Behavioral clickstream data has spurred a new wave of market research—applied especially toward understanding the consumer journey. Previously, companies would use surveys, interviews, focus groups, and even mystery shopping to better understand how consumers shop and buy. However, with clickstream data becoming increasingly accessible, more big brands are beginning to rely on it to understand how consumers shop for (and buy) their products online.
The problem is that, for most of the past two decades, clickstream data has come from panels that collect data on only one device. Even today, most panels are still based on this idea of collecting passive data on a single web browser or device. When you consider the fact that upward of 70% of consumers regularly use more than one internet-connected device among PC, Smartphone, and Tablet you have to ask: What are these single-device panels really measuring?
The Modern Consumer Now Owns Multiple Devices but Most Clickstream Panels Only Track One
The above discussion is critical when considering today’s topic: consumer journeys. Because the modern consumer owns multiple devices, their research is inherently going to span those devices. Consumers don’t use just a PC to research, nor do they use just a smartphone or tablet; instead, most conduct research using all their devices.
Here at Verto we focus on understanding people, not devices. Our panel focuses on consumers’ cross-device usage, from the ground up—ensuring we see how people move among all the devices they own. Because of that, we have a unique view into the consumer journey that allows us to truly understand how people research leading up to their purchase.
To highlight this, we’ve included some key learnings we uncovered in a recent study* we did examining how consumers conducted research leading up to their purchase of Grocery, Fashion, and Health & Beauty products online:
Learning #1: Mobile plays a huge role in online purchases
The common narrative put out by large behavioral companies is that, because people don’t use mobile devices to make purchases, those companies are still able to capture the lion’s share of conversions. In our research, however, we found that 43% of Fashion, Grocery, and Health & Beauty purchases were on a mobile device, and 57% were on a PC device.
While PC still makes up more than half of the purchases, the PC/mobile split is creeping closer to 50/50. That means panels tracking only PC usage are missing four of every 10 online purchases.
Learning #2: Almost half of all consumers started their journey on a mobile device.
When we compared what device consumers’ very first research action took place on, we found that 52% of them started their research on PC devices and 48% of them started on a mobile device.
One major finding in consumer journey studies is a behavioral understanding of how long it takes consumers to convert, which is the time from the very first research action taken to the purchase event. If we just tracked one device, we would be understating half of our samples’ journey.
Learning #3: The majority of research conducted isn’t on PCs, and some people don’t use PCs for research at all.
Finally, we looked at all the research conducted leading up to consumer purchases and explored how much of that related research had been conducted on mobile devices vs. PC devices. What we found was that 56% of research sessions were on mobile devices, and 44% of research sessions were on PC devices.
To add to this, we also found that 39% of purchasers did their research using only a mobile device, with 22% of them researching on both a mobile and PC device.
If you had a PC-only panel for behavioral tracking, you’d be missing over half of the research conducted overall—and would entirely miss the research conducted by the 22% of your potential sample that researched only on mobile.
These learnings aren’t intended to diminish or emphasize the value of either PC or mobile research, but rather to showcase the importance of having true cross-platform measurement— especially when conducting consumer journey studies. Measuring usage of a single device can be helpful when you’re really focusing on specific behaviors limited to those devices. On the other hand, if you want to gain a truly holistic view of how consumers shop online, you need to measure the consumer—not the device. Otherwise, as shown above, you run the risk of biasing your metrics, understating your audience, and limiting your sample.
If you want to learn more about how consumers navigate between devices in leading up to their purchase—or just more broadly understand how consumers use their devices—feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to chat!
*Study Details: Tracked Grocery, Health & Beauty, and Fashion purchases made on major online retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, and Target across both PC and mobile web and app from January 2020 to February 2020.