How digitalisation is changing the buying process

Thanks to the internet, consumers can now find out about products more easily and buy online as well as in traditional shops. An SNSF-funded study by the BFH Business Administration investigates how digital offers influence consumers’ purchasing decisions. In conversation with BFH researcher Lilian Laub.

Lilian Laub, research assistant at the Institute Innovation and Entrepeneurship

What do you focus on in the study ? At our institute, we deal with the changes in companies due to digitalisation. So it made sense to also investigate the changing buying behaviour of consumers. With the emergence of e-commerce, not only are more goods more easily accessible to the masses, but also the entire purchasing process has become more heterogeneous. We can inform ourselves about a product online before making a purchase, compare prices and then buy it in a shop or vice versa: we get advice in the shop and then buy online. In addition, there is the growing importance of ratings and reviews by online customers, which can also influence purchasing decisions. How do you study the buying process or the buying decision? We are investigating how digitalisation in the form of eCommerce and traditional purchasing processes influence today’s purchasing decisions. To do this, we are analysing the purchasing decisions of 90 test persons. Within four weeks, they receive two orders in which they are supposed to inform themselves about products with the intention of buying them later. In one of the assignments, they are allowed to use digital tools such as apps, forums and platforms. For the other assignment, however, they are only allowed to do traditional research, i.e. among friends and acquaintances, in newspapers, magazines, advertising brochures and in shops. They document their research in a real-time diary using WhatsApp. This gives us researchers the opportunity to ask questions directly and immediately. The test persons go through the entire decision-making process without pulling out their wallets at the end. So that it is not redundant for the test persons, we clarify in advance with a questionnaire which products would come into question for them. We evaluate the answers qualitatively. What is special about your study? The survey method is “new”, you can communicate with different means and pictures, texts, emojis and voice messages are allowed – the test persons have a lot of freedom in documenting their activities. This enables us not only to follow the structural course of the purchase decision process, but also to explore the influence of cognitive and emotional aspects – for example, when people feel overwhelmed or pleased. After completion of the study, the results will be presented at a symposium next year. This will give test persons and researchers the opportunity to exchange information about the results and to develop further research approaches. How long has the project been running? The project has been running for 18 months since December 2018 and is funded by the SNSF. Our goal is to complete the survey phase by the end of summer. Which group of test persons are you interested in? Basically, anyone aged 16 and over, or anyone who has WhatsApp, some time and may even be interested in how their own decision-making process works. So far, mainly interested people under 30 have registered, so we are mainly still looking for participants over 40. Interested people can register here and give their email address, then they will receive more detailed information from us. We also offer a small monetary compensation.

About the person

Lilian Laub is a research assistant at the Institute Innovation and Entrepeneurship at the Department of Economics at Bern University of Applied Sciences. Her research interests focus on digitalisation and sustainability.

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AUTHOR: Anne-Careen Stoltze

Anne-Careen Stoltze is Editor in Chief of the science magazine SocietyByte and Host of the podcast "Let's Talk Business". She works in communications at BFH Business School, she is a journalist and geologist.

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