Impact of personal characteristics on online purchase decision

By Ashni walia & Priya Chetty on October 15, 2019

This article focuses on the thematic analysis of interviews about personal characteristics affecting the online purchase decision of the Millennials and Generation Z in India. As summarized in a previous article, the interviews were conducted with 7 representatives of different mid-sized eCommerce companies based in Delhi-NCR. The aim of the interviews was to understand how eCommerce businesses identify the factors and then strategies to influence the online shopping behaviour of Generation Z and Millennials.

Personal characteristics that affect the online purchase decision

Personal factors identified in the study through an extensive review of literature were summarized in the conceptual framework. It included the following:

  • Internal influences (personality and lifestyle).
  • External influences (societal norms and culture).
  • Needs (psychological, safety, love, self-esteem & self-actualisation).
  • Social media usage.

Therefore, this section of the interview focused on questions pertaining to the above characteristics, i.e. whether or not, in the interviewees’ opinion, these characteristics affect the online shopping behaviour of the consumers. To this, a variety of opinions were shared by the interviewees.

Internal and external factors, and impulsive buying behaviour

Interviewee E1 shed light on the relevance of customs and traditions as a part of the overall cultural dimension in buying behaviour. The interviewee revealed that for eCommerce businesses, the impact of the cultural dimension is more strongly reflected for the Millennials group. In their words;

In order to sustain in this industry, real-time analysis of the factors affecting the online buying decision of the people is essential. The cultural dimension is an umbrella concept we study under these ‘factors’. Data so far has consistently revealed that Millennials are more driven by their customs and traditions while making a purchase online; for instance, our customers from this category prefer purchasing traditional garments as compared to gen Z, who purchase more of western clothing.

Interviewee E1

The Millennial generation is conservative as compared to Generation Z in other aspects too. For instance, their preferred platform for purchasing is in-store rather than online. Although this trend is slowly changing, Millennials consider alternative sources of purchase such as online shopping only when needed. This is also in part due to their tendency to avoid risks. Online shopping is considered for purchases that have minimal risk of neglect after purchase. Furthermore, the time spent online has relevant impact on online shopping behaviour.

Our data shows that despite the big role of technology in the life of the Millennials, they spend lesser time online than gen Z. Thus, more the Generation Z spends time online the more they make impulsive buying decisions.

Interviewee E1

Also, according to the interviewee, Generation Z is also more receptive to the idea of updates regarding sale and discount offers. This further exacerbates their tendency to purchase impulsively.

Understanding the emotions and desires of consumers before selling online

Interviewee E2 discussed the relevance of personal characteristics and the importance of understanding them for eCommerce firms.

Identifying factors and then making sales and marketing strategies is appropriate.

Interviewee E2

According to Interviewee E2, they invest substantially in identifying the types of advertisements that appeal to Millennials and Generation Z. For instance, they found that Millennials liked viewing advertisements which showed consumers’ reviews about a product. They were more likely to make a purchase if the reviews were promoted. Moreover, Generation Z does not even search for discounts and coupons if their needs are addressed adequately.

These needs include products that reflect their personalities and products that address their logistical and emotional requirements. They do not mind paying an extra buck for valuable experiences rather than material goods. This is why we rely on social media campaigns to understand what they are trying to say and immediately address sensitivities.

Interviewee E2

On the other hand, purchasing patterns of Generation Z are radically different. According to Interviewee E3, appealing to Generation Z is very challenging for marketers as the Millenials have grown in the internet era whereas Generation Z was born into it.

Gen Z is well-informed and is hungry for information. They are a lot less loyal and traditional methods like loyalty cards and discounts do not work. They look for products that help them escape from everyday reality, like movies, music and games.

Interviewee E3

According to Interviewee E5, social media plays a key role in their shopping decisions. Since this group is the most active one on social media, they feel constantly pressurized to make purchases of possessions like clothes. Hence, their online shopping decisions are driven by their need for cheap, trendy and recyclable products.

An unanticipated and bigger challenge is unconventional forms of shopping, such as websites offering rental, resale and exchange services.

Interviewee E5

Use of celebrities to appeal to the personalities of Millennials and Generation Z

Interviewee E4 touched upon the topic of celebrity endorsements as a way to connect with Millennials online. While Millennials are swaying towards other factors such as product reviews and social media, celebrities are still powerful in influencing their buying decisions.

The millennial generation wants to see celebrities that they feel a connection with, those who feel real. The three traits they must possess are charm, authenticity and the ability to connect with people.

Interviewee E4

It was also revealed that this is the reason why sports celebrities are more popular than actors and singers these days during the interview.

It also helps that celebrities are connected to various social development causes like mental health. It is important that they steer clear of politically sensitive issues.

Interviewee E4

On the other hand, Generation Z is more likely to be influenced by social media influencers rather than conventional celebrities. The extent of the influence is also more than that of Millennials.

Generation Z is not afraid to voice their opinion on social issues like employment and welfare, so celebrities and influencers must endorse these causes to connect with them.

Interviewee E5

Identification of personal and safety needs determine online purchase decisions

Interviewee E5 also mentioned about the identification of needs as an important factor that affects the online purchase decisions of Millennials.

Personal needs and values are the key motivators of the consumer’s interest in the product and are linked to their involvement in online shopping.

Interviewee E5

Furthermore, Millennial consumers become more involved with the product and the online platform when they have the feeling of belongingness i.e. when their problems and grievances are given due importance.

On the other hand, Interviewee E7 focused on another aspect of needs that affects the online purchase decision.

The safety concern is a dominant factor while taking an online purchase decision.

Interviewee E7

Millennials are cautious about purchasing online due the credit card frauds, privacy factors, transaction security. The online shopping platforms by providing consumers with a safe and secure way of transferring money can certainly increase their trust in online shopping.

How FirstCry mediated factors for a successful promotional strategy?

Firstcry is an eCommerce platform based in India, used personal characteristics to achieve growth and success. Firstcry is Asia’s largest online portal for baby and kids’ products with its objective of providing best and safest products for children. Some of its unique selling propositions include fast delivery, reliability, and prompt customer care. FirstCry had realized the need for emotionally connecting with the new Millennial parents based on their personal traits.

Factors impacting online purchase decisions of the Millennials and Generation Z
Factors impacting online purchase decisions of the Millennials and Generation Z

This can be validated from the observations made in the current interview. It was found that:

  1. Time spent online has a major impact on the online consumer’s shopping decision-making process.
  2. Culture and traditions played a major role in influencing online consumers to make a purchase.
  3. Impressive product visuals and positive reviews in the social circle persuaded consumers to make purchase decisions.
  4. Fraud protection and quick address of grievances further improved brand loyalty and trustworthiness.

These factors led FirstCry to devise a unique promotional strategy, which they named as the “Firstcry box program”. The program involved giving Firstcry box to new mothers before they leave the hospital. This box contained the sample of products that the mother will need immediately after the baby is back home. This box also contained coupons for its online store. Using this strategy, FirstCry successfully increased its market reach by 60,000 parents each month (Koushik, 2014). To facilitate the large-scale reach of this strategy, Firstcry tied-up with 6,000 hospitals across the country (Koushik, 2014). This model was found to be high on returns as it catered to the need of understanding the emotions and desires of mothers.


Priya is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Project Guru, a research and analytics firm based in Gurgaon. She is responsible for the human resource planning and operations functions. Her expertise in analytics has been used in a number of service-based industries like education and financial services.

Her foundational educational is from St. Xaviers High School (Mumbai). She also holds MBA degree in Marketing and Finance from the Indian Institute of Planning and Management, Delhi (2008).

Some of the notable projects she has worked on include:

  • Using systems thinking to improve sustainability in operations: A study carried out in Malaysia in partnership with Universiti Kuala Lumpur.
  • Assessing customer satisfaction with in-house doctors of Jiva Ayurveda (a project executed for the company)
  • Predicting the potential impact of green hydrogen microgirds (A project executed for the Government of South Africa)

She is a key contributor to the in-house research platform Knowledge Tank.

She currently holds over 300 citations from her contributions to the platform.

She has also been a guest speaker at various institutes such as JIMS (Delhi), BPIT (Delhi), and SVU (Tirupati).


I am a master's in Economics from Amity university. Besides my keen interest in Economics i have been an active member of the team Enactus. Apart from the academics i love reading fictions.