The Various Purchase Paths of Digital Shoppers

June 23, 2013

By Jack Loechner, MediaPost

In a recent study by GroupM Next, with Compete, among more than 168,000 purchases of consumer electronics, 48% of all purchases studied were heavily influenced by digital media and advertising. The research outcome, presented by Jesse Wolfersberger and J. Patrick Monteleone, suggests, says the report, that a new series of consumer behaviors is forming the next-generation version of the purchase funnel.

Six clear pathways emerged defining the most common types of modern digital shoppers. Each of the six segments represents like-minded consumers who follow a given path of varying depth and duration to reach a marketer's optimal outcome—a sale. The difference in purchase pathways has more to do with behavioral factors than demographics. Average purchase price is also very similar among segments, suggesting that the type of product is not a differentiator. No segment has a majority of the market; the most prominent segment makes up 29% of all purchase paths.

Six Digital Customer Segments and Paths



Customer segment

% Digitally Engaged


Retail Sites

Brand Sites





Basic Digital Engaged Customers






Retail Scouts






Brand Scouts







Digitally Driven


Calculated Shoppers



Eternal Shoppers





Source: groupmnext, May 2013

Within five years these modern consumers will be the dominant segment who will embrace digital from beginning to end. They use social and mobile more than any other segment in the study, they value convenience above all else and they do just about everything in their power to avoid physically going to a store.

The Digitally Driven Segment is the most engaged with social media, with 29% of paths containing a branded social site. These consumers are also the most mobile, using mobile more than any other segment, and for the primary purpose of doing research, as opposed to looking for store locations.

When asked about the benefits of buying online, the response of these consumers was that prices are better and it is faster to shop online. This segment enjoys being left alone; these consumers said they make their purchase online to avoid salespeople and crowds. In addition, the Digitally Driven Segment is 30% more likely to find ads valuable than someone in another segment.

Reaching the Digitally Driven Segment:

  • Brands can reach this segment of people online
  • Have a mobile and local strategy for this segment
  • Surprisingly, these consumers do not watch many video ads, nor do they find video advertising valuable
  • This segment is the most likely to become a brand advocate on social media, with 14% going to a branded social media site after purchase
  • Of all segments, these shoppers had the highest affinity for search ads
  • Buying trigger: Keep the conversation going between these buyers and your brand by reaching them at multiple touch points

The Retail Scout Segment has short journeys and prefer retail sites to brand sites. This segment uses mobile, but are twice as likely to use it in the home as out. They use tablets and are responsive to ads on tablets. They are comfortable buying online but did not express a preference between online and offline. This segment has the least amount of consumers who had multiple purchases in the same category within the previous six months.

Reaching the Retail Scouts:

  • Brands can find this segment on tablets and mobile devices
  • This segment is highly likely to use search
  • These shoppers will be most responsive to coupons that can be used online or offline
  • Buying trigger: Right product, right price.

Brand Scouts are the spiritual partner to the Retail Scouts, except instead of having a favorite retailer, they have a favorite brand. When asked, 72% said they start their journey with a brand in mind, but now they are asking, "Should I buy it?"

On brand sites, they say they are trying to understand features. Of all segments, they are the least likely to try and find a lower price elsewhere. Brand Scouts place a high value on free shipping and free returns.

Of all the segments, these consumers watch the most video and place the highest value on video advertisements. They also find display ads valuable. Additionally, when compared to other segments, they have the highest preference for offline purchases.

Reaching the Brand Scouts:

  • These shoppers are already going to the brand site, so they do not need much convincing. They are responsive to non-monetary incentives
  • They are responsive to video and display ads
  • They use search, so non-monetary incentives should be apparent in the copy of their search ads
  • Buying trigger: Free shipping, free returns, minimize buying friction

The Basic Digital Consumer Segment takes several steps to research online, but they are not highly digital users. This segment is comfortable with Internet shopping and research, but they are not mobile nor social and have the second-highest likelihood of buying offline.

They are not the early adopters. 73% of those surveyed said they are looking for promotions. In terms of digital media exposure, this segment has the highest percentage of remembering a display ad, and 10% said a display ad prompted them to look up more information about the advertiser, the highest of any segment.

Reaching the Basic Digital Consumers:

  • The biggest opportunity for brands is in display advertising. The research path of these shoppers takes them all over the Internet
  • They buy both online and offline. A coupon should work for either.
  • Decision is made using a desktop or laptop computer.
  • Buying trigger: The right offer

The Calculated Shopper segment seems to know they are going to make a purchase, but they are deciding which brand to choose. They are similar to the Digitally Driven Segment, but have no urgency to their purchase, and they're willing to take the time to get the best deal.

About 24% watch product videos on a manufacturer's website, the highest of any segment. While on mobile, they look for pricing and features as well as compare brands, but they are not looking for where to buy, which is why these purchases lack urgency. These consumers find value in advertising, and are higher-volume customers, with 65% making more than one consumer electronics purchase in the past six months.

Reaching the Calculated Shoppers:

  • These shoppers are responsive to advertising. They are highly likely to use search and are looking for promotions and specials
  • They go to multiple brand sites to compare price and features
  • Of all the segments, these consumers are most ideal for loyalty programs. They make multiple purchases and are responsive to email
  • They tend to use mobile when close to the purchase decision to price-compare
  • Buying trigger: Promotions and special deals they can be proud of, and feel compelled to share

The Eternal Shopper segment is trying to find answers to  "Should I buy?" "What do I buy?" and "What brand do I buy?" all at the same time. These shoppers have no urgency to make a purchase. This segment's consumers do not place a high value on price or promotions, and they are not concerned about convenience. More interested in researching the product, they are not necessarily doing in-category comparison shopping.

Reaching the Eternal Shoppers:

  • This segment's consumers are all over the map, but they use search to navigate from step to step. Search is the best way to reach this customer
  • Like the Calculated Shoppers, they are responsive to email ads, so they are good candidates for loyalty programs once acquired
  • Buying trigger: Excitement about the product

The results of this research show that a brand site is an incredibly important touch point for consumers. The most common destinations of consumers who use online in their purchase pathway are brandsites (69%) and online retailers (50%). Portal sites (common homepages such as, and and social media sites are found in conversion paths five times less than brand and retailer sites.

When consumers go to a brand site, they spend a median time of 4.2 minutes at that touch point, more than twice as long as at a retailer site. Of all of the possible destinations, the brand site was the only touch point more likely to be found in a converting pathway than in a non-converting pathway.

Additionally, brand sites are often found in purchase pathways after conversion, often paired with social media. This is unexpected and valuable information for brands because it suggests that people return to the brand site to verify their purchase, remember what they bought, and to copy the URL to paste to social media sites

One anticipated, but non-material influencer, is social media, says the report. Social sites, defined as brand-specific pages on Facebook and Twitter, showed up only in 4% of all purchase pathways evaluated. Those who did use social were just as likely to use it after making a purchase as they were before. In post-conversion activity, social media is often paired with brand site visits, meaning these customers would return to the brand site in order to share the product, coupon or sale with their network.


"The Various Purchase Paths of Digital Shoppers." Jack Loechner, MediaPost, 06/11/13.

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