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The Five Types of Ecommerce Shoppers and Their Different Needs

By Lori Stafford-Thomas

It’s no secret that ecommerce is a booming industry with a huge population of active consumers.  Total ecommerce sales for 2014 were estimated at $304.9 billion according the U.S. Census Bureau.⊃1;  And an infographic shared by CPC Strategy claims there were 195 million U.S. ecommerce shoppers in 2014.⊃2;  

With a population of ecommerce shoppers that large, it can be hard to know how to position your products and your site appropriately to drive traffic and sales.  Knowing about the differences between certain types of ecommerce shoppers and their online behavior can help.  

A report released by the Nielsen Norman Group® in 2014 identifies five main types of ecommerce shoppers.⊃3; Most ecommerce consumer activities can be ascribed to the following categories:  Product focused, browsers, researchers, bargain hunters, and one-time shoppers.  

Product focused shoppers

The hallmark of these consumers is that they come to the sight knowing exactly what they want to purchase.  They have already done the research, have possibly already purchased the item previously, and simply need to find it and buy it.  For this type of consumer, a well organized site with a user friendly search function and detailed product descriptions is most likely to meet their needs and end in a completed sale.  


Unlike product focused shoppers, browsers don’t have a singular mission when visiting ecommerce sites.  Instead they’re looking for something to draw their attention or inspire them to make a purchase.  Browsers typically have favorite sites they frequent periodically, looking for what’s new, popular, or on sale. Featuring new or discounted items on a visually appealing site is a good way to attract the attention of these consumers.  Suggesting items, based on their previous purchases or searches is especially effective for browsers.    


Researchers take their shopping very seriously.  They want to know that your site has the best product, at the best price, with the most convenience, reliability, and return policy.  They may spend months researching a product before making a purchase.  Like product focused shoppers, researchers need good product descriptions, as well as a way to compare closely related products.  Customer reviews are crucial for this group. 

Bargain shoppers

For some shoppers getting a good deal is the primary goal of the ecommerce experience.  When a bargain shopper lands a good deal on a purchase, they’re highly incentivized to return to that site for future purchases.   They’re so incentivized by discounts that they are willing to spend significantly more time on the site than other users, sign up for newsletters and coupons, and interact with social media to get the deal.  Providing coupons and loyalty offers is crucial for capturing these consumers, as well as highly visible pricing, specifically listing the dollar amount of the savings.  

One-time shoppers

Single visit shoppers are generally out of their comfort zone on a particular site.  They have a singular need, but don’t have a specific product in mind.  Picture a grandmother shopping online for her grandson.  She may know that she wants to purchase a skateboard, but has no idea from where or what type of skateboard.  Or conversely, she may have a specific site or brand in mind, but not the specific product.  Appealing to these shoppers takes a user friendly site navigation, detailed product descriptions and a simple checkout process.  One time shoppers are generally not interested in creating user profiles, or registering for newsletters or one-click ordering.      

While different shoppers have different priorities, a well-rounded ecommerce site will have features that accommodate most, if not all of them.  For more information on optimizing your ecommerce site, contact Vantiv Integrated Payments .   


1 United States Census Bureau, Monthly and Annual Retail Trade, http://www.census.gov/retail/, February 2015

2 CPC Strategy Blog, How Many People Shop Online? http://www.cpcstrategy.com/blog/2013/08/ecommerce-infographic/, August 2013

3 Nielsen Norman Group, Designing for 5 Types of Ecommerce Shoppers, http://www.nngroup.com/articles/ecommerce-shoppers/, March 2014.

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