The (Computer) Science of Consumer Behavior: How Technology is Changing the Way People Shop

Computer usage has grown considerably over the past few decades, particularly as the pandemic drove more people online and rapidly ushered digital adoption across countries. The United States Census Bureau’s survey on computer and internet use found that, as early as 2018, 92% of all households had at least one type of computer — desktops, laptops, tablets, or smartphones — and 85% had a broadband internet subscription. Naturally, this tech-oriented shift in culture also changed the way consumer’s think and act.

As Maryville University’s computer science degree program notes outline, advances in areas like cellular communications, Wi-Fi, machine learning, artificial intelligence, blockchain, internet of things (IoT), and smart devices are now powering modern entertainment, information, and learning. As a response to this, the university highlights how careers in computer and information technology are predicted to grow by 12% between 2018 and 2028, more than twice the rate of job growth across all fields. This demand for computer science professionals reflects a wider demand for tech insights across industries, as businesses grapple with fast-paced consumer developments.

Here are three major ways information technology influenced the way people shop both online and offline:

Consumers have greater choice than before

With technology accelerating globalization, shoppers can purchase goods and services across continents, and the ever-increasing number of small businesses mushrooming globally means there is a greater selection than ever before. With such similar offerings, consumers are now paying more attention to the brands that “fit” right for them. The World Economic Forum’s feature on online shopping notes that customer loyalty plummeted during the pandemic, with 73% of consumers who tried a different brand while online shopping saying they will continue seeking out new brands in the future.

It’s not just the products anymore, either. Consumers are increasingly looking at choices on where to shop — official websites, resellers, social media platforms, e-Commerce markets — and even considering the payment methods available. Online businesses can keep themselves accessible for consumers by providing multiple options. On the other hand, offline retailers can appeal to consumers by investing in the physical customer experience that differentiates them from competitors, which may involve interactive technologies or highly-personalized customer service.

Consumers are highly connected to each other

Online life has expanded very quickly for society, and consumers are now exposed to a network of friends, influencers, and reviewers who make recommendations and compare brand offerings. There are even price aggregators which offer consumers price comparison for top products. Savvy consumers do research before they buy anything, and study buying guides to stay informed, whether they’re shopping online or offline.

Case in point, reviews and ratings are among the most powerful factors in customer purchase decisions. In fact, the University of Florida’s study on user reviews found that the first review can affect how a product is perceived for up to three years, influencing the amount and tone of later reviews. A negative first review means fewer people are willing to take a chance on a product, leaving it with fewer opportunities to receive positive feedback. Shoppers consider user reviews from fellow consumers more trustworthy than the advertised information, so it’s key to consider these connections in your strategy.

Consumers’ expectations have changed

Online shopping has let consumers feel the ease at which they can browse products online, add them to cart, then proceed to checkout in minutes — and having this power at their fingertips has raised the bar. Consumers now expect high-quality products and services to be delivered on-demand. In terms of customer service, for instance, emails and phone calls are no longer enough. Businesses must adapt their social media and websites to include 24/7 live chat options, lest a customer quickly redirect their interest elsewhere.

Fortunately, it’s now easier to be proactive and satisfy these expectations even before consumers ask for them. As we mentioned in our article called ‘Predict the Behaviour of Our Clients? Yes, It’s Possible’, businesses can use Big Data and predictive analytics to create an improved customer journey and increase conversion rates. Talk to us at Ladorian to learn more on how we can help.


Penned by Stella Thorsten
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