Customer Purchasing Habits: What You Need to Know

It’s no question that technology has radically changed consumer buying patterns making it crucial for businesses to adapt to their new behaviors to successfully sell its products.

Between customers’ shift to purchasing online, utilizing mobile, and constantly being exposed to products via social media, it can be a struggle to know where to focus your efforts.

We’ve gone through Pew Research Center’s most recent customer purchasing report to give you some relevant highlights that you can take back to your dealership and strategize on how to adapt to new behaviors.

How many Americans are really purchasing online?

Pew first began to survey consumers on their online shopping habits in June 2000, where 22% of Americans revealed they had ever made a purchase online. As of today, 79% of the nearly 5,000 Americans surveyed reported that they make purchases online.  

This is a staggering number and the percentages only get more interesting.

With a wider spread availability of smartphones, Americans have begun to use devices as a common purchasing tool. In fact, 51% of Americans reported they make online purchases through their phone.

But what does this look like across different age groups?

It’s great to hear about these numbers, but are they really relevant to a dealer’s demographic?

While Millennials are the group that will most commonly purchase online (and through their mobile phones) the numbers are still relevant for other age groups. For example, 87% of those ages 30-49 reported buying something online and 72% of those ages 50-64 also reported making an online purchase.

That’s a large group of customers you could potentially be missing out on reaching if you haven’t strategized around offering your product and services online.

Here’s a closer look at these numbers.

But isn’t the general consensus that people prefer to shop at physical stores?

The answer to this is yes according to Pew’s research, but the way online plays into physical shopping is interesting.  

Pew reported that 65% of Americans noted they’d prefer to shop in a physical store. However, many of them are using their cell phones while in a physical store to assist in their purchasing decisions. The chart below better depicts the specific type of behavior customers are participating in when on their phones in a store.

The most notable stat is that 45% will try to find better prices online.

And here’s a further breakdown based on age group.

So how does social media fit into the purchasing equation?

Marketers frequently tout the importance of social media to your business and there is a strong case behind it!

15% of Americans reported purchasing an item via a link on their social media sites. We anticipate this number to be even higher with Pew’s next report, and while the number may seem comparatively low now, it’s an area of your audience you could be missing.

Additionally, another interesting tidbit is that roughly 4 in 10 U.S. adults have expressed their feelings about companies or products on social media.

Here’s a look at the age groups that participate in this behavior too.

We all know that reviews now play a large role in making or breaking the reputation of a business. Having an active platform to engage with your customers and act as another branch of customer service is vital in today’s day and age.

Looking for more information like the above? Read Pew Research Center’s full report here and feel free to leave your thoughts or questions in the comments below!


Kelsey Fritz
Kelsey is the Marketing Coordinator at Commercial Web Services where she monitors the latest marketing advancements to better educate dealers on marketing trends that can further their business goals.
Richard McCann / February 16, 2019

This is a great article, especially for those of us who are just starting a business and doing market research.


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