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Drew Green


The Five Types of Online Shoppers

Posted: 02/25/2013 12:00 am

The act of "window shopping" has moved from an afternoon at the mall to an afternoon of web browsing from home, or mobile web browsing on the go. It's not surprising.

Online shopping in Canada is rising in popularity for a number of reasons -- as more retailers realize the market value of an online presence, we're seeing more and more products available for purchase online.

Retailers are also recognizing the value of exclusive offers and online deals to drive sales. And let's not forget how accessible the "World Wide Web" is to the average consumer. Whether you access the internet from work or home, on your mobile device or via free WiFi at one of ten coffee shops down the road -- any road -- Internet accessibility has created an era of constant browsing, which is a behavior that is changing the landscape of "the consumer."

As someone who works in the business of eCommerce, I have noticed some interesting online shopping trends that put the buying habits of the online consumer front and centre. More specifically, the online shopper often falls into different profile categories, a handful of which I'll outline below.

(1) The Avid Shopper
Online shopping has created an accessibility that wasn't available previously, having access to millions of products ready for purchase at your fingertips. This has created a shopper who is online everyday bidding and buying from their favorite retailers and online stores.

These early-adopters have been shopping online for years and know all the trade secrets. They know which sites have the best shipping rates, the best customer service, the best deals and the best return policies. In fact, most of their shopping is done online. Their friends call them a "shopaholic" but really, they're just savvy shoppers who are ahead of the trend when it comes to online or mobile shopping, which I believe is the direction of all future commerce.

(2) The Emotional Shopper
We all know the phrase 'retail therapy.' An emotional shopper is someone who splurges to fill a need -- they buy because they're upset, stressed out or just plain bored. Whatever the reason, the instant gratification of hitting the checkout button and the rush of excitement that comes with receiving a purchase is usually enough reason to do it again.

(3) The Impulse Buyer
Online sales and exclusive offers feed the impulse shopper, and there's certainly no shortage of that when you window shop online for your next spend. This shopper gets trigger-happy when they browse a sale and see "1 item left in stock" -- the sense of urgency drives the purchase and regardless of whether it's a need or a want, this person can justify it. Retailers have caught on to the impulse buying trend and now have a number of sales tactics used to appeal to this buyer including: A smart sidebar that features "other items you may be interested in" based on what the customer has previously browsed or purchased. This tactic is similar to the point of sale displays in-stores that showcase a bunch of smaller, affordable items next to the cash register. If there's a way for the retailer to maximize on an impulse purchase, they will.

(4) The Deal Hunter
Deal hunters are a special type of shopper because finding the deal drives their compulsion. They are always in the know about a sale and are probably subscribed to every online newsletter that exists. Deal hunters are strategic, patient and a little bit adventurous because they know that everything eventually goes on sale and they're willing wait even if it means possibly losing out.

(5) The Casual Shopper
Relating to my last post, there are many casual shoppers who are still on the fence about buying online. Many have made an occasional purchase online, but not before weighing the risks, doing their research and educating themselves before hitting the checkout button. They are the opposite of an impulse buyer. A casual shopper is usually a smart shopper, always having money saved for a rainy day.

With the evolution of eCommerce comes the evolution of the online buyer, so what can we learn from this? Great eCommerce is agile eCommerce. As more dollars continue to go into online spending, it's important to pay attention to the buying habits of the online consumer.

The list above is not exclusive to one type of shopper. In fact, many people can possess multiple shopping traits so let me ask you this: what type of online shopper are you?

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  • ASOS

    <a href="http://www.asos.com/?r=2" target="_hplink">ASOS.com</a> is the UK’s largest online-only style and beauty retail store, carrying over 50,000 branded and own label product lines across womenswear, menswear and accessories. ASOS.com allows visitors to narrow their search by trends and collection, as well as provides an online marketplace where you can buy and sell pre-owned vintage. In addition to ASOS.com’s vast social media presence (twitter, Facebook, Pinterest etc), the recently introduced “Fashion Finder” provides an opportunity for consumers to create and personalize outfits, look books and fashion videos.


    Founded in 2006, <a href="http://www.nastygal.com/" target="_hplink">NastyGal.com</a> launched as an eBay store selling an assortment of highly curated vintage pieces. The international style source now offers new and vintage pieces that are handpicked by the NastyGal.com team. Setting themselves apart from the competition, NASTYGAL.com offers public “want lists” – a shopaholics answer to a wedding registry – that allows friends and family to freely search your most wanted pieces for birthdays, holidays, or just because they love you.


    <a href="http://www.mrporter.com/" target="_hplink">MrPorter.com</a> – male cousin to Net-a-Porter.com – launched in 2011 and has since been doing a bang-up job of cracking the notoriously stagnant men’s online market. While the retailer offers every major designer from Alexander McQueen to Ray Ban, it’s MrPorter.com’s online community that sets it apart from imitators. With features like STYLEPEDIA, an online style council offering tips from style icons such as N.E.R.D’s Pharrell Williams, and an iPhone app for on-the-go advice, men no longer have an excuse to look like Van Wilder.

  • Zappos

    <a href="http://www.zappos.com/index1.zml" target="_hplink">Zappos.com</a> provides members with amazing deals on designer apparel and footwear. Regardless of your budget, Zappos.com promises not only the best prices, but the best service. Zappos.com provides a LIVE HELP service that acts as an instant messenger to their 24/7 on-call support team. If you’re having an issue with products, prices or have other inquiries, Zappos.com has humanized their online platform to ensure that you receive answers to your questions immediately.

  • Singer22

    Bringing consumers closer to the stars than ever before, <a href="http://www.singer22.com/" target="_hplink">Singer22.com</a> provides guests with the option to search by Celebrity Picks and purchase styles worn by A-listers such as Olivia Palermo and Victoria Beckham. If you’re concerned that those Maurie & Eve Tori Buckle Pants won’t look the same on you as they do on Kim Kardashian, not to worry. Singer22.com also provides images of Singer22.com models and regular folk (in the Community section) rocking their gear.

  • Otteny

    <a href="http://otteny.com/" target="_hplink">Otteny.com</a> is a luxury shopping experience for women with a distinct taste for understated luxury and contemporary design. For $35, Otteny.com’s personal shopping team will assemble the perfect look for any occasion – without having to leave your living room. Additionally, with one of the most comprehensive Pinterest accounts on the web, consumers can keep up to date daily with additions to the online store.

  • Rent The Runway

    Known as the Netflix of fashion, <a href="http://www.renttherunway.com/" target="_hplink">RenttheRunway.com</a> is a New York City based service that allows online shoppers to borrow high-end pieces by brands such as Proenza Schouler and Alice+Olivia and return after use for approximately 10% of the retail price. It’s simple: become a member (FREE!), select your style and size (up to six months in advance) and return following your agreed upon reservation time.

  • ModCloth

    <a href="http://www.modcloth.com/" target="_hplink">ModCloth.com</a> features more than 700 independent designers and their stock offers products that go beyond fashion and venture into the world of interior design. ModCloth.com’s “Be the Buyer” platform allows customers to be virtual members of ModCloth.com’s buying team and vote items from emerging designers into production via their ‘Pick It’ and ‘Skip It’ options. Results are posted via ModCloth.com’s active social community and voters are notified if their selections have made it into ModCloth.com’s stockroom.

  • Fitiquette

    Coming to you from Silicon Valley, California, <a href="http://fitiquette.com/" target="_hplink">Fitiquette.com</a> is an online fashion boutique powered by a virtual fitting room. Members create a personalized virtual representation and use this replica to try on different styles and sizes of items offered on the platform. Members see a 3D representation of their model and the clothes they try on, from all 360 degrees. While Fitiquette.com is a relatively new online retailer, the site already boasts an impressive list of brands with a large increase expected in 2012.

  • Shoptiques

    <a href="http://www.shoptiques.com/" target="_hplink">Shoptiques.com</a> is an innovative online retailer that allows customers to shop over 200 boutiques for one flat shipping rate. Shoptiques.com organizes its boutiques by neighbourhood, allowing consumers to "shop like a local". It ships to places around the world, including the U.S., Australia, Canada and France. This one-stop shopping platform is not only a time-saver, but provides independent retailers with an opportunity to join an online community that services the entire world.