FEATURE15 February 2021

A question of bias: Understanding shopping behaviours online

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An experiment from Google and The Behavioural Architects sought to establish how online shoppers make purchase decisions. Liam Kay reports.


Releasing a new product is always fraught with risk. Will consumers buy it? Will it challenge competitors? And will it be able to maintain its market share in the long term? Traditionally, the purchase funnel has been used to explain how people shop: awareness of a product or service; interest in the type of product; desire for a particular brand; and taking action to purchase it. But does this model fit online shopping?

Google and The Behavioural Architects worked to update this business model for the 21st century, to understand what consumers considered when they searched for a new product. The aim was to see how those decisions could be influenced and what techniques companies should consider using to help consumers make the right decision.

Alistair Rennie, research lead at Google, who helped lead the project, says the tech giant has seen search data identifying changes in how people shop online. “The internet is no longer a tool for comparing ...