Consumers have changed the way they interact with brands and their purchasing habits have become even more sophisticated in the last decade, due to the advance of technology.

A panel of experts who participated in a panel on Changing Consumer Behaviour & Technology in a Multichannel World session, during the recent Performance Marketing Insights (PMI) event, shared their views on the subject.

What comes first? Is it technology change or behaviour change, asked Neil Ranatunga, head of mobile for Tradedoubler and chair of the session?

Technological change has driven the change in consumers’ behaviour once they have understood the benefits, said Tim Jessop, senior marketing manager at Tesco.

Before the advance in mobile technology and the new patterns of consumption, some companies struggled to fulfil their potential.

Will Hayward, vice president of advertising at BuzzFeed Europe, admitted: “It was really tough for us as a company because people couldn’t share the content that we were creating and with so much of our traffic coming through sharing, that was a real block for us to get through.”

For a company with a revenue model based on content sharing, BuzzFeed was missing an opportunity when mobile technology didn’t offer sharing functionality.

“There was a change in technology and the smartphone came along and for those of us who remember in the first generation, the sharing experience of smartphones was really bad,” Hayward added.

Then a few years ago suddenly all that changed and the experience of sharing on mobiles became far easier.

“So broadly for us as a business and our experiences, online technologies change and consumers change as a result, but I think 99% of change only comes when it enables human beings to do something they have always wanted to do,” Hayward added.

Intrinsic behaviour

He believes that the social web is just the digitisation of the way humans have always behaved, at a large scale. When people share something, for example, it can be because it will make them look smart to others or because they want to help.

This is intrinsic human behaviour that would have happened anyway, but the social web transformed it and made it much larger.

Hayward said technologies are adopted when it enables human beings to do something they have always wanted to do.

Jessop said mobile technology has enabled people to use their downtime, these small gaps of time during the day, to research or purchase something online.

They use the web in new ways and more make easily smaller purchases that perhaps they would have done differently – much to the delight of retailers.

So consumers are savvier and do more research online before getting in the store to look at the features of the product.

Mobile coupons have also made a big impact in the way consumers purchase, said panellist Hayward.

Mobile and product manager for, Angie Goodchild, said it becomes so easy for people to take a picture of their receipt with their smartphone and submit it online. Their app supports the in-store experience and is less complicated to use than the website.

Integrated technologies

Popular technologies are the ones that make life easier for the consumer. The web experience should be different from the app and different from the store experience.

Apps should provide additional benefits to the consumer and reward loyalty rather than generating leads.

“An app is more of a loyalty channel”, said Sergio Falletti, DigitasLBi’s mobile business consultant.

Falletti said the best apps are an extension of websites and should be easy to use. To create a good app you need to be able to predict what customers will need from it.

However, not all businesses necessarily need an app. Understanding the customer journey will help to decide what benefits it can provide.

Jessop also shared some tips to create a useful app. He said to be clear about the objectives of the organisation, define the customers’ benefits which ultimately should make their life easier and finally, think of the organisation capability.

The new Tesco tablet, Hudl, is preloaded with a grocery app to make it easy to buy weekly supplies, and there is a barcode integration app to scan items.

Like all good things, technologies can fall victim of their success. They can be overused, overhyped and no longer provide the intended benefit to the consumer. All the panellists agreed that the QR code is one of the most abused technologies used everywhere.

Tracking and the future

Consumers connect to the web in different ways, using multiple devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc. In fact, 50% of local searches are done on mobile devices, but it’s not always easy to differentiate which device is used to make the purchase, Jessop admitted.

Analytics is a good way of tracking the customer journey, but it doesn’t provide much information on the devices used, making it impossible for affiliates to promote the products if there is no tracking system to get paid.

Amazon is one of the rare exceptions to have succeeded in creating a traceable ecosystem with its Kindle.

Mr Falletti said he is eager to see better analytics across platforms in the future and predicts the widespread use of mobile wallet, mobile payment, passbook and wearable technology.

Touch screen and smart TV have also made life easy, but we should see more development in the future in these areas Jessop said.

Getting rid of the trust issue when buying online is a challenge the industry needs to solve, added Hayward. Biometric could provide a solution to this issue by providing higher security for shoppers worried about leaving their card details on a website.

One thing that is for certain is that consumers’ behaviour will continue to rapidly change and adapt to the ever-growing new technologies.