Innovation And The Digital Shopper


August 2015 |

Understanding the consumer’s digital path to purchase is the million-dollar question every retailer wants the answer to.

That’s why today, PYMNTS released a research project that digs deep into that million-dollar question of how digital shoppers shop, pay and think about trying new payment solutions.

Of course, there’s no magic bullet to fully determine how consumers decide where to start that journey or how that decision leads them to purchase and pay. That process is complex and involves multiple factors that could impact the outcome. But there is always one way to better understand the most important factors and decisions along the way.

By going straight to the source and asking consumers.

This means asking those digital shoppers where they begin their shopping journey, why they buy on a particular site, and what they feel comfortable using to pay for their purchases. Does it change for online vs. mobile? Where do they like to start their shopping journey? And what matters most when choosing a site to ultimately make that purchase?

“Together with we wanted to take a closer look at what matters most to today’s digital shopper and what we found was stunning. The No. 1 determining factor on whether a consumer chose to make a purchase online was trust, not selection or price, but trust. Trust is paramount to digital shoppers and it’s evident at every stage of the shopping journey,” said Patrick Gauthier, VP of Amazon Payments.

The panel for the research consisted of more than 2,000 online and mobile shoppers, and was conducted in July 2015. Today’s highly engaged digital buyers are young, between the ages 25-34; affluent, with income above $80,000; and also well-educated, with four years of college or more.

Here’s what the research concluded:

Where Consumers Begin Shopping

When consumers were asked where they start their shopping journey when they need to buy something online, they most frequently cited a marketplace.

“The places where people shop online has changed. Five years ago, when a retailer talked about an omnichannel leader, it meant store, online, mobile. Today, online itself is a plurality of channels that is very different. Five years ago you would have found that marketplaces wasn’t the first place people went to buy. You probably would have seen search and their favorite merchant on the very top of the list. What we’ve been seeing is both the coming of age of marketplaces of all sorts — both big and small — and also the early emergence of social media,” Gauthier said.

In fact, he noted that when looking at mobile shoppers’ behavior, 63 percent of them will start from Google when they are looking for information; 45 percent will start on Amazon when they are searching for a product.

Why Consumers Buy

When asked what was the most important reason for determining where to make the final online purchase, it came down to trust. Here’s how consumers rated factors as most important in determining where to ultimately make a purchase:

  • 23 Percent | Trust in the site
  • 16 Percent | Tailored promotions or rewards
  • 14 Percent | Good experience in the past
  • 13 Percent | Item(s) are available in an acceptable time frame

Interestingly enough, Gauthier said, the top reasons consumers buy on a specific site wasn’t about shipping or price. In fact, those weren’t even close to the top of the list. What these findings show is that customers are choosing retailers that they have a relationship with — even on a digital level. And they are choosing retailers they have built a level of trust with.

“You need a strategy that is about more than being present. You need a strategy that is about being present where your customers are because if you are not, then you are not being customer centric,” Gauthier said. “This is a really profound and important finding. … There’s no such thing as a relationship without trust.”

The other reasons rated most important were: Shipping considerations (11%); Offered preferred method of payment (8%); Ease of use (6%); Site that recognizes me (4%); Preferred customer (3%); Can checkout as a guest (1%); Stores billing and shipping info (1%); Can store payment information (0%).

“What’s so interesting here is how consumers favor both marketplaces and merchants to start their digital journey. There’s room for both! And the ultimate digital destinations are driven by trust – trust that the sites have what they want to buy, trust that they will be given a fair price, trust that their goods will be delivered to them in a time frame that is relevant. Trust is also something that appears important when consumers are presented with new ways to pay online and on mobile – familiar brands that they know and use seem to trump the efforts of even the most progressive new technology players,” MPD CEO Karen Webster said in response to the research.

New Ways To Pay Online

When shifting the conversation toward the latest ways in the payments ecosystem to pay online, the results from the survey showed that consumers were two times more likely to both accept/adopt a new payments product from Amazon than Apple.

New Ways To Pay On Mobile

When asked about how comfortable consumers would be making an online purchase using a new form of payment while shopping on a mobile device, Amazon also was regarded as almost twice as trusted in the marketplace.

 What The Findings Say About The Customer Journey

The above chart shows how comfortable consumers were using a payment method that doesn’t exist yet today on the Web to show how that may impact the consumer shopping journey. And given the opportunity to pay, it showed Amazon — in both channels (online and mobile) — was thought of as twice as trusted as Apple as a platform to pay through.

Gauthier admitted even he was a bit surprised about how high Amazon ranked in these findings. He said what the numbers do show is the shift in the consumer journey about how they begin their shopping experience.

“This is not a slide about the greatness of Amazon, this is a slide of understanding how the consumer behavior in the shopping journey is changing,” Gauthier said during the presentation of the data.

He also explained during the presentation about the findings what the data says about how retailers should approach understanding the consumer, their journey and how they understand their commerce identity in the digital world.

“The first finding we found is about the journey, it’s not about the channel itself. When I read these numbers it tells me something that we otherwise know. With the convergence with the time spent online, mobile as a channel and online as a channel is probably the wrong way to think about things. And it’s more about the type of shopping journey,” Gauthier said.

“The fact that there is no significant difference to how people responded on mobile and online tells us that we have to focus more on the journey and focus on the intrinsic characters that will generate trust and a relationship with the consumer through the shopping journey itself,” he said.

Customer Centricity Vs. Customer Obsession

So why does Gauthier think that consumer journey is changing? Well, if you look back at the history of marketplaces, Amazon has been around for 20 years and most digital shoppers today have grown up with Amazon as a site to start the search for shopping for products.

“What I see here is what I call an Amazon generation. …There is an Amazon generation. It’s not about Amazon the supplier. It’s about how people who have grown up buying online have been disproportionally shopping online as the attributes of the sample that we saw shows us. That tells me something,” Gauthier concluded.

Webster and Gauthier broke the news from the research project during the first day of the R2 Summit, Reinventing Retail, on Aug. 4. And during the presentation of the findings, Gauthier explained how the results match Amazon’s customer philosophy.

As Gauthier explained, Amazon’s policy is to work backward, which means starting with the customer and allowing their behavior to drive the decision-making processes.

“It’s not about customer centricity, it’s about customer obsession,” he said, as he explained what exactly that means.

“Everyone says they are customer centric. What I want to point out is there is a difference between customer centricity and customer obsession. Customer obsession means you start from something your customer can’t do and you try to see if you can solve for it. It usually brings you to places that are counterintuitive. It causes you to make business decisions that if you started the other way around …you would not go there,” Gauthier said.


Exclusive PYMNTS Study: 

The Future Of Unattended Retail Report: Vending As The New Contextual Commerce, a PYMNTS and USA Technologies collaboration, details the findings from a survey of 2,325 U.S. consumers about their experiences with shopping via unattended retail channels and their interest in using them going forward.

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