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New DISQO Study: Consumers Significantly Misreport Their Consumer Journey Behaviors in Research

The Say-Do Gap between what consumers say and what they actually do is real, putting critical business decisions at-risk

April 12, 2022, Los Angeles, CA — A new study from consumer insights platform DISQO released today reveals that more than a third (38%) of consumers incorrectly recall their digital shopping behaviors – this variance is known as the “Say-Do Gap.” As the marketing and advertising industry moves away from third-party cookies as measures of consumer behaviors online, many are turning to surveys to understand the consumer journey, but caution is due based on DISQO’s findings. DISQO’s “Mind the Gap” study also shows that the Say-Do Gap varies significantly when examined by age, income level and gender, calling into question the efficacy of making business decisions based on consumers’ self-reported behaviors alone. 

To quantify the Say-Do Gap, DISQO leveraged its consumer insights platform, fueled by millions of 100% opted-in members who openly share their opinions and behaviors. Respondents (n=53,749 ) were asked about their shopping behavior in the prior thirty days and their answers were compared to measurements of their actual digital behaviors collected over the same period. 

To understand if there were any differences across brand categories, DISQO looked at recall and shopping behaviors in diverse sectors: auto, grocery and travel. Each consumer who had five or more qualifying digital events (keyword searches, website visits, and mobile app launches) in the study categories was labeled an “Active Shopper.”

DISQO found a variance in the extent of the Say-Do Gap from category to category. Consumers had the biggest gap between their self-reported and actual behaviors in relation to shopping for automobiles, with 53% displaying behaviors that belied their answers to questions about shopping in the category. 

  • The auto Say-Do Gap was 53%
  • The grocery Say-Do Gap was 33%
  • The travel Say-Do Gap was 28%

The auto, travel and grocery say-do gap bar chart

“The Say-Do Gap has always existed, but as consumers conducted more of their purchase journeys online, marketers gained access to adtech measures of consumer behavior such as cookies, mobile IDs and IP addresses that gave imperfect, but easy-to-use behavioral metrics,” said Anne Hunter, VP of Product Marketing and study architect. “Now, with the usefulness of these technologies deprecating, self-reported measures of behavior may return to vogue – but the risks of relying exclusively on consumer recollection without behavioral confirmation are huge.”

Even consumers don’t trust their behavior recall 

The study also examined respondents’ confidence in their answers to the survey questions about their behaviors. Even when they were right, consumers were not always sure about their ability to remember what they did online. Only 45% of Active Shoppers who said that they did shop for products in the examined categories in the past 30 days were highly confident in their recall. Surprisingly, people with the most confidence in their ability to recall their shopping behavior were the least accurate in doing so. 

“Surveys are invaluable tools for gathering consumer insights about brand perception and understanding why people do what they do. However, researchers should ask about brand attitudes based on confirmed behavioral activity and not recall,” said Hunter. “Using a single-source platform, such as DISQO, allows brands to base research on verified behavioral activity, ensuring opinions are collected from people who are proven to be at the relevant stage of the consumer journey. Bad decisions, wasted budgets and missed opportunities are the risks that marketers face otherwise.”  

DISQO’s report, Mind the Gap, and the full findings about disparities in reported versus actual behaviors, including looks at how this plays out with key demographic populations can be downloaded here


DISQO is a consumer insights platform empowering decision-makers to question, test and measure products, advertising, and brand experiences with consumers at remarkable speed. DISQO’s expanding portfolio of market research and advertising measurement applications, is built on a fully consented consumer data platform accessible via API integrations, proprietary dashboards, and world-class customer support. Founded in 2015 and headquartered in Los Angeles, DISQO is recognized as a fast-growing technology firm and a great place to work, now with more than 400 team members globally. Follow @DISQO on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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