Evolving consumer Shopping Activities

Buyer Psychology & Behavior Series

Through time, the push and pull techniques of marketers have evolved to conform to new strategies, responsive practices, scaling technologies, and the onset of the evolving digital marketplace.

New sciences, improved technologies, and conversations flooded with marketing analytics, Search Engine Optimization, GPS-tracking, the Internet Of Things, supply automation, and Big Data

The overall journey a customer navigates in 2021 is nowhere near a wholesome autonomous experience, but rather a system of interconnected touch-points along a fabricated funnel used by marketers. 

Whether utilitarian or hedonic, the values anchored behind the behaviors of shoppers are deployed to quench their needs. All of which have unique tendencies and patterns.

Hedonic shopping values reflect in the emotive, experiential, and fantasy perceptive realms of shopper’s brains. These are purchases that are more accessory-like and result from an influenced marketing strategy on the side of the brand. 

Utilitarian shopping values reflect in the cognitive and efficient perceptive realm of the shopping brain. These purchases involve things that are functional, necessary, and satisfy lower realms of our Maslow Hierarchy.  

Let’s go ahead and break down the differences and unique propositions behind each of the four buyer and shopper activities considered by marketers and brands alike. 

Acquisition Shopping

One of the most common forms of Utilitarian shopping is “Acquisition Shopping.”

Acquisition Shopping is a shopping behavior many of us employ when we are dead set on a specific good or service. This can be due to time or proximity-based requirements prompting the purchase. 

The key defining element of the Acquisition shopping need is that we need it and we need it now. 

A great example of an acquisition shopping experience many of us engage in is when we are called to the task of filling our automobile gas tank. It is something we rarely juggle and compare vendors for. 

Another great example of an acquisition shopping experience is the need to fill our fridge with basic groceries like eggs, milk, and bread. These are items we typically often buy in consumer goods fashion – at a grocery store, in a timely fashion, when we need them.

It is typically a purchase and shopping behavior executed in a utilitarian style, emphasizing location, convince, and brand frequency along our car driving routes. 

I often purchase Shell or Chevron Gas because I trust their brands. The purchase of their gas is acquisitional-shopping because I need it when my car is on empty. If those brands are not in the vicinity I will have no issue with an alternative brand. 

Acquisition shopping, like in the example of filling gas, or buying eggs and milk, is done strictly on a utilitarian value of the consumer to get the required good or service in an efficient and functional manner, with little regard to experience or amenity. 

Epistemic Shopping

As we transgress through the Utilitarian fold of shopping experience we move to the Hedonic Realm of shopping and its triggers.

Epistemic Shopping is the type we employ when yearning and searching for more information on a particular service or novel product on the market. 

The typical nature of extended search opportunities afforded to the modern customer help to elicit the compounding nature of Epistemic shopping. 

The idea lay in the ability to learn now and buy later. The simple act of adding items to the cart to return at a date in the near future is the epitome of this shopping experience. 

A good example of Epistemic Shopping that many of us have deployed recently is the use of Google Search to look up a specific product. 

Once we find a landing page on Amazon, we typically click through to read the reviews to glean what information we can so that we trust the idea of purchasing. 

When I recently found the need for an Apple MacBook 2021 HDMI Extender (Dongle) I made sure to do an extended search through Google. This led to a review on Amazon of a CalDigit Thunderbolt 3 USB Hub. 

With a little extended research through the Amazon reviews to evaluate the purchase, the Epistemic shopping experience helped me confide in my plans to “checkout” with my purchase at another time. 

The activity of epistemic shopping lets us evaluate a good or service transparently without a salesman in our peripherals or a promotion to guide our choice. 

Experiential Shopping

Another type of Hedonic Value type of purchase. These purchases are steadfast on desire, dreams, and the artificial wants and needs of human beings. 

An experiential shopper is one who enjoys the retail experience of placemaking, foot traffic, shopping with friends, and the whole nine yards. 

These activities are oriented around excitement, self-care, technology, social interaction, power, and prowess. Experiential shopping chases that desired feeling that is so often fleeting from consumers. 

Sometimes people will shop due to experiential circumstances like the time of the year, the promotion with sensitivity, or simply due to lack of entertainment. After all, shopping is a timely habit. 

The pandemic and onset of isolation brought on a multitude of brands pivoting to amenities their experiential shopping channels and their methods of provoking experiential habits with their customers. 

A great example of experiential shopping we were all a part of during this pandemic was the multitude of work-from-home items that many of us manifested into our homes. 

The combination of boredom, lack of proximity to our co-workers, and the void of the office space elicited a remarkable uptick in-home office sales and work-from-home type technology products and services. 

Product lines like Logitech, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, and services like Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, Slack, and Google Hangouts all come to mind.

Experiential shopping invites marketers to consider the environment of their consumers in order to augment or tailor that experience so as to guide the purchase. These shoppers are typically social and cope better with a large crowd.

Impulsive Shopping

The last type of shopping behavior that falls within the Utilitarian and Hedonic Value realms is Impulsive Shopping. 

This type of shopping behavior factors in the need and the want with the complexity of impulse. As a subconscious and a rather autonomous reflex of human nature, there is a ton to unpack in impulsive behaviors. 

These purchases are typically unplanned and unwarranted to the effect of comparability and functionality. 

Emotional factors will play a hand as there are always overarching elements in play. Spontaneity comes from a need for self-pleasure and fulfillment within the customer. 

Often the consequences in price, product retention, or customer economics do not come into play and thus define the nature of an “impulse”.

A great example of an impulsive purchase is the small items faced to us at a checkout cart online or even in-store near the registers. The extra candles at Bed Bath & Beyond or the Assorted Chocolate Packages at TJ-Maxx. 

They can even take the form of online impulsive shopping in the form of recommended-purchase sections or what others bought. These have become whole segments of consumer targeting on websites like Amazon, Best Buy, and Alibaba. 

These small knick-knack items litter the impulse buys of consumers globally because they are often looked over as add-ons, extras, or non-competes for the purpose of consolation. 


As we can see there are a vast number of shopping activities that a consumer leads with stable conscious and sometimes without even knowing. 

The acts of Acquisition Shopping, Epistemic Shopping, Experiential Shopping, and Impulsive Shopping all have their particular position on the purchase hemisphere. 

They cater to an extremely large number of us and where one shopping activity falls short of its contextual proximity, another leans in to take over. 

Whether Utilitarian or Hedonic by nature, we have to remind ourselves that none of us is unique independently in our thoughts, habits, and actions, but rather, all of us contribute to the natural progression of shopping science and behavior.