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    Toluna’s New Digital Tracking Solution Provides Treasure Trove of Holiday Shopping Data

    Peter Shafer, Vice President, Digital Solutions

    In so many ways, the winter holiday season is like no other during the year. One thing is hard to miss: at no other time is there such interest in shopping. And that interest spans most important market segments and demographics. That makes it the perfect proving ground for solutions designed to provide businesses with critical information about their most important market segments.

    So for the 45 days that constitute the holiday shopping season—beginning a week before Black Friday and encompassing both Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday—using our new Digital Tracking solution, we tracked the online behavior of 1,300 U.S. consumers, resulting in a treasure trove of more than four million hours of shopping, video binging, social media sharing and other surfing data. More importantly, those 1,300 panelists are representative of more than 174 million consumers like them, making the data a snapshot of a critical swath of American consumers.

    Because so many people are shopping online at that time of year, it makes the data incredibly powerful. This project really allowed us to see how people truly engage with brands, their path to purchase, media consumption, the impact of various elements of marketing attribution, and more. This amount and depth of information would have been impossible even three or four years ago.

    A Rich Cache of Data

    The data clarifies a number of issues important to retailers, with sometimes-surprising information about Path to Purchase near the top of the list. For example, stats show that (not surprisingly) Amazon outpaces all other shopping websites in regard to traffic, with consumers spending nearly 2.5 times more total hours shopping on Amazon than any other shopping site. But, in the eyebrow-raising column, YouTube videos/shows grabbed more of the panelists’ attention than other video streaming services, by far, with consumers spending more than 15,500 hours watching YouTube during the shopping period.  That could be critical information to retailers as they plan marketing strategy.

    The study even offered a window on individual online shopping behavior.

    It’s harder and harder for retailers to understand what motivates consumers. They need to look at both the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ behind how people finally reach a purchase. This kind of data can help them understand what drives previously unpredictable consumers.

    Another stat that will keep marketing and product managers up at night:  data from the study shows that consumers “load up” their shopping carts only to abandon more than 85 percent of the items in the cart at check out.

    The question marketing and product managers must now answer – or even face – is why people ‘dump’ products at the end when they felt enough affinity to pick up the item in the moment?  Imagine walking through a store, loading up the cart, and then returning everything back to their shelves.

    Additionally, on Black Friday, one pharmacy/retailer customer—who eventually purchased $40 worth of lipstick on the retailer’s site—had actually logged into 20 other retail sites on her ‘path to purchase.’

    The retailer had never thought of some of the sites she visited as competitors. The data supplied critical competitive intelligence, allowing them to virtually redefine their competitive set. We’ve found these types of ‘aha’s’ throughout the data, and marketers can truly have a new view into their consumers, which lead to breakthrough discoveries they’d never experience otherwise.

    This kind of granular tracking gives retailers the “why” (motivation for purchase) behind the “what” (actual purchase). And the study even tracked what devices panelists used while online, vital information for retailers as they structure marketing campaigns.

    “Searching” for the Right Answers

    Data from the study also shed light on often-unexpected search terms consumers use on their way to retailers’ sites. For example, one haircare company’s customer had searched for “fine hair.”  That was important information because the company doesn’t typically brand its products using that term.

    Redefining the Haystack

    Coming on the heels of this successful study, Toluna plans to offer Digital Tracking solutions on an ongoing basis. One form the solution will take is studies with private communities composed exclusively of a retailer’s shoppers. This is one more way of reaching a deep understanding of the ‘what’ and ‘why’ behind shoppers’ behavior.

    There are so many ways of uncovering and understanding the market segments. If you’re going to be successful in the online universe, you need to be ready to redefine not only the needle, but actually the haystack. Digital Tracking, especially when coupled with the ability to delve deeper into the ‘why’ with survey research is the best way to find that haystack.


    Here’s a look at a typical panelist for our study. Her profile makes her a perfect representative of an important marketing segment for online retailers.

    Jackie is 30 years old, married with no children, attended college, with and income of $45,000- $50,000. She lives in in Simsbury, CT and describes herself as researching holiday gifts and then making actual purchases 7 of the time online and 25 percent in-store. She indicates she will research products more than once, and will generally purchase within 2-3 days of initial research.

    During the study Jackie:

    • Used her iPhone 7 running iOS 11.2
    • Spent nearly 12 hours using her iPhone on Amazon.com
    • Spent another 30 minutes on Kol’s.com
    • Then rounded out her top five shopping sites on Gap.com, Macys.com and Target.com

    This is the kind of information that is proving vital to retailers across the online universe.

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