Models of online buyer behaviour

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Standard models of consumer buyer behaviour have been developed by Bettman (1979) and Booms and Bitner (1981). In these models, consumers process marketing stimuli such as the 4 Ps and environmental stimuli according to their personal characteristics such as their culture, social group and personal and psychological make-up. Together these characteristics will affect the consumers' response to marketing messages. For the Internet marketer, a review of the factors influencing behaviour is especially important since a single web site may need to accommodate consumers with different needs at different stages of the buying process. Users will also have different levels of experience of using the web.

Specific behavioural traits are evident on the Internet. Studies show that the World Wide Web is used quite differently by different groups of people. Lewis and Lewis (1997) identified five different types of web users or rather modes of usage of the Internet which remain valid today:

• Directed information-seekers. These users will be looking for product, market or leisure information such as details of their football club's fixtures. They are not typically planning to buy online.

• Undirected information-seekers. These are the users, usually referred to as 'surfers', who like to browse and change sites by following hyperlinks. Members of this group tend to be novice users (but not exclusively so) and they may be more likely to click on banner advertisements.

• Directed buyers. These buyers are online to purchase specific products online. For such users, brokers or cybermediaries that compare product features and prices will be important locations to visit.

• Bargain hunters. These users (sometimes known as 'compers') want to find the offers available from sales promotions such as free samples or competitions. For example, the MyOffers site ( is used by many brands to generate awareness and interest from consumers.

• Entertainment seekers. These are users looking to interact with the Web for enjoyment through entering contests such as quizzes, puzzles or interactive multi-player games.

Styler (2001) describes four consumer buying behaviours derived from in-depth home interviews researching behaviour across a range of media, including the Internet. These behaviours are brand-focused, price-sensitive, feature-savvy and advice-led. As Moe

(2003) has pointed out, in the bricks-and-mortar environment, stores employ sales people who can distinguish between shoppers based on their in-store behaviour. Some shoppers appear to be very focused in looking for a specific product. In those cases, sales people may try to help the shopper find what they are looking for. In other cases, the shopper is just browsing 'window shopping'. The experienced sales person can identify these shoppers and either ignore them and let them continue or can try to stimulate a purchase. Although there is no sales person to perform this role online, Moe and Fader

(2004) believe that through analysing clickstream behaviour and patterns of repeated visits, it may be possible to identify directed buying, browsing or searching behaviour and make prompts accordingly online.

In a report on benchmarking the user experience of UK retail sites, E-consultancy (2004) identified a useful classification of online shopping behaviour to test how well web site design matches different consumer behaviours. In a similar way to previous studies, three types of potential behaviour were identified which are trackers, hunters and explorers. Note that these do not equate to different people, since according to the type of product or occasion, the behaviour of an individual may differ. Indeed, as they research a product they are likely to become more directed.

1 Tracker

Knows exactly which product they wish to buy and uses an online shopping site to track it down and check its price, availability, delivery time, delivery charges or after-sales support.

That is, the tracker is looking for specific information about a particular product. The report says:

If they get the answers they are seeking they need little further persuasion or purchase-justification before completing the purchase.

While this may not be true since they may compare on other sites, this type of shopper will be relatively easy to convert.

2 Hunter

Doesn't have a specific product in mind but knows what type of product they are looking for (e.g. digital camera, cooker) and probably has one or more product features they are looking for. The hunter uses an online shopping site to find a range of suitable products, compare them and decide which one to buy. The hunter needs more help, support and guidance to reach a purchasing decision.

The report says:

Once a potential purchase is found, they then need to justify that purchase in their own minds, and possibly to justify their purchase to others. Only then will confirmation of the purchase become a possibility.

3 Explorer

Doesn't even have a particular type of product in mind. They may have a well-defined shopping objective (buying a present for someone or treating themselves), a less-resolved shopping objective (buying something to 'brighten up' the lounge) or no shopping objective at all (they like the High Street store and thought they would have a look at the online site).

The report suggests that the explorer has a range of possible needs and many uncertainties to be resolved before committing to purchase, but the following may be helpful in persuading these shoppers to convert:

Certain types of information, however, are particularly relevant. Suggested gift ideas, guides to product categories, lists of top selling products and information-rich promotions (What's New? What's Hot?) - these could all propel them towards a purchasing decision.

From this brief review of online buyer behaviours, we can suggest that online marketers need to take into account the range of behaviours shown in Table 2.7 both when developing an Internet marketing strategy and when executing it through site design.

Table 2.7 Alternative perspectives on online buyer behaviours

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  • veikko
    What are the online behaviours lewis and lewis?
    8 years ago

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