Buying at Speed: How Technology Empowers the Always-On Shopper

Jan 16 2014

Buying at Speed: How Technology Empowers the Always-On Shopper

AOL partnered with InsightsNow and Rubinson Partners on the release of a new shopper study, Buying at Speed: How Technology Empowers the Always-On Shopper, which debuted at CES 2014. In 2013, we did a lot of work to understand the consumer journey and it was an eye opening process. A surprising amount of counter-intuitive insights shed new light on how people shop, and we discovered the process doesn’t always happen the way we (or the industry) thinks it does. As a result of this work, we started to rethink the idea of the consumer “journey” – does the concept of a journey or path still make sense today? The resulting effort is this new research that examines the shopping behaviors and attitudes of over 5,000 online users, of which 3,997 own a smartphone and/or tablet.

Tech Empowers Always-On Shopping

What does the shopping experience look like for people today? It’s changed – much of it due to the proliferation of tech devices and the access it enables.

  • 92% of online users say that tech access has had some sort of effect on their shopping habits.

How is it changing people’s relationship with shopping? The round the clock connectivity that digital offers, has people turning into always-on shoppers.

  • 46% of online users say, “I look at stuff to buy online almost every day [even if I’m not actually making purchases].”

This is especially true once they adopt smartphones and tablets.

  • 50% of tablet/smartphone owners say, “I look at stuff to buy online almost every day [even if I’m not actually making purchases]” vs. only 32% of non-owners.

Browsing and Brand Preference

While these shoppers are browsing, they are building a reservoir of product knowledge. Knowledgeable shoppers are more confident, and therefore are likely to make more impulse purchases.

  • 43% of tablet/smartphone owners say, “I find myself buying stuff that I didn’t plan to” vs. only 29% of non- owners.

This frequent browsing is also having an effect on brand preference. In fact the more often shoppers browse online, the more likely they are to know what brand they’ll buy before they shop. Those who browse are increasingly building brand knowledge - they are not making brand decisions during the “last mile” of this so-called “path.” This statement is true for both, planned and impulse purchases.

  • For 54% of planned purchases and 50% of impulse purchases, buyers knew the brand they would buy before they shopped. Tech is empowering this brand preference.


1. A strong brand is more important than ever. Always-on shopping creates preferences that carry over into the active shopping period. While in-market targeting is important, brands must also consider having consistent ad/brand pressure to ensure that once an individual enters the active shopping window, they’ll convert.

2. Align metrics and KPIs with the true nature of shopping behaviors. Marketers need to align success metrics and KPIs with the true nature of the shopping journey. Measurement should reflect the reality of how people shop in the category. Right now, most metrics focus on the last mile, but upper funnel metrics like brand health should also be considered.

3. Acknowledge the emboldened consumer and fuel their confidence. All of this access to information has created a deep-seated sense of confidence among shoppers and changed their perceptions of themselves. They are more confident that they can make the right product decision - even if only given a day or week to figure it out. Brands should acknowledge that power and find ways to fuel it.

The information here represents a sampling of our findings. With over 22,000 purchases catalogued, there is an opportunity to take a deeper dive into specific product categories. To find out more about how the research findings apply to your category, contact your AOL sales rep to schedule a presentation of “Buying at Speed.”


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