Geometry Global analyzes the connected shopper and challenges in e-com growth

Digital & Media, Social Media, Studies

Geometry Global launched findings from its worldwide “Connected Shopper” study, which indicate that the pace of online shopping growth is slower than expected. The study also identified the key barriers to online purchase and the enduring importance of the physical store within the purchase journey.

Our findings confirm that we haven’t yet witnessed the complete online shopping revolution some had predicted. There are a number of reasons for this: the high street still occupies a central and vital function in the consumer’s journey to purchase. In addition, there remain a number of obstacles to consumers fully accepting online shopping, such as security concerns, payment methods and unwillingness to engage with brands via social media. Online shopping frequency is also determined by those few categories that have the level of sophistication required to drive online sales – and these are not necessarily high frequency purchase categories.

However, our study also reveals that attitudes towards these barriers are changing and this, alongside increased digital engagement along the path to purchase, presents a significant opportunity for brands. By understanding these barriers, brands and retail can work together to overcome them and enable online shopping to flourish as a vital part of the retail landscape.

 Cesar Montes,

EMEA CSO Geometry Global

A stark finding identified that regular and frequent online purchasing – defined as buying online most days – had grown from only 5% in 2011 to 7% in this latest study, a relatively slow rate of growth that reflects the barriers to online shopping across the globe. It also indicates the central role that bricks and mortar retail continues to occupy when making a purchase decision, with online sources used to supplement rather than replace physical retail.

If we consider that the number of people who purchase infrequently [classed as once a month] has grown from 59 to 89% since 2011, we can tell that there is a growing interest in online channels. However, certain online barriers need to be removed before we can convert these consumers into frequent online users.

Cesar Montes

The Connected Shopper study analysed online shopping behaviour from 12 key markets across the globe, identifying both market-by-market and sector-by-sector trends and patterns It looked specifically at how consumers incorporate digital into their shopping journeys under varying circumstances.

The key barriers to online purchasing identified by this study are:

Payment/security concerns – People still don’t trust that their data is being properly protected and their privacy respected and only 26% agreed that it’s acceptable to trade off a degree of privacy in order to enjoy the advantages of e-commerce.

However, there is a subtle shift in these figures to demonstrate that convenience as a driver is stronger than privacy as a barrier. 69% of people agree that online shopping has become a major convenience in their life and trust in online payment security has also dramatically increased: since 2011, the number of people who agree that they aren’t worried about privacy/data security online has increased by an average of 4.1%. Additionally, 67% agree that online shopping will represent an increasing share of their total shopping in years to come, indicating that the shift will continue in the direction of e-commerce.

Continued reliance on physical stores – Physical stores continue to play a significant role in the shopping journey with 65% of all Internet users surveyed reporting they visit physical stores to inform their purchase. Seeing the product in real life (88%) is the primary reason for visiting, with checking prices (65%) the second reason why shoppers visit physical stores.

But even in store, digital’s convenience and ease of use plays an increasingly critical role: globally six out of ten people use mobile phones or tablets while visiting physical outlets, mostly to compare prices, look for product information and take photos of the product. The use of mobile phones in the physical store is the highest in developing economies, with China (94%), India (87%) and Russia (74%) ranking top, while developed countries such as the UK (31%) and USA (36%) show the lowest prevalence.

Mixing the use of online and offline research scores highly with 57% doing both and an additional 13% researching online, meaning that a total of 70% of consumers searched online. This indicates that the consumer switches seamlessly between physical and online sources of information, accessing whichever channel is the most convenient for them dependent on time, place and purpose. The strongest patterns of online behaviour are defined by category.

Brand engagement via social media – Despite the transformative emergence of social media in the last decade, consumers still don’t perceive the benefit of relating to brands through social. 40% of Internet users across the world don’t see any point in ‘friending’ a brand online with that figure especially high in the US and the UK at 55% and 63% respectively.

However, 70% of shoppers worldwide welcome geo-localised ads and promotions via mobile, presenting a huge opportunity for brands when these methods are employed in a targeted way. There is also a significant opportunity for developing markets, who are more accepting of brands in their social media feeds than in established markets. In contrast to the US and UK figures stated above, only 11%, 31% and 34% of those interviewed in Poland, India and China respectively state that they don’t see the point of ‘friending’ a brand online.

Overall, there is a valuable opportunity for brands to strengthen the digital consumer experience by making digital an integral part of the marketing strategy, reaching the consumer at the very moments along the path to purchase that make a difference.

Cesar Montes

Other key findings from the ‘Connected Shopper’ study:

  • Eight out of ten people who use the Internet perform at least one online purchase per month, with the global average reaching three online purchases per month.
  • Of the 12 countries studied, China tops the list in number of online purchases (5.88) with European countries trailing significantly; the countries making the least purchases online were France (2.40) and Spain (2.17).
  • To make these purchases, 65% of consumers use digital channels to research and browse prior to making a purchase.
  • Of the total time spent online across the world, consumers devote 19% of online activity to browsing and shopping. This can be broken down to time spent on informing purchase decisions and purchase (10%) and finding offers, promotions and opportunities (9%)
  • When it comes to browsing, this varies depending on the product category. Computer software, video games, e-books rank top with 85% of consumers spending more than half of their browsing activity researching these items, while food and non-alcoholic beverages ranks the lowest at 20%.

The Connected Shopper, based on research conducted in 12 countries across 4 continents, aims to understand the role that digital plays at every point along what we call the shopper’s Purchase Decision Journey, and to identify both drivers and barriers to purchase that brand marketers and retailers can affect in order to increase sales. Fieldwork was managed by research house TNS and conducted via online panels using Geometry Global’s Purchase Decision Journey research methodology. More than 770 interviews (self-administered, CAWI) were completed by Internet users (above the age of 15) in each of the countries noted above. A total of 9,486 interviews were completed for this comprehensive study.

Geometry Global, the largest and most geographically complete activation agency, was created in June 2013 by the merger of G2, OgilvyAction and JWTAction to provide brand marketers with a unique solution for an unmet need: Precision Activation. This proprietary approach focuses on identifying the exact blend of context and content that influences consumer behaviour, and transforming creative ideas into effective business growth drivers.

With teams in 56 markets, the global network develops highly compelling marketing programs – informed by data and insights – connecting people with brands at precisely the right times, in the right places, and right ways – making a measurable difference to our clients’ business.


Geometry Global delivers award-winning creativity and integrated talent across a range of disciplines including Shopper, Relationship, Promotional and Experiential, Trade and Digital Marketing. Geometry Global is a WPP company.