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Consumer Online Habits Are Changing, What Are Successful Brands Doing?

Consumers are decreasing time online but increasing spending.

By Joe Morris

December 31, 2022

Cover photo for what you need to know about how consumer online habits are changing

Over the course of 2020 and 2021 consumers increased their time spent online by nearly 15 minutes total according to research by GWI. However, in 2022 that number has decreased by 13 minutes, returning to pre-pandemic levels, and re-establishing the decreasing trends seen in 2018 and 2019. Simultaneously, the number of global consumers doing online shopping continues to increase every year, over 2.1 billion consumers worldwide shop online. Of course this is all happening during a period of time when people have been able to spend more time at home. So, it seems that the amount of information and convenience (not to mention internet access) of shopping online continues to attract shoppers, but many are more conscious of the overall time spent online and its impact on mental health and life in general.

Just look at what Amazon continues to do in the online shopping space. Last quarter they announced nearly a 15% revenue increase year-over-year. As time wears on, and the pandemic accelerated this, shoppers continue to use the internet as a tool to efficiently compare products and make purchases from the comfort of their own home. And, if these statistics continue to prove this out, focusing on this efficiency will be crucial. I mean, who doesn’t love Amazon’s “One Click” feature?

Young shoppers are changing how they do their online shopping compared to other generations. According to data from Google, half of millennials or younger look to social media like Instagram or TikTok rather than traditional Google searches. These young people want to not only find products online and get information, but they want to find ideas and inspiration for their lives, homes, style, etc.. It does not seem that they are just looking for data to decide but are looking for someone or something that can help show the shopper how a product can express their identity. It also seems that social can better allow these young shoppers to find products and brands that they feel share their values.

According to FIS, over 70% of these younger consumers also expect to make purchases directly through those social channels within the next year. For an example of what could be coming stateside look at Alibaba in China. Their ability to spread “live commerce” within China through Singles’ Day has led to sales of over $170 billion in 2020 alone, according to McKinsey. Social channels continue to be the most influential over younger consumers, this seems to be a trend that will stick. How can you take advantage of the convenience and inspiration that social media can provide?

How does the “Metaverse” and virtual reality fit into this?

Much of this research made me wonder how augmented reality, virtual reality, and the “Metaverse” fit into this story. On one hand these environments go against consumers’ desire to spend less time online, but on the other it seems like a great opportunity for brands to communicate those ideas, inspiration, and identity-based messages with shoppers. While it is too early to tell exactly how it will play out, it seems that these mediums will only take off if they are able to bring some added level of convenience, choice, or inspiration and ideas that traditional online mediums are unable to deliver.

In the furniture industry there are signs that AR can be used to improve not only shopper buying experiences but also manufacturer’s supply chains. This story details Skyline Furniture, who manufactures furniture for many top retailers, has started to provide AR generated renderings of products for their retailers and sales increased 40% in 2021 against 2020. Since they did not need to stage their products for marketing materials they could operate much more efficiently!

Consumers still say they prefer to shop in person            

However, according to the same research by GWI, about half of consumers surveyed still prefer to do their shopping in person. All of this says to me that marketers need to continue to focus on reaching shoppers through content marketing that can not only communicate product and brand benefits, but also inspire ideas within consumers that can help them connect with brands and express their own identity. This needs to be done efficiently and on the platforms where the shoppers are so that they can continue to improve the time spent online. And the in store experience needs to live up to the promises made online. Brands cannot focus on just online or in-store presence, not yet anyway.