Know your Online Shopper!

As we start 2016 there is a buzz about the new year and a sense of urgency to “hit the ground running”. One tip we want to share with you today to get your digital marketing strategy off to a great start is “know your online shopper”.

During 2015 there was a lot of discussion about different types of online shopper. Despite what anyone claims, there is no single definitive categorisation to follow here! However, the key thing is that your digital marketing strategy needs to focus on gaining a better understanding of your customers and recognising more accurately where they are in their journey and how they wish to interact with you.


We were interested in some research by AT Kearney about different types of Internet user. The research looks at how people’s Internet connectivity determines their shopping preferences. It highlights four different segments of connected consumers:

  • Transactionals: These consumers may not spend as much time online as some of the other categories, but when they are online they are focused and know what they want. In fact they prefer to shop online once they have decided that there is a need to do so.
  • Bricks, no clicks: These consumers are the least connected segment and do few things online, with well-defined boundaries on what they actually want to do while online. They prefer to shop offline and are most likely to be loyal to the shopping channels and destinations they are used to.
  • Online champions: These are the segment who like being online and doing everything online — whether it is surfing the Internet, interacting on social networks, or buying products and services. They engage intently with brands on social networks and are heavily influenced by “likes” – the digital marketer’s dream!
  • Social animals: Social animals go online to connect with people, enjoy entertainment and surf the Internet, but they still shop mostly offline because that remains an important social experience for them. They may buy some items online, but at a much lower level than online champions, being more likely to use the Internet to evaluate their available options rather than actually purchasing.

The image below shows the global breakdown of these four segments:

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 09.45.18

However, the breakdown specific to each country does vary and for the UK the figures are:

  • Transactionals – 28%
  • Bricks, no clicks – 27%
  • Online champions – 29%
  • Social animals – 15%

With a combination of online champions and transactionals forming the majority of UK consumers, it is vital to gather as much data and information about these consumers and pitch your digital marketing strategy accordingly. Even those who are committed to buying online will have different types of intent at different stages of the process – for example, discovery, consideration, decision, and loyalty.

As we said above, there have been various attempts at categorising typical online behaviours of those people who do like to shop online. The below (courtesy of The Little Black Book of On-Site Remarketing) is not a definitive list but may be helpful as a starting point.

For each of the categories we explain the meaning and include some potential digital marketing strategies for engaging these consumers:

  • The Cautious Consumer – people who like to do incessant research before actually making a purchase. These consumers need the right message at just the right time to put their mind at ease so they can complete the purchase. For example customer or product or reinforcing your lowest price guarantee, free shipping or lifetime product warranty may all be helpful.
  • The Window Shopper – people who are almost at the purchasing stage – and may even have items in their basket – but can’t bring themselves to checkout! A key strategy here is to create a sense of urgency, perhaps suggesting a limited stock or a flash sale that is about to expire.
  • The Passionate Purchaser – people who are impulse buyer and get an immense sense of emotional gratification when they complete a purchase. If your Passionate Purchaser seems to be getting distracted you may well be able to re-engage them by reinforcing how close they are to owning that much-prized possession and how good they’ll feel once they have completed the purchase.
  • The Experience Seeker – people who need a recreation of the “human touch” during the purchase process. This can be achieved by strategies such as displaying recommendations and related products that your consumer may have not seen. This can improve the customer experience while potentially increasing your average order value! You can also offer customer service via a live chat function or a call back from a representative to provide an element of real-time assistance – or how about an ‘Email My Basket’ type message to allow the customer to complete their purchase when they’re ready (and you to gain their email address!).
  • The Newbie – people who are brand new to your site. These customers do not yet know how your site operates and how good their experience is going to be – so you need to get acquainted! How about building that relationship by persuading them to sign up to your loyalty program or special promotion. Guide them around your website – are there certain online features they should be aware of? What helpful tips and tricks can you give to them to ensure that their first shopping experience isn’t their last?


During 2016 we predict that there will be an increasing trend to gather and understand data about customers’ online behaviour. All the above categories – whilst helpful – are subject to change as the sophistication of analytics continues to grow and evolve.

But one thing is certain: it is essential for your digital marketing strategy to be based around such analytics and for it to be reviewed on an increasingly regular basis in order for it to stand any chance of remaining effective.