How to Leverage Multiple-Device Shoppers - Insights from User Research

February 19, 2015

By: Elizabeth Zietlow,

Head of User Research

, eBay Enterprise

How to Leverage Multiple-Device Shoppers - Insights from User Research

While consumers have individual preferences, they also have distinct patterns of how, when, and why they reach for devices when browsing and making purchases. These subtle nuances are pivotal to understanding how consumers use multiple devices for both online and offline shopping, and reveal key insights for retailers to increase conversion during the holidays and throughout the year.

Informed by the analysis from our 2012-2013 research, detailed in Multi-Device Ownership: Implications for Retailer and Consumers, the eBay Enterprise User Research team embarked to validate those findings with a larger consumer group. A forty-four question survey was developed to gather deeper quantitative data about how shoppers engage with their devices (smartphone, tablet, and desktop/laptop). The survey was launched immediately following the 2013 holiday shopping season and the responses from 1,177 multi-device owning consumers was collected.

Key Insights
How and where people use devices are shaping shopping behavior more than ever. Analyzing device usage within context, across multiple devices, this study revealed five key insights. Together, these findings produce a fresh view of the role of eCommerce, where device usage and contexts layer, begging to be more meaningfully connected to deliver truly seamless experiences.

1. Device Switching Is the New Normal
With the increasing accessibility of multiple devices, consumers frequently use more than one device type in the evaluation and purchase of a single item. While the typical analytics data can reveal device-specific measures, this research uncovers the “in-between.” From our previous study, device switching in the pursuit to evaluate the same item increased from 40% to 64%, and switching was identified in our 2014 study as most prevalent for smartphone. Proximity, intent, and comfort remained core to participants’ motivations for switching and accessible devices resulted in 81% reporting using more than one device to browse.

2. Context and Convenience Motivate Device Use
Motivated by what is most convenient, consumers select the device most appropriate for the context and continue to prefer websites over apps. Strongly correlating with the 2012-2013 study, these findings map common device usage to the ordinary places of home, work, in-store, and on-the-go. Smartphones dominated the contexts of work, in-store, and on-the-go compared to other device types. Tablets and desktops were preferred for home. And similar to the 2012-2013 research, and possibly contradictory to some thinking, smartphones are more frequently used in the home to browse (87% reported in the home browsing) than any other location and are used at work (52%)—more than was reported for desktop/laptop use in the workplace (36%). This signals that we could be forgetting about the non-office worker and how much they dominate the consumer world as well as the consideration that consumers may not always feel comfortable using their work device for their shopping—therefore turning to the next available device—their smartphone.

3. Activities on Specific Devices Become Critical Points of Engagement
What people are doing on their devices reveals what they are doing in context. 

Activities Trending by Device:
  • Smartphones: Currently used primarily for light browsing, light purchasing, checking email, getting directions to a store, and a workplace alternative to the desktop/laptop. As the everywhere device, the smartphone is akin to glue connecting the contexts together.

  • Tablet: Deeper browsing compared to the smartphone as the larger screen real estate affords it, and light to deep purchasing at home. Purchases of 1-4 items/cart on the tablet outpaced desktop and smartphones.

  • Desktop: Remains the preferred device for in-depth browsing and purchasing at home, but is beginning to lose ground to tablets. YOY, purchasing on desktop decreased from 79% to 71%. For purchases of 5 or more items, desktop further declined to 58% from 2012-2013 data, losing ground to tablet, as the 2014 study showed that 34% of tablet-owning participants used their tablet at least once to purchase, 25% when purchasing more than 5 items/cart.

4. Motivation to Change Channels Isn’t One Directional as Consumers Continue to Showroom and Pre-Search
Sixty-five percent (65%) of participants described their shopping behavior as a mix of online and in-store as they continue to “showroom” (seek information in the store to later purchase online) and “pre-search” (seek information online prior to going into the store to complete the purchase). These consumers were primarily motivated to go to store to see and feel items before they purchase (58%), often after pre-searching online, and secondarily motivated by avoiding shipping costs (47%). Consumers are motivated to leave a store and purchase online because they are looking for better prices (72%), and online promotions (50%). This data suggests that opportunities still abound for retailers to catch the consumer at the store door and for them to drive the consumer in-store to close the deal. It’s about understanding their purchase cycle to close the purchase even if they walk out the door.

5. Slow to Bridge the Gap Between Online and In-Store, Retailers Miss Out on Significant Revenue
Be it comfort level in store, navigating a physical store, the ease of “adding to cart” in-stores, and less impulse buying online, participants purchased almost twice as many items in-store than when they return home and shop online. In spite of this known behavior, many gaps persist in bridging the online-to-in-store experience. Smartphone interfaces often mirror antiquated desktop user flows originally designed for a static online environment. But behind this miss, creative and technical integrations exist for enriching interactions in the spaces of Customer Service, ISPU (In-Store Pick Up), and mobile payments. For example, consider how seamlessly Lowes integrates ISPU on their smartphone device interface. In search results, Lowes identifies the precise location of a product by aisle and bin number in the store.

Questions Retailers Should Ask Their Teams
This study’s findings point beyond an mCommerce shift and validate a multiple-device paradigm that permeates across commerce contexts: from home to store, to anywhere in between.

Foundational to the future of digital eCommerce is mapping consumers’ preferred activities to specific devices within context. Understanding what consumers are looking for in one context, helps us anticipate what they need in the following context. By letting the contexts “talk” to one another, we can ideate and create fluid interactions that powerfully pivot across contexts and devices.

If you’re not already thinking about these things, you should be:

  • Where are your customers connecting with you? What devices? In what context?

  • Do your customers do different shopping-related things at different times of the day—and can you map your customers to devices and contexts to trigger their behavior?

  • Why might your consumers not be buying on highly trafficked devices? (It’s almost always related to a poor user experience)

  • What strategies do you have in place to connect the device and context switching consumer—and how good are they?

  • When was the last time you talked to real consumers and evaluated the entire product consideration cycle from your consumers’ points of view?

  • Are you capitalizing on the ever channel-changing consumer by ensuring they close the deal with you?

  • Is your in-store pick-up/ship-to-store program working with your marketing campaigns to capitalize on consumer behavior (e.g. do you encourage or incentivize in-store pick-up to drive the consumer to spend more in-store)?

In the years to come, every retailer should be asking themselves and their teams these questions in order to tap into the minds of their consumers and meet them at the right device, in the right context, and at the right time.

About User Research at eBay Enterprise
The eBay Enterprise User Research team is a specialized group of professionals within eBay Enterprise Creative Services located in New York, Greater Philadelphia, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

With 7+ years of commerce focused usability testing, the team maintains an unprecedented understanding of user research, e-commerce interface best practices, and the omni-channel consumer.

We advocate for the consumer’s needs and desires throughout the interface design process and align those needs with retailer business goals.

About eBay Enterprise
eBay Enterprise is a leading global provider of retail-optimized commerce solutions, including the Magento platform, order management, fulfillment, Consumer care, and marketing solutions. We enable brands and retailers of all sizes to deliver consistent omnichannel experiences across all retail touch points to attract and engage new Consumers, convert browsers into loyal buyers, and deliver products with speed and quality. With unrivaled flexibility and control, our clients are armed to accelerate sales growth and win with today’s digitally connected consumer. eBay Enterprise is headquartered in King of Prussia, Pa. and has offices in Austin, Barcelona, London, Los Angeles, New York, and Shanghai. eBay Enterprise is an eBay Inc. (Nasdaq: EBAY) company. More information can be found at and

About eBay Enterprise Store Fulfillment Solutions
Enabling retailers to use store inventory and resources to fulfill online sales. ebay Enterprise Store Fulfillment Solutions connect the online and store channels making store inventory saleable online and enabling stores to seamlessly fulfill ecommerce orders.

Survey Details:

  • 1,177 nation-wide survey participants, aged 18-55

  • All were smartphone owning, 64% tablet owning, 75% desktop owning, and 93% laptop owning

  • All (100%) shopped online