Shopper Insights: A Comprehensive Handbook for Retailers from Three Years of Surveys

November 16, 2023
Rebecca Wine profile picture
Rebecca Wine

Through three years of shopper surveys, this article highlights the secrets to enhancing the online shopping experience for your customers. The 2021 survey highlights a gap in inspiration within online shopping. The 2022 survey re-affirms the enduring relevance of printed promotions, their successful use of inspiration and their emotional impact on shoppers. Finally, the 2023 survey emphasises the importance of curation and lessons from the printed leaflet format for an improved online shopping experience.

Over the past three years, iPaper has, in collaboration with Epinion, conducted extensive panel interviews across Europe, involving 19,000 shoppers across 10 different countries. These comprehensive studies reveal a clear pattern in shopper behavior and offer insights into their expectations.

One key insight is a growing emphasis on inspiration as a reaction to overwhelming and endless product grids that have become ubiquitous in online shopping. Furthermore, the enduring effectiveness of traditional marketing formats, such as printed leaflets, further reinforces  the need for a better user experience through curation.

On the other side of the table, retailers today face a myriad of challenges: from ensuring data accuracy to aligning brand perception, integrating technology seamlessly, and adapting to economic fluctuations. These hurdles directly impact a marketer's ability to resonate with consumers who value inspiration, user experience, and traditional approaches.

In this article, we’ve gathered data from multiple surveys to highlight actionable trends that can inform retailers' strategies to face some of their challenges.

Section 01: The Behavior of Online Shoppers survey 2021

This survey provided valuable insights into the evolving dynamics of online consumer behavior. The critical observations and trends identified in the survey were gathered by asking questions with regard to:

1. How shoppers behave and perceive online shopping
2. How shoppers seek inspiration and look for products
3. How shoppers define a great shopping experience

In 2021, Amazon was the dominant source of inspiration for shoppers, with 51% turning to the platform for ideas. In contrast, webshops lagged behind in fifth place, with only 29% finding them inspiring.

Shoppers visited webshops primarily with a clear intent to search for products they have already decided to buy, rather than seeking inspiration for new purchases.

Source: The Behaviour of Online Shoppers Survey 2021

In summary, this survey underscored that while most shoppers seek inspiration online, webshops often fall short in providing it. This year's key insight suggests that retailers should prioritize understanding and catering to browsing shoppers, emphasizing emotional engagement, and creating  personalized shopping experiences.

Section 02: The State of Printed Promotions in 2022

This survey offered a comprehensive overview of the use of printed promotions, and insights on whether retailers should maintain this traditional marketing approach, or transition towards digital alternatives. The critical observations and trends identified in the survey were gathered by asking questions with regard to:

1. How often shoppers use printed promotions
2. What they use them for
3. What channel would they turn to, if there was no printed promotion

Usage of Printed Promotions:

Despite the increasing popularity of digital marketing channels, printed catalogs and leaflets continued to be widely embraced by shoppers. The survey results revealed that 48% of respondents engage with printed promotions on a weekly basis, and 73% do so more than once a month. Only 10% of those surveyed reported not using printed catalogs and leaflets at all, signifying the enduring relevance of printed promotions in shoppers' purchasing journeys.

Printed leaflets were the preferred format, particularly for planning weekly trips to the supermarket, with a notable 57% using print for this purpose.

Regardless of the product category, at least one-third of shoppers engaged with printed promotions on a monthly basis, underscoring their broad applicability.

Influence on Shopper Behavior:

Printed promotions still hold a significant influence over shoppers' behavior. A striking majority –more than two-thirds – use them for inspiration and price comparison. Additionally, 61% relied on printed promotions to determine which stores to visit, attesting to their substantial role in purchasing decisions.

Scenario: what would happen if there were no more printed promotions?

A noteworthy 66% of respondents believed that discontinuing printed promotions would yield environmental benefits. However, this also brought up concerns regarding potential spikes in digital spam (43%) and the potential commodification of personal data (40%) was evident.

The survey revealed that 52% of respondents would miss them if they were no longer available. This emotional connection underscores the enduring appeal of this format.

Source: The State of Printed Promotions 2022

At the same time, 69% of respondents expressed confidence in their ability to find comparable information about deals, prices, and products, online if printed promotions were eliminated.

Source: The State of Printed Promotions 2022

This survey emphasized that even in 2022, printed promotions continued to hold an enduring significance, and underscored their impact on shopper behavior and uncovered the presence of an emotional connection to this format. The main limitation of this survey was the inability to pinpoint, what exactly it is about this format that shoppers like.

Section 03: The Rise of Curation in Online Shopping 2023

This latest installment, seeks to identify what exactly is missing in the current online shopping experience. It does so by unpacking how the printed leaflet/catalog excels at providing inspiration, and how to replicate this format in the digital world.

The critical observations and trends identified in the survey were gathered by asking questions with regard to:

1. How many channels they use for shopping
2. What they liked the most about their preferred channel, and what is missing
3. How does the way products are presented impact the overall shopping experience

In 2023, ONLY 13% of shoppers do NOT feel overwhelmed, when navigating their preferred online shopping channels. This underlines the pressing need for a streamlined and user-friendly experience.

Additionally, shoppers have to contend with a growing number of channels on which to shop and view products on. In fact, the average shopper uses 11.6 different channels.

The increase in channels has also had an effect on the time spent shopping, and the cognitive load while doing so. Some channels might be more suited for providing inspiration, while others are more promotion and transaction driven. It is important for retailers to understand the diverse purposes of different channels to inform their connected commerce approach.

Retailers have turned to personalization in order to help customers easily find products relevant to them. However, we also see that shoppers don’t trust retailers to provide them a truly personalized shopping experience.

Source: The Rise of Curration in Online Shopping 2023

Shoppers crave an ecommerce experience that is quick, simple and gives a good overview of products

When asked which features would improve the online shopping experience, the top three were simplicity, providing a better overview of products, and speed. While adding functionalities like mobile shopping and more product images can enhance the experience, there's a fine line between enhancing the shopping experience and oversaturating shoppers.

Interestingly, the printed leaflet format scored highest for being simple to use, giving a good overview of products, and being quick to use.

Retailers should reconsider how they present products, as curation can help streamline the ecommerce experience

Shoppers were asked about how viewing an endless grid of products vs. a curated selection of products, impacted their overall shopping experience. The study found that, when presented with a curated, limited selection of products chosen by the retailer:

  • 62% of shoppers said that it makes their shopping experience easier (Simple to use)
  • 65% of shopper said it gave them a good idea of what products the retailer is offering (Good overview of products)
  • 60% of shoppers said it helps them save time when shopping (Quick to use).

By implementing curation online, retailers will be able to improve the online shopping experience for their customers.

Currently, retailer’s owned channels lag behind in terms of user-friendliness, product overview, and speed.

Source: The Rise of Curration in Online Shopping 2023

Shoppers often view these channels as functional necessities rather than sources of enjoyable shopping experiences. This gap presents a significant opportunity for retailers to cultivate greater shopper loyalty.

By strategically curating product placement and visuals in relatable contexts, retailers can alleviate information overload. This curated approach not only highlights crucial product details, but also streamlines decision-making. This can effectively address shopper challenges and ultimately boost sales and foster loyalty.


Through three years of extensive surveys across Europe, these studies have uncovered key trends in shopper behavior. The 2021 survey highlighted a notable gap of inspiration in online shopping experiences. In 2022, we discovered that printed promotions maintained their relevance and usage, and there is an x-factor in the format that shoppers like. In 2023, the survey identified the techniques employed by printed leaflets, namely curation. Through curation, retailers can provide a better shopping experience for their customers.

In conclusion, the insights from three years of surveys offer retailers a clear roadmap for navigating the evolving landscape of shopper behavior. By prioritizing inspiration, personalization, and curation, retailers can not only address current challenges but also foster enduring connections with their customers in the dynamic world of online retail.

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