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Cross-Channel Browsing Behaviors of the Modern "Fauxsumer"

“I love the smell of commerce in the morning!”
~ Brodie, Mallrats

In 1995, Mallrats depicted the teenage world encapsulated in a shopping mall. Breakups, makeups, and even an unprovoked attack on the Easter bunny – it all happens in the mall. In 1995 that’s where all the cool kids went on a Friday night.

Fast forward to 2015, 20 years later. The New York Times recently posted a blog asking teenagers if the mall is still an important part of teen culture, and inviting them to comment. Tatiana R seemed to speak for her generation:

“The mall is a great place to have fun with family and friends. Anyways I always spend at least 30 min in each store and I don’t buy ANYTHING. Most of the time I just get dropped off at South Park or Carolina Place. But I really don’t like going to the mall just to spend money because stuff online have a big difference in prices so I just shop online.”

Tatiana R, like many in her generation still use the mall as some form of entertainment, but it’s not to purchase. This new “fauxsumerism” trend isn’t limited to the physical space either. According to The Winter/Spring Cassandra report, one-third of millennials say browsing (online or off) is more fun than buying, and half regularly browse for items they have no intention of buying. Instead of making a purchase, desired products are pinned to a pinterest board, or added to a Wanelo wish list.

When products are added to a fauxsumer’s social media network, it’s a way of expressing their own tastes and personal brand, regardless of whether they can afford the product or not. The Cassandra report even suggests that simply saving an item on social media gives the fauxsumer the same kick as actually purchasing it.

As consumers blur the lines between entertainment and shopping, they are also blurring the lines around how they browse. In-store or online, it makes no difference to them. Smartphone – tablet – desktop – how a consumer browses is dictated by whatever’s most convenient in that moment. Today’s fauxsumers frankly don’t really care how they browse, they just want what they want when they want it. And this means brands need to be offering up a truly integrated experience, one that transitions seamlessly from one channel to the next. According to Accenture, 68 percent of millennials expect exactly that – for all intents and purposes, all channels are one in the same. Consumers don’t think of channels the way that a brand might, and they certainly don’t restrict their browsing habits based on what channel they’re using. It would seem obvious to them that the same content would be available in every place they turn. It is, after all, originating from a single brand.

Forrester Research agrees, and even goes so far as to declare that mobile is not a channel, and “eBusiness professionals who treat mobile as just a channel will fail.” Research from Deloitte supports this, too, claiming that 50 percent of in-store sales are influenced by digital.

In today’s retail landscape, brands need a new approach. How do they provide the shopping entertainment consumers desire while facilitating the transition from play to purchase? What, if any, data can they capture about this consumer to help provide a much more engaging experience? What does it take to convert? In our next post on the modern fauxsumer we’ll explore the purchase intent and the journey from browsing to buying.

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