Absent-Minded Shoppers: Many Can't Remember Their Own Online Behavior

Email metrics are reliable indicators of consumer interest and behavior: People either click through or they don’t. But don’t ask them what they did.  

Many shoppers can’t remember what they’ve done online a month later, according to Mind the Gap, a study released Tuesday by DISQO. 

Of the shoppers studied, self-reported activity aligned with respond behavioral data for 62%. But there were contradictions with 38%.  

The gap was widest in the auto sector — over 50 — and least in groceries (33%) and travel (28%).  

Females have the best memories — 59% had zero or low variance, versus 38% of males. But males are more confident in their recall. 

Let’s not have any ageism here: people age 65+ were the most accurate in describing their online activity: 31% have a zero gap, as do in the18-24 age bracket. 

Those in the middle years were more prone to memory lapses: 68% of those age 35-44 had a high gap, as did 59% of shoppers ages 45-54. 



People in the highest income brackets—those earning $124,899+ — had the highest Do-Say gap, at 69%. Shoppers in the $25,000-49,.000 range had the lowest gap and the highest likelihood of not having any gap at all. 

And Texans seem most likely to mean what they say — they have good recall, as do North Dakotans. Californians and West Virginians rate lower.   

DISQO surveyed 53,749 consumers, asking them whether they had shopped online in the last 30 days, and then compared their answers to data on their actual digital behaviors collected during the same period, tallying keyword searches, website visits and mobile app launches in three study categories. 

Consumers who had five or more of these digital events were deemed active shoppers.  

What does it all mean for email marketers? 

"There are two primary findings from the study that are relevant for email marketers,” says Anne Hunter, vice president of product marketing and study architect. “First, ensure email targeting that is looking to reach people based on digital activity is actually sourced from digital activities and not recall of these behaviors.”

“Second, email is a powerful tool for both direct response and branding,” Hunter continues. “Measuring the digital outcomes of email, even without a direct click, is critical for understanding the full impact of email as a branding and conversion channel." 

Do consumers trust their own memories? They report these confidence levels in their 30-day online shopping recall:

  • Highly confident — 49%
  • Somewhat confident — 48%
  • Not confident — 3%

The biggest confidence gap was among active shoppers—those who say they hadn’t shopped in the last 30 days. Only 38% said they were sure of their recollections, while 12% were not. And they had less confidence than those who said they did shop. 

But the study notes that “age groups with the largest Say-Do-Gaps were the most confident in their recall.” Again, people in the upper income group were least able to remember what they did. 





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