Consumer decisions and digitization

Marketing / digitization Consumer decisions and digitization

Published on 30.09.2020, Dr. Nadine Hietschold

How is digitization changing our consumer decisions? A study by the Bern University of Applied Sciences Business School shows that many things remain the same – such as the relevance of opinions from friends and family – but some things have changed, such as the triggers for feeling overwhelmed when making a purchase.

How is digitization changing our consumer decisions? Although we all know that digitization is having a major impact on our private and professional lives, we know very little about the exact form these changes brought about by digitization are taking.

The way in which we make decisions, such as the choice to buy new products, is influenced by various aspects. The arrival of digitization in all areas of life is a major influencing factor and can result in us making decisions differently. More alternatives, more complex information, new intermediaries such as comparison portals: all of these are driven by digitization and they influence what information we take on board and how we process it.

In a recent study carried out by the Bern University of Applied Sciences Business School, we look into this issue and investigate how digitization is changing our consumer decisions. To achieve this, our research team asked over 100 test participants to each maintain detailed journals of two purchase decision processes. The test participants were able to use digital tools such as product comparison sites, online shopping portals and reviews in one purchase process, and in the second purchase process they had to stay offline and were allowed to ask friends and family for advice and visit shops in person.

The results of the study show that much has changed – but surprisingly, some things have remained the same. For instance, feedback from friends and family has remained as important as ever in the digital context. Personal characteristics, such as whether someone is more of an intuitive shopper or researches every piece of information in detail, and whether they incorporate social and environmental criteria in making a purchase decision, also seem not to change in either context.

Our test participants often felt out of their depth when making decisions but the way in which they sensed this differed. While the test participants felt at a loss in the non-digital context mainly due to the lack of information on product alternatives, in a digital context, they felt overwhelmed by too much information. Advice from friends and family is important in both contexts for countering this sense of powerlessness – in a digital context, feeling overwhelmed by information can also be triggered by third-party information, such as review comparisons.

Overall, our study demonstrated in detail which aspects of consumer decisions actually are different as a result of digitization and where these differences are played out. This knowledge can now help us to design better purchasing processes for consumers, but also to discuss digitization more critically.

Unfortunately, Connecta cannot be held as planned. Dr. Nadine Hietschold would have been one of the 80 speakers. An alternative programme is available through Connecta TV, Doc and Talk – find out more at:

Dr. Nadine Hietschold

Dr. Nadine Hietschold is an economist and postdoctoral fellow at the Bern University of Applied Sciences Business School. Her research focuses on topics such as consumer resistance to innovations, consumer decision-making behaviour, individual characteristics of social entrepreneurs and value creation through affordable innovation.

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