The Internet has changed the way the world operates. You can submit documents, meet people from other companies, and shop all at the click of a mouse.
The Internet is, quite literally, a boundless plane. There is no limit to the amount of information that it can store. As such, more and more consumers are going digital when shopping for a new product.
Digital shopping and digital products disrupted the traditional shopping model. And it goes beyond just “finding stuff quicker and cheaper.”
The Traditional Shopping Model
Prior to the dawn of digital products and digital shopping, consumers followed the following shopping model:
Recognizing a Need
Consumers realize they need something. Perhaps it’s winter clothes for their children, or maybe it’s the latest phone software. Regardless, they need to address this need.
Now that they acknowledge this need, consumers next research how to satisfy it. This step could be as simple as checking the sales portion of the newspaper. It could be as difficult as reading up on car or computer mechanics.
Evaluating All Available Possibilities
Consumers compare and contrast potential solutions to their need. They weigh the pros and cons of each product. Typical pros and cons include cost, material, durability, color, size, and convenience.
Making a Purchase
When consumers reach a decision, they purchase the chosen product. They then incorporate the product into their daily lives to fulfill their need.
Evaluating the Product Post-Purchase
Does the product meet the need? If it does not, what aspect of the need doesn’t it meet and why?
Post-purchase, customers will examine whether or not the product truly meets the need. If it does not, they will determine why. They may even end up returning the product in exchange for a new product that suits the need better.
The Advantages of Digital Products
Digital products have affected virtually every step of this model for a variety of reasons. One reason relates to the products themselves and how they compare with their physical counterparts.
There is much to be said for the convenience of digital products. You can purchase them at any time instead of waiting for a store to open. You don’t have to drive anywhere, and you receive them instantly no matter when you purchase them.
Additionally, digital products are kept as a file on an electronic device. As such, you can take the file with you wherever you go. You can also back up these products in the event something happens to your electronic device so you don’t lose the files.
Physical products cost money to make. They require material to be produced as well as labor to assemble and ship them.
Digital products require none of that. They are simply information in digital form. As such, they are typically cheaper than their physical counterparts.
Physical products all take up space. If you’re an avid reader or a movie fan, sooner or later you’ll run out of shelf space for books and Blu Rays.
That isn’t the case with digital products. They take up a small amount of space on your computer, and they can be moved to external hard drives and other computers.
The Impact of Digital Products
Another reason why these products have interrupted the traditional sales model is how consumers now shop.
Digital products are sold via the Internet. As such, practically all information about them is found online. The same holds true for their physical counterparts.
As a result, consumers are now taking their research and evaluation tactics to the Internet.
Consumers are no longer content with simple box and tag descriptions. They prefer performing in-depth research about products before making any decisions.
One way they research is reading articles and product summaries. Amazon and other online sellers typically include detailed descriptions of their products. Articles contain such descriptions and sometimes even act as advertisements for products.
Reading Reviews and Blog Posts
Another way they research is reading reviews and blog posts about products. Reviews provide detailed evaluations of a product’s effectiveness or lack thereof. Amazon is particularly noted for the lengthy reviews section on its’ product listings.
Blog posts are also a go-to tool for today’s consumers. Like reviews, blog posts provide detailed accounts of one’s experience with a product. However, they are also likely to include information about competing products, sometimes even with a chart of the products’ features for easy comparison.
The emergence of high-speed internet has allowed more access to video streaming. Video bloggers (“vloggers”) and YouTube personalities often make videos detailing their experiences with products.
In fact, sometimes companies will seek out these individuals and provide them with free demos in exchange for a video review.
Checking Out Social Media
Blogs, YouTube, and Amazon aren’t the only places where you can find information and reviews about products.
More than ever, consumers are relying on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter for product information. Such platforms are associated with friends and family, so product information feels more casual and trustworthy.
In fact, consumers often glean inspiration from social media for future purchases. Videos of new and exciting products circulate around Facebook like wildfire. DIY remedies and gift ideas populate nearly every Pinterest search.
What’s more, social media platforms utilize algorithms. What you search on the sites determines the kind of paid advertising that pops up on your news feeds.
These sites will tell you they use algorithms to show you content you care about. Of course, the real motive is to show you content that contributors pay to have shown to you. Those contributors are businesses that want to reach as many potential customers as possible.
Algorithms are constantly changing based on a multitude of things, including the kind of content you click on, and how often you click on it.
After all is said and done, the shopping model has evolved into a self-driven one. This model is inspired simply by the amount of time we spent on the Internet.
To keep up, businesses must understand and accept this new model. They also have to anticipate self-driven purchases in order to advertise effectively. If they don’t, they’ll get lost in an endless sea of digital information.
Are you an avid shopper of digital products? Feel free to share your experience with us in the comments section below.