Understanding consumers: How the Internet has affected purchasing habits

Posted by Maria Murphy Oct 22, 2013 12:03:00 PM

Topics: Social Media

Over the past few decades, attempts have been made to shoehorn the Internet into various paradigms. It has been called a database, a method of communication and networking, a platform for creating, and a form of entertainment. While the Internet as a whole cannot be placed in just one box, what we can all hopefully agree upon is that the Internet has vastly changed our behaviour as a consumer.

One of the ways in which our behaviour has changed is our approach to purchasing products.

Since the advent and proliferation of the WWW, consumers have actively turned to the Internet to research about, and look for, specific products or services. Our modus operandi when it comes to purchasing has now shifted to surfing the Internet prior to buying our products.


The main reason behind this is that the Internet makes it a lot easier for consumers to access the information to understand more about the product they are considering.


Research shows that 8 out of 10 shoppers use the Internet to research, purchase products and services. This comprises searching for product reviews, comparing product prices, looking for brands on social media and interacting with the brands online.


With the Internet becoming such a large part of our lives, it is clear that the role it plays in influencing our purchasing decisions is an important one. In fact, digital content has easily become the most powerful influence on buying choices for the majority of shoppers across the UK.


Below we have listed three things you should know on how consumers are influenced by digital content:


  1. Social media makes people feel connected

This might seem like quite an obvious one, but social media allows customers to feel connected to a brand. In this day and age, companies are expected to have some sort of digital face, and consumers have the perception that brands that don’tengaging in social media are out of touch. Some even feel that companies lacking an online presence are simply disinterested in their customers.


Being on social media allows opportunity to interact with consumers, and cement positive relationships. Studies have shown that an impressive 51% of Facebook fans and 67% of Twitter followers are more likely to purchase the brands they follow or are fans.


However, it's important to not take it too far when it comes to trying to use social media to connect with your audiences. We have seen all too many social media stunts that have simply been sinking ships for brands (for example the #AskBG nightmare). Make sure your social campaigns sit well with your consumers before doing anything. You don't want to look like the one who's trying to cash in on a disaster.


  1. Product reviews matter

The Internet has given consumers a platform for speaking their minds, and research has shown that their opinions count, and why wouldn't they? Product reviews allow consumers to get a feel for the product before they even try it themselves. Statistics show that a massive 80% of shoppers change their minds based on online reviews.

While having tons of bad reviews can certainly put a damper on conversion rates, having a handful of bad reviews and more good reviews can help to increase sales.


On the other hand, good reviews can seriously drive sales. Sales for a t-shirt on Amazon shot up by 2300% in 2009, after a joke review for the T went viral. To date, the tee, featuring 3 wolves howling at a moon, has garnered over 2000 reviews.


  1. Customers want easier access to information

It is common for customers to do online research about products prior to purchase. In a study on consumer behaviour, it was revealed that before making a purchase approximately 90% of consumers turn to Google, Bing or another search engines to find information about products, services or businesses. While this is all fine, it has led to customers expecting easier access to product information either through retailer touchscreens or via their personal mobile devices.

Now it’s your Turn 

With more consumers turning to the Internet every day to research products, marketers can take advantage of this by increasing the focus on their online marketing strategies. To convert virtual window shoppers into buyers, businesses need to concentrate on creating a consistent and positive image across their online and offline services.

What are your thoughts on how the Internet has affected purchasing decisions? Do you think businesses should have a digital presence? What advice would you offer when it comes to using the Internet to market your brand? We're always keen to hear from you - so don't be a stranger and get in touch with us about your comments.

And if you would like to find out more about digital communications, but have no idea where to start, why not get in touch with RDPR today?


We've also produced a free guide for SMEs looking to get started with online marketing. Download it now and start attracting customers through the web today:

Online marketing guide for SMEs


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