The ever-shrinking purchase window: Digital empowerment leads to shorter purchase cycles across categories

Christian Kugel

Throughout 2013, SoDA partner AOL had conducted path to purchase research on several different categories. One thing we noticed across categories was that the shopping windows across categories was much shorter than we had expected. For example, conventional wisdom in the auto category says that people spend about six months shopping for a new vehicle. Our research (based solely on observations – no surveys) revealed that it was just 28 days. In other words, people only spend one month shopping for a new car.

We started to wonder about the changing dynamics of shopping. Because people have ubiquitous access to world's information – things like professional reviews, user–generated reviews, pricing, photo galleries, and comparative shopping tools – were we witnessing a fundamental change in shopping?