team, How eCommerce has Changed Customer Behavior, Scalefast, July 20th, 2021, https://www.scalefast.com/blog/customer-behavior/

[6] Annonymous, Preparing for 2021: Retail Trends & Shopper Expectations to Watch Out For, Intelligence Node, July 20th, 2021, https://www.intelligencenode.com/blog/preparing-for-2021-retail-trends-shopper-expectations-to-watch-out-for/


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