How to Drive Purchases by Appealing to Shoppers’ Decision-Making Habits
Typically, consumers have two decision-making styles: those who exhaustively research multiple options before making a purchase (aka the “thorough” shopper) and those who purchase the first decent choice that fits their preferences (aka the “efficient” shopper). Retailers that understand this distinction can shape their approaches to acquire and retain customers, including developing content and leveraging social media in a way that’s tailored to each consumer type.
Arguably, the thorough shoppers are the tougher sell, but it’s still important brands understand three key characteristic categories of both — generational differences, social media habits, and product attribute priorities — in order to appeal to their decision-making habits and ultimately drive purchases.
A recent Gartner survey of roughly 1,700 consumers found that younger customers are far more likely than older consumers to be efficient shoppers. There were no significant differences between respondents’ gender or income, with one exception: the percentage of efficient shoppers (47 percent) is higher among female consumers with kids at home than female consumers without (36 percent), signaling to retail brands that family responsibilities can reduce the time spent evaluating product purchase options.
Social Media Habits
When compared to thorough shoppers, efficient shoppers are also more likely to have purchased something because they saw it on social media, especially in the categories of clothing, shoes and accessories as well as beauty, grooming or personal care products. While thorough shoppers might use social media as part of a rigorous product research process, efficient shoppers have a stronger appetite for social content than thorough shoppers, reinforcing common generational differences in social media usage.
One-third of efficient shoppers follow the accounts of social media influencers, such as celebrities and other online personalities, who promote or share brand-sponsored content, while roughly the same percentage (30 percent) of thorough shoppers follow topic experts — more than any other type of social media personality — reflecting their desire to seek expertise and not settle for good-enough outcomes.
Both habits illustrate the growing consumer demands for social commerce. Many brands have already invested in influencers and new social ad mediums as a result. As one example, TikTok Shopping Ads, launched in mid-2022, include video ads that feature a “Shop Now” banner that consumers can tap to reach a landing page and click out to the brand’s website to make a purchase. As another, in 2022, YouTube and Shopify partnered to enable merchants to integrate their online store.
Product Features and Attributes
When asked what product attributes they care more about today than two years ago, including price and the latest features, an important difference stands out. Most thorough shoppers said they're more concerned about price than two years ago for most categories of products, including clothing. These consumers likely perform price comparisons before buying a product — and marketers can support them with online price-comparison tools.
Yet most efficient shoppers said they care more now about the latest features over price for product categories such as furniture and home decor. This means that marketers need to ensure that product descriptions emphasize key features without overwhelming efficient shoppers.
Social gaming platforms are becoming a new channel for product promotions that appeal to Gen Z consumers, many of whom are efficient shoppers. These platforms enable brands to share product features with consumers who care more about style than price and engage with shoppers in the metaverse.
How Retailers Can Optimize Their Digital Marketing Efforts for Both Types of Shoppers?
Boost thorough shoppers’ confidence in their buying decisions by:
- Listing products on shopping engines that permit consumers to compare pricing and shipping options depending on the product category. In response to inflation and economic uncertainties, consumers report an increased use of digital pricing tools such as price comparisons and digital coupon tracking.
- Managing customer ratings and reviews by developing a process to collect, analyze and respond to reviews, including using them for user-generated content and testimonials. Customer reviews are a trusted source of information and can have a direct impact on conversion.
- Reevaluating your affiliate marketing strategy to ensure that loyalty and promotion partners are incentivized to promote your products.
- Ensuring that shoppers are aware of their options for product returns and warranties before and during the checkout process, considering their strive for perfection and the best available option.
Make buying easy and engaging for efficient shoppers by:
- Testing emerging social commerce features to reduce any friction that shoppers may experience in between product discovery and purchase. This includes partnering with platform-native influencers to drive brand consideration and conversion as well as prioritizing the social media platforms where target consumers are most engaged.
- Choosing the right mix of content types based on level of production investment and type of consumer engagement. Short-form video, for example, supports active consumer engagement with a lower brand investment than podcasts or long-form video.
Anna Maria Virzi is a senior principal researcher in the Gartner Marketing Practice, studying consumer behaviors and attitudes that impact marketing leaders’ decision making.