Report: Digital Path to Purchase Beyond eCommerce

September 21, 2017 | Article written by Carly Morris

There is certainly no shortage of research on the customer journey within the eCommerce vertical, but this isn’t the only industry that relies on a strong path to purchase for effective monetization.

Recognizing a shortage in resources for these other verticals, eMarketer has compiled a comprehensive research roundup that caters to additional service-related industries, including travel, finance, and healthcare.

To better understand the user journey along these less traditional paths to purchase, we’re breaking down some of the major highlights and trends from the new report.


The Big Picture:

First and foremost, eMarketer estimates that over 215 million people in the US will browse for products and services digitally this year – that’s 92% of all American internet users. On top of that, nearly 185 million people will make at least one digital purchase, a number that’s set to continue on an upward trend over the next four years. By 2021, 93% of web users will shop online regularly and 82% will follow through to purchase.



Among this overwhelming majority, mobile continues to play a critical role in the overall path to purchase. By the end of 2017, almost 80% of all digital buyers will complete at least one purchase on mobile. This, when assessing by device type, comes out to more than 95 million buyers on smartphone and another 100 million on tablet.

On the whole, tablets continue to be more popular than smartphones when it comes to completing digital transactions, likely for their larger screen size and ease of use. In fact, more than 75% of users who shop on tablets will ultimately make a purchase.

So, how do these trends translate beyond eCommerce? Let’s get into some industry specifics.



In the travel industry, mobile is becoming an increasingly popular avenue for researching and booking new trips. This year 101 million US internet users will use their smartphones to research their next vacation, and mobile will come to account for 40% of all US digital travel sales – a figure that we can expect to grow to nearly 50% by 2021.



Digital ad spend in travel industry is projected to hit about $7 billion this year, marking a 14% increase over the last 12 months.

Key Trends:
– Growth of paid search ads
– Significant increase in searches/bookings via mobile apps
– Digital video integrations drive higher engagement with display ads
– Facebook Dynamic Ads going strong in travel campaigns on social
– Last-minute deals push instant engagement on mobile



As the number of US consumers relying on mobile banking moves closer to the 100 million mark, the total digital ad spend within the industry is on track to reach more than $10 billion (+ 16% from last year). These ad dollars are also progressively shifting toward mobile, where consumers continue to manage more of their transactions, bills, and investments.

Of the 60% of Americans doing their banking digitally, mobile takes an impressive piece of the pie, especially given rising concerns around privacy and security. While still most popular among Millennials, eMarketer found that nearly 31% of Gen Xers and 17% of Baby Boomers will also be doing their banking on mobile by the end of the year.



Key Trends:
– Over 150 million people access financial services digitally at least once per month
– Digital ad spend likely to grow as millennials take on more financial responsibilities
– Marketing focus shifting from search ads toward more engaging video content
– Increasing emphasis on branding campaigns
– High competition in premium credit sector prompts “bidding wars” for the best perks and bonuses



Digital ad spend in the healthcare/pharmaceutical industry will hit $2.3 billion this year, up 16% from 2016. This is incredibly impressive growth considering the strict government regulations surrounding patient privacy in digital ad targeting.

Mobile in particular is becoming increasingly prevalent in this industry, where users can now schedule appointments, live chat with healthcare professionals, and educate themselves on the latest in self-care and treatment programs.



Key Trends:
– Mobile continues to encourage healthy living
– Rapid expansion and diversification of monitoring/planning apps
– Growth of “beyond-the-pill” digital programs complementing standard therapies
– Marketing focus shifting toward creating spaces to inform and educate
– Non-medical apps and fitness wearables are the most common digital health tools

In the end, the path to purchase in any vertical is dependent upon constant innovation on the part of industry leaders, app developers, and digital marketers alike.

While the user journey may appear more straightforward in the world of eCommerce, the same overarching trends often ring true for other service or product-oriented industries as well. That is, that things are moving toward mobile – and they’re moving there fast. As smartphones continue to become the standard for digital engagement, consumers are also becoming increasingly comfortable with migrating more of their traditional brick-and-mortar services in that direction.

This rings especially true as Millennials and Gen Zers, who were born into a mobile-first mindset, begin to come of age and develop new needs and responsibilities within these sectors. Now the only question left is: how will you be there to engage them?