Inside the Mind of Today’s Online Shopper (Part I) Inside the Mind of Today’s Online Shopper (Part I)

How technology, social media, and viral marketing have changed the e-commerce industry.


Wasn’t it nice when things were simple?


A few decades ago, all it took to turn your product or service into a worldwide phenomenon was some smart branding and attractive advertisements. Great products stood out among the rest, and it was easy for consumers to make choices between a small number of items in each industry.

Today, the world’s consumers are bombarded with options, information, and advertisements. What used to be a simple task is now a research project; you’re more likely to spend twenty minutes searching online for the “best dish detergent” than you are to go to the nearest shop and pick a detergent off the shelf at random.

How did we get here? And what does this shift in behavior mean for companies looking to capitalize on current trends in consumer attitudes and choices?


More, More, More

It’s no secret what the big difference is between advertising in the 1960s and advertising in 2016. The internet has made it possible to reach consumers around the world in a manner of seconds, putting curious customers in contact with previously unknown options. A soccer mom in Indiana can purchase a water bottle for her daughter from Japan. A Russian businessman can order perfectly tailored suits from Argentina. The corner shop and neighborhood tailor are no longer the only games in town.

Recognizing the growth of the global marketplace, advertisers have responded in kind with an explosion of campaigns shilling everything from new TV series to flavored cough syrups. With the sheer volume of advertising taken in by the average consumer each day, it has become crucially important for a campaign to “cut through the noise” and reach broad audiences with a compelling message.

How do you make your advertisement stand out in the crowd?

                          How do you make your advertisement stand out in the crowd?

Today, rather than presenting concise advertisements that convey information about a product with a persuasive tagline, marketing firms seek to “go viral” with every new commercial and campaign. The right tweet, YouTube video, or image could catch fire and reach millions of users in just a few hours.

As companies and ad agencies seek to stay ahead of the pack with these viral marketing strategies, the world’s consumers are responding accordingly.


Shifting Behaviors and Attitudes 

It’s important to note that while advertisers are making the decisions about what information is reaching consumers, their choices are informed by the broader behaviors and preferences of their audience. This cycle, in which customer feedback spurs advertisers towards more and more targeted marketing schemes, has resulted in the overwhelming amount of advertisements seen throughout various media forms.

With the rise of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and their tools for sharing and retweeting, advertisements now have the possibility of being bolstered by virtual “word of mouth.” When someone on their social media account shares an advertisement, they are in effect giving that product or service an endorsement to their friends and followers. The more conducive an advertisement is to being shared, the greater the likelihood that the product or service will experience the exponential rewards of social media.

A campaign that “goes viral” can see an exponential increase in views and consumer response

A campaign that “goes viral” can see an exponential increase in views and consumer response

The other key development that has led to today’s e-commerce situation is the rapid rise of smartphones as the leading device for marketing and advertising. According to a 2014 report by Millward Brown, smartphones have eclipsed television as the device demanding the most daily “screen time” from the average global consumer. When combined with other products like tablets and e-readers, the gap between mobile devices and television becomes even wider.

Mobile advertising is a more complex beast than traditional television advertising. Traditional television programs (sporting events, movies, series) hold a viewer’s attention for anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. Besides changing the channel or stepping away from the TV, the consumer has committed to a lengthy experience in which they have little control over which advertisements they see.

By comparison, consider the typical mobile experience: at home on the couch, during a lengthy commute on public transit, on a break at work. Mobile users tend to flit between many apps and sites that catch their interest; when you consider banner ads, pop-ups, and other forms of advertisement employed on these apps and pages, a mobile user takes in thousands of marketing messages per day. The practice of moving past advertisements that are unappealing has become second-nature to the majority of consumers.


What Does This Mean for e-Commerce? 

With these trends in mobile marketing and e-commerce, it’s critical that companies present their goods and services in a way that will quickly capture the attention of consumers. If an ad fails to grab hold of the viewer within just a few seconds, it is highly likely that the viewer will move on and forget about what they’ve just seen.

This reality puts advertisers in a predicament: how can a marketing message capture viewer attention without being irritating or overwhelming? The days of pop-up oversaturation led to the development of effective ad blockers; a certain level of tact is required for an effective advertisement.

In the second part of this article, I’ll examine some ways in which online retailers can use modern customer behavior to their advantage. Specifically, I’ll focus on a technique that’s leading to increased conversion rates across a number of high-performing industries.



Christopher Walsh is a writer for MaxTraffic (, a leading tech startup focused on Exit Intent technology.