Consumer Survey: How Shopper Behavior Is Changing

Discover the recent changes and newest trends in shopper behavior, including the most popular channels and devices for both discovery and purchase.

How Have Shopper Discovery and Buying Habits Changed?

Only a couple of years ago, it was safe to assume that most shoppers followed the same path from discovery to purchase; imagine a shopper opening their laptop, clicking through to your company’s website via search, and then buying a product all in one go.

However, as we noted back in early 2020, that era is over. Today’s buyer journey has endless combinations of channels, devices, and touchpoints — a shopper may discover your brand via a Facebook ad on their phone, then search for your brand on Amazon on their laptop before finally purchasing in a brick-and-mortar location.

In this survey, we zoom in on the recent changes and newest trends in shopper behavior, breaking down the most popular channels and devices for both discovery and purchase, as well as offering comprehensive strategies to set your brand up for success.

Table of Contents
Survey Methodology & Key Findings
Top Consumer Shopping Habits & How to Respond
Using Third-Party Retailers Strategically
Survey Methodology & Key Findings
Top Consumer Shopping Habits & How to Respond
Using Third-Party Retailers Strategically
Survey Methodology & Key Findings
Chapter 01

Survey Methodology & Key Findings

In August 2020, Yotpo conducted a survey of 2,000 eCommerce shoppers across four different demographics — Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers — with the objective of gaining a deeper understanding of how consumers discover, engage with, and buy from new brands.

When asked how they first heard of a new product/brand, the three top answers were “I saw it at a retail store” (30%), “I saw it in a social media ad” (24%), and “I saw positive customer reviews about the product” (19%).

We then set out to determine on which devices they had made their discovery (excluding those who had first heard of the brand/product in-person.) Over 60% of respondents indicated that they had first discovered the new brand or product via their smartphones.

Finally, we moved onto buying behavior, and asked respondents to indicate how they eventually purchased the product.

Here, we see the non-linear buyer journey in full effect. When it comes to discovery, smartphones dominated; however, when it comes to purchase, the results were split between smartphones (38%), in-person (33%), and laptops (15%).

The Main Takeaways

Shoppers are discovering new products and brands:

  • In-person at their favorite retail stores, like Target, Walmart, and Sephora
  • Online through well-targeted ads on channels like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok
  • By reading positive customer reviews on your brand’s site, on a retailer’s site, in your ads, in Google search results, and more

Moreover, while shoppers discovering brands and products online are overwhelmingly doing so via their smartphones, those same shoppers aren’t necessarily continuing on to purchase via their smartphones — many still prefer to buy in-person or via their laptop.

What does this all mean for your business? In order to adapt to an increasingly topsy-turvy buyer journey, you need to be able to meet shoppers however they come to you with relevant and influential content, creating a seamless shopper experience that carries through all the way to the checkout page or cash register — and beyond.

Top Consumer Shopping Habits & How to Respond
Chapter 02

Top Consumer Shopping Habits & How to Respond

1. The Challenge: Stand Out on Search

The Strategy: Optimize Your Google Shopping Campaigns

Our data revealed that 50% of shoppers who bought from brands for the first time would describe their purchases as “‘somewhat planned’ — they knew they wanted to buy a certain product, but they were undecided on the brand.” This kind of shopper is likely to enter their desired product — “black sneakers,” “red lipstick,” “chocolate protein powder” — into Google search, then let Google Shopping Ads (GSAs) do the rest of the work for them.

To win over these open-minded, high-intent shoppers, you need to ensure that your Google Shopping campaigns are fully optimized for success. One of the most effective ways to improve your campaigns is by showcasing product and site reviews, star ratings, and customer photos within your GSAs, which you can do with a Trusted Google Reviews Partner like Yotpo. For more tips on how to optimize and enhance your campaigns, check out our guide to Google shopping campaigns.

2. The Challenge: Bring Your Best Content With You

The Strategy: Syndicate Your UGC to Top Retailers

When asked how they first heard of a new product/brand, 30% of survey respondents answered, “I saw it at a retail store.” As the data shows, many of your potential customers rely heavily on third-party retailers when it comes to buying from a brand for the first time, and will deliberately start their search at a trusted favorite like Target, Walmart, Sephora, Neiman Marcus, and more.

Moreover, 19% of survey respondents indicated that what led them to discover a new product or brand were positive customer reviews.

By syndicating your reviews to leading retail sites, which you can do with a partner like Yotpo, you can bring your trust-building customer content to the various platforms that your shoppers rely on for brand discovery.

3. The Challenge: Diversify Your Approach to Social 

The Strategy: Experiment With New Channels Like TikTok

These days, it’s impossible to talk about a complete social media marketing strategy without mentioning TikTok — and with good reason. As the number one downloaded app of 2020 so far, and with around half of all users falling into the Gen Z demographic, TikTok provides an unprecedented opportunity for brand discovery.

As for how to ace a TikTok campaign? Just look to beauty brand e.l.f. Cosmetics, whose #eyeslipsface challenge — in which users were “challenged” to upload videos of themselves voguing, dancing, and more to a song commissioned especially by e.l.f. —  was the platform’s most viral campaign ever. The #eyeslipsface challenge was the first-ever ad to hold the number one trend spot on TikTok, racking up over five million user-generated videos. For more examples of brands who are nailing TikTok marketing, check out Princess Polly and Winky Lux.

The Strategy: Upgrade Your Ads With UGC

If you’re already collecting customer reviews, photos, and videos, don’t just stick them on your product pages and call it a day — there’s so much more your hard-earned content can do for your brand. Maximize engagement on your Facebook and Instagram ads by featuring UGC directly inside the ads themselves. A joint Facebook-Yotpo case study found that review-based ads have a 4X higher CTR, and a 50% drop in both CPA and CPC.

4. The Challenge: Bridge the Online-Offline Gap

The Strategy: Invest in Virtual Experiences

With COVID-19 rendering online shopping the only option for most shoppers and businesses, it’s important to remember the 33% of shoppers who still prefer to buy in-person, regardless of how they’re discovering products in the first place. How can you help recreate an in-store experience for these customers, many of whom may feel out of their element buying online?

Look to the brands who have tackled this challenge by creating virtual experiences meant to replicate what customers would expect when shopping in-person. After COVID-19 forced them to shut down their physical store locations in March, jewelry brand Kendra Scott rolled out a “Virtual Try-On” feature, where shoppers can use the camera on their phone to see how products would look on them in real life. In a similar vein, with customers unable to shop in-person, underwear brand Knix began offering virtual bra fittings via Google Hangouts.

The Strategy: Make Relevant Reviews More Accessible

Another way to make your site more engaging is to ensure your customer reviews are as easy to sort through as possible. An on-site Reviews widget enables shoppers to easily sort reviews by the topics that interest them the most, such as “Delivery,” “Size,” “Price, “Skin Type,” and “Fit.” With specific information about your products readily available — and provided by fellow shoppers, to boot — a potential customer used to buying in-store will be more comfortable making the leap to buying online.

The Strategy: Create Seamless Transitions From In-store to Online

As in-person shopping slowly comes back, ensure that shoppers have a flawless buying experience that integrates both in-store and online elements. With an in-store point of sale (POS) integration, you can collect shoppers’ email addresses and phone numbers via a sign-up prompt as they’re checking out in-store, then send them relevant and personalized product recommendations by email or text to keep them engaged.

Furthermore, with a feature like receipt scanning, you can enable your loyalty program members to gain rewards and level up their VIP status wherever they shop, be it in-store or through third-party retailers. Post-purchase, shoppers can scan their receipts online to redeem their loyalty rewards — and your brand can collect email addresses to keep the customer relationship going.

Using Third-Party Retailers Strategically
Chapter 03

Using Third-Party Retailers Strategically

For most brands, selling through retailers is an essential piece of their overall business strategy — and for good reason. In addition to extending your reach, if your brand is trying to establish credibility with consumers, validation from a well-known and trusted retailer or wholesaler can make all the difference to an unsure potential buyer.

When asked about their retail strategy at Yotpo’s 2019 Destination:D2C event, Maria Molland, CEO of Thinx, spoke about the importance of “third-party validation, so having a Nordstrom or a Selfridges, or a David Jones in Australia give [Thinx’s products] a stamp of approval. We actually use it in a lot of our marketing — in our direct mail we’ll put ‘as seen in Nordstrom.’”

The data from our survey echoes this sentiment. When respondents who indicated that they had purchased a new brand or product through a retailer were asked why they had chosen to buy from the retailer, 26% said “I trust them.”

Loyalty Programs: Your Secret Weapon

While third-party retail can be an essential tool in establishing trust, what happens after the first purchase has been made? Can a satisfied customer, who now knows and loves your products, be convinced to make the switch from buying your brand via a retailer to buying directly from your site or store?

In our survey, nearly 70% of respondents said that “getting discounts, coupons, or points towards the next purchase” would make them purchase directly from the brand — instead of from a retailer — if they were to buy the brand again.

With a dynamic loyalty strategy, you can offer shoppers with the rewards they crave, while also paving the way for a more meaningful long-term relationship with your brand.

Inspiration: Soko Glam

Korean skin care company Soko Glam wanted a loyalty program that would help them build and nurture long-term customer relationships. While discounts and coupons might draw shoppers in initially, these types of loyalty programs hurt margins, and many brands don’t want to condition customers to buy only when there’s a discount available

Soko Glam worked together with Yotpo Loyalty to build “Soko Rewards,” a versatile program that appeals to customers with different spending habits. Entry-level users earn points for every purchase, which can be redeemed through a specially customized rewards page or directly at checkout.

The key to Soko Rewards’ success, though, lies in its VIP tiers system, which offers incremental value to shoppers who engage more and more with the program. By offering limited edition products as well as exclusive experiences that can only be obtained once a member has reached a certain VIP tier, Soko Glam created a loyalty experience that drives LTV by both incentivizing and rewarding long-term engagement; to date, Soko Rewards has a 7X ROI for the brand.


Consumer behavior is changing. Not only are your shoppers learning about new brands and products across more channels than ever before: they’re using different devices when it comes to discovery and purchase.

The good news? Your brand has the ability to adapt to the new normal by meeting consumers where they are — optimizing your search and social campaigns, maximizing the reach of your most influential UGC, and crafting shopper experiences that flow seamlessly from online to offline and back again.

Moreover, while third-party retail can and should be an important part of your overall business strategy, a dynamic loyalty program can help influence repeat shoppers to buy directly from your brand after they’ve made their first purchase via a retailer.

Learn how Yotpo’s single platform approach can help your brand adapt to changing shopper behaviors with reviews & ratings, visual UGC, SMS marketing, loyalty, and more.