SHOPPING BEHAVIOR: How the Playbook Has Changed for Brands

Much has changed in the past two years, including consumer shopping behavior. More is bought online. In-home delivery from restaurants and grocery stores has increased, while spending on work apparel and international travel has decreased. In Adweek, Eric Dahan, CEO of the influencer marketing agency, Open Influence, predicts that no one will see consumer behavior “snapping back” to pre-pandemic patterns anytime soon, and customer journeys are less linear than they once were.

For both B2C and B2B marketers, it could be time to reexamine the customer’s journey at their organization. If you are contemplating your own holistic review, an academic paper, “Effect of Customer Experiences on Consumer Purchase Intention,” offers a valuable framework for examining how behavioral, cognitive, affective, sensory and social experiences impact purchasing. These five categories also offer a starting point for identifying opportunities to tinker and improve conversion.


Marketers are always looking at tactics to determine which ones successfully elicit positive reactions from leads. For example, a retail marketer sends out an email and then sees who opens and clicks on a coupon. A software marketer hosts an online webinar, capturing data when a potential buyer signs up. While there are numerous ways to connect, campaign tactics trigger interactions, promote interest and signal engagement.

In assessing the importance of specific buyer
behaviors, consider how actions align with buying journey goals and whether the behavior is likely to be impulsive and momentary. Or, is it part of the buyer’s ongoing journey, ultimately leading to a purchase? For example, if a B2B lead downloads a white paper, then instantly unsubscribes when they receive a follow-up email, they indicated an interest in the information but were not interested in a deeper relationship with the brand. Suppose instead the lead receives the email, remains subscribed and clicks on the link taking them to pricing information on your website. In that case, these actions are more meaningful because they more closely connect with revenue generation.


Buyers shop to fulfill functional needs. The quest for a solution often begins when the buyer identifies a new requirement or decides to solve a problem. As buyers investigate potential solutions, information requirements grow increasingly specific. To provide a satisfying end-to-end cognitive experience, look for points where a lack of information could cause the buying process to stall. Close the gap by providing content to reinforce value, remove uncertainty and prove you deliver the promised benefits.


Positive affective experiences describe feelings and emotions that keep buyers engaged and motivated. In an article published in the Harvard Business Review titled “The New Science of Customer Emotions,” authors Scott Magids, Alan Zorfas and Daniel Leemon reported that there were ten common emotional motivators affecting consumers across all product categories studied.

1. Stand out from the crowd

2. Have confidence in the future

3. Enjoy a sense of well-being

4. Feel a sense of freedom

5. Participate in exciting, fun events

6. Feel a sense of belonging

7. Protect the environment

8. Live up to your ideal self-image

9. Feel secure

10. Succeed in life

There are many opportunities to create positive affective experiences during the customer’s journey. For example, whether you are marketing to a B2C or B2B buyer, there is satisfaction in finding a good solution, prompting feelings of well-being and success. When you provide compelling testimonials, you increase the buyer’s feelings of security and confidence about how a purchase can lead to a positive future.

Different emotional motivators exist at different points in the buyer’s journey. Creating messages aligned with looked-for emotional experiences removes roadblocks and increases the likelihood of a sale.


Three of our primary senses are vision, hearing and touch. There are several ways for B2B marketers to create impactful sensory experiences for potential buyers during their journey, including videos, podcasts, physical samples, printed brochures and direct mail.
While many marketing experiences are temporary and fleeting, such as watching a 30-second video, printed materials serve as a lasting reminder, reinforcing brand benefits. In fact, one widely quoted study reports the average lifespan for a piece of direct mail is 17 days.

In another study conducted by a U.K. agency, 240,000 retail consumers were split into three marketing
groups. One group was marketed to by email only. Another group only received direct mail. The third group received both email and direct mail. Direct mail outperformed email in terms of incremental revenue, and the combination of email and direct mail performed either medium in isolation.


Two types of social experiences influence your leads. The first are the direct interactions your potential buyer has with your company, which could be as basic as receiving a timely response to a request for information. The second type of social experience happens online and is linked to User Generated Content (UGC).

UGC interactions include online reviews, blogs written by independent entities, customer testimonials and influencer marketing. Research shows that when UGC is compared to traditional media for high involvement purchases, UGC often plays a more significant role when convincing buyers to add a brand to their consideration set.

If you sell a million-dollar software solution, does this mean you should be trying to get more Google reviews? The truth is it probably wouldn’t hurt. Another way to enhance social experiences for your brand could be achieved by asking happy customers for video testimonials, and making use of these testimonials in your marketing touches.

While shopping behavior has changed, which can impact your buyer’s journey, every potential customer is still weighing, assessing and judging you based on various experiences. By looking at five types of experiences (behavioral, cognitive, affective, sensory, and social), you can spot new opportunities to improve outcomes for future campaigns.

Scroll to Top
Priorities Magazine Newsletter