Consumer Path to Purchase: We’re Still a Touchy Feely Bunch

April 16, 2014

To better understand how consumers make purchase decisions, Retail Council of Canada (RCC) recently partnered with The NPD Group and MasterCard Canada to conduct a comprehensive study on the Canadian shopper. An online survey was fielded from January 23, through February 7, 2014 to a Canadian representative sample of 3,337 panelists aged 18-64.

The study focussed on a select group of products that were chosen to reflect a range of likely purchasing channels:  beauty (face cream), winter apparel (coats/boots), beverage machines (single-serve coffee/juicer, etc.), personal accessories (handbags, watches), and PC/Electronics (computers, TVs, etc).  Only those who indicated they had planned the purchase were asked about their purchasing behaviour.

“Consumers are still overwhelmingly shopping in physical stores,” says Sharon Armstrong, SVP Marketing and Communications with Retail Council of Canada.  “And we’re still heavily influenced by what happens when we’re in the store – the displays we look at and our conversations with sales associates.  But the research demonstrates that on-line reviews, websites and social media are increasingly influential in helping consumers consider brands they may not have originally thought about – or influencing them to eliminate brands that were previously top of mind.”

Surprisingly, consumers in all categories typically considered less than two brands when planning a purchase – and approximately two retailers.  Whether they remain loyal to the original brands or choose a different brand varies by category according to Armstrong.  “A remarkable 48% of respondents chose a different brand when purchasing winter apparel from the time they made the decision to buy to when they actually purchased the product.  But only 19% of those who had planned to buy a beverage machine switched brands before purchasing.”    On average, nearly 25% of purchasers switched retailers.

The study revealed that physical stores remain the dominant purchase channel among all product categories, but on-line purchases represented a sizeable portion of the market:

The percentage of respondents who purchased on-line:

  • Beauty:  9%
  • Winter Apparel: 11%
  • Beverage Machine: 16%
  • Personal Accessory: 23%
  • PC/Electronics: 30%

When respondents were asked why they chose to purchase the products in-store versus on-line, the majority indicated they wanted to see and touch the product.  The risk and inconvenience of returning the product was also a significant factor. 

“Respondents were clearly more comfortable buying on-line when making PC/Electronic purchases,” says Sandy Silva, Director Client Development, The NPD Group. “In this category 30% purchased on-line and websites ranked stronger as influencers.”

Among those who did visit a physical store, a surprising number did not make a purchase at that point and opted to explore other touch points after the store visit. “The study shows there is an opportunity for retailers to improve their in-store experience to better convert shoppers to buyers,” says Silva.  “Interactive displays that allow the consumer to further research products is one possibility.  Another is providing the ability to order on-line right from the store to ensure the sale is captured.”

“The path to purchase is much more than simply the point of transaction,” says  Kevin Gonyea, Vice President & Head of Acquirer Merchant Relationship Management.  “MasterCard is interested in driving innovation to make the end-to-end purchase safe, simple and convenient for the customer. These research results highlight the opportunities available to retailers and brands to engage with customers.”

MasterCard supported the research study to provide valuable insights to business owners on consumer behaviour to educate and inform key business decisions.  The full RCC-NPD Consumer Path to Purchase report will be unveiled and presented at RCC’s STORE Conference 2014 and will also be available shortly thereafter for download at

Media, for more information, please contact:
Sharon Armstrong,
Retail Council of Canada, [email protected]

About Retail Council of Canada (RCC)

Retail Council of Canada ( is the Voice of Retail. Founded in 1963, RCC is a not-for-profit association which represents more than 45,000 stores of all retail formats, including department, grocery, independent merchants, regional and national specialty chains, and online merchants.

About MasterCard

MasterCard (NYSE: MA),, is a technology company in the global payments industry. We operate the world's fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. MasterCard's products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone. Follow us on Twitter @MasterCardNews, join the discussion on the Cashless Pioneers Blog and subscribe for the latest news on the Engagement Bureau.

About The NPD Group

The NPD Group provides global information and advisory services to drive better business decisions.  By combining unique data assets with unmatched industry expertise, we help our clients track their markets, understand consumers and drive profitable growth. Sectors covered include automotive, beauty, consumer electronics, entertainment, fashion, food / foodservice, home, luxury, mobile, office supplies, sports, technology, toys and video games. For more information, visit and Follow us on Twitter: @npdgroup.