How We Buy: Buying Habits That Shape the Market Trends

How We Buy: Buying Habits That Shape the Market Trends

Many words have been written on why people buy and what items people tend to choose. Now, we are going to take a closer look at another important aspect of shopping: the actual process of buying and the strategies that people adhere to when shopping for different types of items. 

We are going to speak with Maria Opritova, an expert in e-commerce and advertising, and a CEO of a successful context advertising automation system that has become part of technology giant Yandex.  

Maria, please tell us a little about yourself and your path in advertising. 

Q. What attracts and inspires you most in this field?

My path in advertising began in 2011, when I joined Wikimart—it’s an e-commerce aggregator with co-founders from Silicon Valley and a vibe of American start-ups. I joined the team of Maxim Uvarov, who at the time was considered an absolute guru of performance advertising in Eastern Europe. Later, on Maxim’s recommendation, I got into an advertising agency. With a group of colleagues we founded the startup under the name K50 and spun it off into a separate company. K50 went from venture capital investment, crisis to self-sufficiency, growth and sale to Yandex, which is one of the largest technology companies in Russia.

Advertising and marketing inspire me because they are an unquestionable driver of the economy and business in times of no crisis and can pull companies through in times of economic downturn.

Q. In modern day shopping we are now surrounded by enormous amounts of options to choose from. How do people decide what to buy and where? 

Depending on the product or service we are looking for, we choose different strategies to search and analysis before we buy. I distinguish three different types of purchases according to goal-setting and perception:

  • “I know what I want and where to find it”

For example, I need a plain  white T-shirt to wear under my jacket for tomorrow’s conference. In this case, I may choose to simply go to a well-known website or offline shop. But if I don’t have anything specific in mind in terms of brand, I will access a marketplace or use the products tab in my browser, where I can filter by price, brand, parameters like size and color, and delivery date.

  • Big or complex purchases

This includes choosing a new phone or laptop, or some home appliance that answers to the customer’s needs. In this case, customers usually take sufficient time to learn about specifications and compare different options and prices. They may consult with experts in an offline shop, watch reviews on YouTube, read reviews on recommendation sites or marketplaces, use AI tools to get consolidated information or a brief summary. Usually, only after taking these preliminary steps we start to actually shop for the item we’ve chosen. 

  •  Visual or spontaneous purchases

A good example of a visual purchase is gift shopping or looking for ideas such as an outfit for a coming season or a destination for a vacation trip. In this case, we choose to go to shopping centres and get inspired by looking at the items combined and styled for display or browse through images on Instagram, Pinterest or relevant collections in marketplaces.This also includes opinion-based sources such as blogs posts and influencer content.

Q. How do these patterns affect sales? Are there more or less profitable types of goods? Do marketplaces successfully cover them all or do they focus on one type?

These patterns primarily influence the way the information about goods and services is presented. In the first case, the most relevant characteristics are the structured content, such as a catalogue, and possibility to apply filters, set a price range or search by certain characteristics. 

In the second case, user experience, comparison tools, loyalty to a brand, unbiased reviews and recommendations from trustworthy sources are the most important.

The third type, which is visual purchases, requires an appealing arrangement of the items or their presentation in the lifestyle format.

Marketplaces work really well when users know exactly what they want, as they usually have a well-designed system of filters and sortings. Marketplaces have a rich assortment and intuitive catalogue structure, and importantly, they usually feature real-life reviews. 

However, complex products and visuals are still not closed niches for marketplaces. When choosing a sofa, users may still prefer to see it offline with the opportunity to touch fabrics, check if it’s comfortable enough, consult with an expert regarding the optimal fabric or design modification. Also, when looking for inspiration to remodel or to find a new look, users are more likely to scroll through Instagram, Pinterest, or specialised resources dedicated to fashion or design.

Q. Do products in different categories require different approaches to advertising? 

Absolutely. Complex or expensive purchases, as well as items for organisations and businesses require a completely different approach to promotion.

For example, when buying a pro-level treadmill for, say, $2000, the customer must study all the pros and cons, consult with a specialist, make all the necessary measurements, take into account the weight of those who will use the treadmill. In addition to these details, a customer needs to trust the brand or the seller and review the warranty and return policies. 

Marketplaces in this case are not well suitable, because they are intermediaries and do not take responsibility for the choice and quality of products. When promoting a highly specialised shop, it is important to get a higher rank in the search results and increase the recognition of the brand. The reviews may also help grow customer trust and knowledge.

Q. Tell us about how you work with this analytics in Yandex. Perhaps there is some example where the use of this data has proved significant for the business or for the buyers themselves?

As Yandex has always been creating products with the user in the center, we have realised that the way information is consumed has changed, so have changed the patterns of browsing and purchasing. For example, a decade ago all user queries ended up in the browser search, while nowadays there are  major players on the market that cover certain niches of user queries. For example, there are services for plane tickets, real estate and rental sites, and job search platforms. Yandex takes into account how shopping scenarios have changed and tries to adapt to each specific need. 

When a user needs to look up a specific brand or a store, they go to the Yandex browser and use the regular search.To browse market offers and check the prices, they can use Yandex.Market and search by product. 

For complex purchases—where users prefer to do thorough research and compare different options— Yandex offers its neuro search. This technology can summarise the search results and compare offers, as well as redirect to a relevant site where users can find experts’ opinions on various options.

Soon Yandex may offer a tool for image matching and inspiration to cover this niche of visual search.

Q. How does personalisation, such as targeted advertising and personal recommendations, affect buying behaviour? 

Well, we are all individuals, and we want a more personalised approach. Understanding and addressing the needs and guessing the expectations of each customer can build stronger, more loyal relationships with the brand or a platform. That’s why personalised recommendations always have a positive impact on purchase conversion and user happiness.

Q. Are there important new trends in e-commerce that shouldn’t be missed? 

The rise of visual shopping and social ecommerce is transforming the digital marketplace. In China, these trends are already well-established, and they’re rapidly gaining traction in the U.S. Platforms like Instagram and Pinterest allow consumers to purchase products directly from images and videos, which creates engaging and seamless shopping experiences. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok integrate e-commerce features, allowing users to discover, review, and buy products right in the app. Influencers and user-generated content also creates engagement and boosts sales.

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