The Digital Consumer – What Differs Online Shoppers? 


5 minute read // Branding

Have you ever compared people who shop online to people who prefer physical stores? Yes, they shop in a different way, but why and how can I meet the online shoppers expectations?

In the next 5 minutes you’ll gain a new perspective on the behaviour of ‘the Digital Consumer’

The Digital Consumer

A digital consumer doesn’t necessarily need to transact or buy something online, the broad explanation is someone who gets their information online, including studying, reading or watching videos. But for now let us think of a digital consumer as an eCommerce client, buying from Webshops. 

Why Are They Different To The Offline Consumer?

The persona you project online does not always align with your real-life persona. Each website you engage with may have a unique perception of your identity, leading to a diverse portrayal of your characteristics across different platforms.

Out of this, let us divide us the digital consumer in two categories: 

1. Concealing Identity:

To protect my privacy, I use a fake name when registering for online accounts. This way, my real name, age, address, and other personal information are kept hidden from the public. Similarly, Drake, a famous singer, uses a stage name to conceal his real identity and maintain her privacy.

2. Concealing Traits:

In real life, I am a calm and collected person, but when it comes to online debates, I tend to become aggressive and confrontational. I hide this trait of mine from my colleagues and friends, as it does not reflect my true personality.

A person’s digital persona can exhibit a different character than their real-world self. What is meant by that are phenomena like calm individuals stirring up commotion. Someone who is normally level-headed and calm in their everyday life might become aggressive or argumentative in online discussions. They might feel more empowered to express their opinions and emotions behind the anonymity of their computer screen.

Another very relatable example: Socially awkward individuals becoming confident. People who struggle with social awkwardness in real life might find their online persona to be more confident and assertive. They might express themselves more freely and engage in conversations without feeling self-conscious.

So what we’re saying by this is that people act different and that they also shop differently. The expectations of a digital consumer are higher, because they are physically not in a store as well as there are a lot more decisions and options.  

But also be aware, because of the traits of a digital consumer, not only the purchase decisions are different, but also the reactions to products and services. Most digital consumers won’t shy away from giving bad reviews or comments on your brand as soon as they don’t receive a promised product at the promised time or quality. 

What Does the Digital Consumer Expect?

1. Innovative Approaches 

Today’s consumers have a high level of technical proficiency and expect brands to be just as sharp. They seek novelty from the brands they engage with, regardless of the industry. Although it may not involve altering the product directly, even in non-technical industries such as food and beverage, consumers anticipate updates or modifications to the way products are promoted. That’s why well-known brands like Budweiser frequently develop marketing campaigns that align with the latest technological advancements. Take a look at our Budweisers Dream Bottle Case to see what can be done to catch people’s attention. 

2. Strong Online Presence And Social Media Attendance

Many of us spend hours researching products we plan to purchase, whether online or in-person. We scour websites, online communities, brand pages, reviews, and customer testimonials, giving the same level of scrutiny regardless of the item’s cost. Thanks to the internet, our product research process has become increasingly thorough.

The emergence of influencer marketing through social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok has also had a profound impact on consumer behaviour. People trust familiar faces and their opinions on certain products. If my favourite influencer, that I follow maybe because of their hair, says one brand is her favourite and she uses these products, I will more likely buy this product because I remember it from her and I trust her opinion, even though I would usually not buy a product in that price range. 

3. Personalised Service

Personalised service and data collection are closely intertwined. A company’s ability to gain insight into its customers and provide tailored services is contingent on the amount of data it possesses about them. However, the gathering and utilisation of data has become a controversial topic in recent years, which warrants a separate discussion.

As a result, digital consumers are likely aware that the brands they frequently engage with will use their data to provide a more personalised online purchasing experience. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the company to establish trust with its customers. If you use the data of your customers in the right way you are able to give them general personalised services and experience and make them remind you. The best example here are automated email flows with personalised names and ‘favourite products for YOU’. If you’re interested in these, check out our blog post regarding the marketing automation app Klaviyo here

4. Omnichannel Customer Support

Customers expect brands to be present in channels that they are present in. Website, social media, email, chat and phone, they want a seamless and consistent experience across all of these touchpoints. They expect to receive the same level of service and support regardless of the channel they use to reach out to a company.

Moreover, an omnichannel customer support approach allows customers to choose the most convenient and efficient channel to resolve their issue, giving them more control over their experience. It also enables companies to gather and centralise data from multiple channels, providing a holistic view of the customer and facilitating better service.

What Should I Do As A Business To Satisfy The Digital Consumer ?

It is essential for businesses to understand that digital consumers differ significantly from traditional consumers and should not be treated the same way. They are easily frustrated, have high expectations for brands, and are notably erratic.

Once a company identifies the type of customer they are dealing with, they must approach the Customer journey in a dynamic way, rather than a linear way. But what is meant by that? 

Linear Customer Journey
Illustration depicting the average linear customer journey of the digital consumer.
Dynamic Customer Journey
Illustration depicting the average dynamic customer journey of the digital consumer.

The importance is to understand that customer interactions should be ongoing and not a one way road. Viewing it as a loop of engagement and loyalty-building helps visualise the goal we have with digital consumers. Spending time and effort in this process does pay out because of 2 main reasons. Firstly, moneywise, because acquiring a new customer costs 5x as much as retaining an existing one. And secondly, brand advocacy, if a customer is frequently reminded of a business, he/she will start to associate this business to the overall industry. 

To Sum Up

The digital consumer – who prefers purchasing goods and services over the internet, instead of at physical stores – exhibits a clear difference in psychological behaviour in comparison to the in-store customer. Since online purchases are directly tied to a certain expectation of the product, online shoppers are more likely to be disappointed when the product arriving is not what they envisioned. It is therefore important for eCommerce businesses to provide innovative solutions to counter not meeting customer expectations, such as: maintaining a strong online presence and social media attendance showcasing products multiple times, offering personalised service, and adopting an Omnichannel customer support approach. Understanding your customers needs and expectations when starting an eCommerce store is essential in order to combat these issues before they can even arise.

We at Flatline Agency, official Shopify Plus Partner, are here to help you take your business to the next step, including custom development, design, and marketing. If you are interested, please feel free to contact us.

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