Types of Online Shoppers for E-commerce Brands to consider in 2020

E-commerce has experienced an exponential growth in-terms of number of users and has generated an enormous increase in its marketing efforts. Scholars and practitioners have acknowledged and researched online marketing’s potential in reaching out to users in a more relevant and personalized manner. In doing so, the challenge is to first examine and uncover the way in which users interact with a website. There remains a paucity of knowledge pertaining to the motivations for engaging with a website and its associated online behaviours in more e-commerce specific cases.

The Information system continuance model (ICSM) developed by Bhattacherjee (2001a) reported three factors in predicting users’ intention in continuous use, consisting of satisfaction with the information system, confirmation, and perceived usefulness. Confirmation here, implies the results achieved from a process of comparison. Researchers Hernon and Whitman, 2001 define Satisfaction as a sense of contentment that arises from an actual experience in relation to an expected experience. Extending these findings to e-commerce would imply that a user will keep returning and engaging with a website if their present experience is satisfying and useful. What does this mean for you? How can the e-commerce companies ensure that the users find their experience to be satisfying & useful?

Considering that satisfaction is driven by the comparison between the actual experience and expectation, it is important to first identify the user’s expectations from the website. The Uses and Gratifications theory (U&G) provides a theoretical framework and a foundation to understand consumers’ expectations from an e-commerce website. Different types of online shoppers have different motivation goals, but the underlying commonality among all is the need to gratify their needs, such as utility, information, entertainment and social. By fulfilling these, brands can bridge the gap between expectation & actual experience thus satisfying their users & resulting in them revisiting their website.

How does this relate to E-commerce Brands?
A user visiting an e-commerce website has the following expectations:


  • Better Selection: Getting a wide variety of products to choose from
  • Free Shipping: Shoppers like an incentive to save money
  • Competitive prices: As compared to many brick-and-mortar stores, online stores offer better deals on branded products and services, which is another reason to shop online.
  • Discretion: Shoppers get to exercise discretion in buying certain products as compared to brick and mortar stores
  • Comparison: Ease for online shoppers to compare features and prices of several products
  • Convenience: Online shopping saves people their time & hassle to travel to a store.


  • Product Details: Shoppers seek out for information about the product. This is not limited to the product usage, but how to use, unboxing etc. 7% of online shoppers indicated that a company’s blog was important in their decision making process.


  • Entertainment construct refers to the extent to which interacting with the website is fun and entertaining. Shoppers do not seek direct entertainment as in case of other media, but they expect their experience to provide excitement, aesthetic pleasure & joy. It is an important aspect as it builds consumers’ attitudes towards the brand & the website. Studies have indicated that users who have fun when interacting with online shopping sites tend to re-visit.


  • Social Confirmation – According to reports, around 75% of users consider reviews before making a purchase. Users trust reviews as much as personal recommendations. Reviews produce an average 18% uplift in sales.

The next part of the puzzle for an e-commerce brand is to map the expectations to users, as it will differ for various users. For this, we have classified users based on the following criteria

  • What are the users doing once they are on the website?
  • How long do they stay on the website?
  • When are they converting?
  • Are they coming back?
  • What sections of the website visitor spend more time with?
  • What are the behavioral patterns?

Based on the primary goal of a user we define them as Discoverers, Researchers & Buyers.

Discoverer: A user who is in the awareness or familiarity phase, casually browses through websites.

Researcher: A user who is in the consideration phase, browses product categories, products, consumes content. They might add products that they are interested in to the cart or even wish list multiple items.

Buyer: Is in the purchase, or retention phase. They can be either a first time buyer or repeat buyer.

From an engagement perspective, the user’s state can lie between an array of low to high engagement levels. It’s important to ascertain engaged users as they are 6 times more likely to try a new product if a direct marketing communication is sent to them. The table below explains the construct in detailHighFrom an engagement perspective, the user’s state can lie between an array of low to high engagement levels. It’s important to ascertain engaged users as they are 6 times more likely to try a new product if a direct marketing communication is sent to them. The table below explains the construct in detail

GoalDiscoveryResearch and
PageviewsLess than AverageMore than AverageMore than Average
Type of PagesLanding Pages, ProductProducts, Content, Cart, WishlistLanding Page, Product, Content, Wishlist, Cart, Checkout
Session DurationLess than AverageMore than AverageMore than Average
Clicks, Hovers, ScrollingYesYesYes
Form SubmissionsNoYesYes
Visitor TypeNewNew, ReturningNew, Returning

Diving deeper, we have classified various types of Discoverers, Researchers & Buyers.

Types of Buyers

Focussed Buyer

Has good exposure to brand, knows what they want, selects the product and buys on a single visit. An instance would be a buyer who visits your website after receiving an emailer or any marketing communication and ends up purchasing the product in the same session.

Empowered Buyer

Buys after going through initial consideration; active evaluation, or the process of researching other potential brands or products; and finally makes the purchase. These types of users keep revisiting the website across multiple sessions. They browse through various products and after comparison add then to the cart or Wish List them. For them the journey from being a visitor to buyer is spread across days. They lack a sense of urgency to buy the product and make a well informed purchase by comparing the product’s features and pricing.

Incentive Driven Abandoner

This type of user wants to buy but is waiting for a certain kind of incentive to make the purchase. A classic example of an abandoned cart is of a user with multiple sessions without any purchase. They will wait for a discount or contact customer support for knowing the availability of any ongoing offers. With the right kind of push, they convert.

Repeat Buyer

Buys the brand’s products after a certain time interval. They amalgamation of empowered & repeat buyers.. For instance, a user classified as repeat buyer makes the first purchase in the first session. This is followed-up by another purchase after three more sessions i.e. in the fifth session in the user’s timeline. It is observed that in totality the user has undertaken more that 35 actions and x actions in the buying session itself.

Occasion Buyer

Buys products at special occasions these can be events, festivals etc. The customer may not be buying for self consumption, instead may be giving it to family friends or colleagues.

Type of Researchers

Researchers are in the consideration phase. They are still evaluating various products across brands. They tend to compare several brands & products. Majorly they are looking for value.


They are mostly viewing products, browsing through the product categories and consuming content like watching product videos, reading blogs, product reviews etc. They have not yet made a decision to buy. It is observed that surfers have multiple sessions and keep coming back to the website. With each session duration being more than the average. Although they are away from conversion, they do take a lot of actions on the websites. These actions are not your primary conversion goal of purchasing a product, but they all lead to it. Hence they are referred to as micro conversions.

A micro conversion is an action taken by a user, which reflects the interest and engagement of a user. These incremental steps are important as they cumulatively take the users towards conversion. Micro conversions for an e-commerce website are mostly things like viewing a product detail page, adding to a wishlist, adding products to cart, or downloading lead magnets, newsletter signups, interacting on chat or reaching out for consultation etc. Surfers tend to have mico – conversions other than adding to cart.


They are distinguished by their micro-conversion to adding products to the cart & abandoning the cart. They lack an urgency to buy & are unable to make the decision to buy and require a nudge for conversion. They have multiple sessions in a span of a few days but they go dormant after a few days of activity. 68.63% is the average online cart abandonment rate based on different studies. Abandoners need an incentive to come back and buy.

Types of Discoverers

There are users who do not know if a brand exists, hence the marketers run brand awareness programs so that people find out about the brand. Discoverers are the people who weren’t aware about the brand until recently. They are in the phase of exploration and are in the initial phase of recognising the brand. They are new visitors who are visiting the website for the first time. They have mostly seen a brand awareness campaign on social media or have heard about it on forums, or other websites or even word of mouth.


They identify with the brand and are curious to know more about the brand and its offerings. They tend to interact with the landing page, mega menu along with browsing multiple pages. They spend less than the average time spent on the website. They are either in the awareness or familiarity phase of the consumer journey


As they have stumbled upon the website, they tend to make the first impressions. Studies state that it takes around 50ms for the users to make an opinion about a webpage. This is mostly based on the design and the visual cues. Exitors are unable to connect with the brand and do not have a favourable opinion based on the landing page. They leave the website without interacting. We observed that they make an initial judgement and leave the website within 30 seconds.


There are various types of users visiting your website, they all are seeking different things. The best websites are the ones that gratify the needs of their users prior to them even realizing it. But to do that, it is essential to uncover the type of users visiting the website. Once aware of the types of users, you can now work on optimising your content, designs & outreach in order to maneuver them through the consumer journey.

For more information, reach out to our MarTech experts.