What Influences the Typical Online Shopper?

Author Justin Smith
by Justin Smith, CEO

In a word: everything.

It’s an immense undertaking to define, catalog, interpret, and tend to all the factors that may influence your typical online shopper; anything about a user’s experience (design, navigation, colors, logos, steps-to-checkout, etc.) may be interpreted as an influence on their buying behavior, for better or worse. For the sake of efficiency, we’re looking today at the lowest-hanging fruit – several factors of an ecommerce site that are easily changed to help boost user experience, and, yes, conversions.

This list originates from Adam Audette’s article 3 Important Ecommerce Trends to Watch, which solidly explains how the following three factors may impact an ecommerce site’s success.

Price Points

When EVER has price not been an influencing factor in buying trends? And it’s not always the lowest price consumers seek; propelled by the adage "You get what you pay for," many shoppers are perfectly happy, willing, and able to spend more to hit their standard of quality or remain loyal to a brand.

Yet, over the past few years, the brand bias has slipped as consumers adopt a more frugal attitude. Yes, the economic fall-down is a contributing factor to consumers’ spend-thrift ways, but couple this with the popularity of CSEs, or Comparison Shopping Engines. Searching a CSE as compared to, for instance, a store’s site, a searching shopper is reminded not only of brand, but also of price. According to comScore, from July of 2008 to July of 2010,

shopping across more diverse brands (including generic) increased by 10% to 62% unique visitors to comparison shopping sites increased by 30%

Shipping Rates

Dovetailed into the influence of price points are shipping rates, which can push a shopper to abandon their purchase at the last crucial step. Some interesting statistics from comScore, July 2010, in regards to online shopping:

  • 23% of shoppers will make purchases only if they receive free shipping
  • 47% of shoppers expect to pay between $0.01 and $4.99 for shipping
  • 70% of shoppers will only pay $4.99 or less for shipping

Visual Search

You want to buy a shirt.

Consider the shopping experience provided by a catalog: you have a picture, a little description, a smattering of color swatches, and a handy size chart stapled in the center.

Now, consider the shopping experience provided by a typical ecommerce site: you have a picture (or 12) with a magnifying glass and click-and-drag functionality to view your item at each and every 360 degree angle; you have a little description with text links, user reviews, and ratings; you have a smattering of swatches and the ability to view your product in each available color; there’s a size chart there, too, sometimes with testimonials regarding an item’s true fit. Moreover, there is a handy list of similar items you may be interested in; a pair of pants that match that shirt, or a coordinating sweater.

Taking it one step further, studies show enhancing the online shopping experience with video can increase conversions and time-on-site. To be more specific, comScore data shows that on sites that incorporate video into the shopping experience

  • shoppers are 64% more likely to make a purchase
  • shoppers will spend an additional 2 minutes on the site

What Should You Do?

PRICE POINTS – Research your completion, research CSEs, determine where your product line falls into the price point spectrum, and ensure your prices will compel potential shoppers to buy from you. With brand loyalty fading for want of lower prices, there is a golden opportunity for many online retailers to snag an attentive audience’s attention with savings.

SHIPPING RATES – Make sure your shipping rates don’t push away a converting customer on their last shopping step. Shoppers like to feel that they’ve found a sweet deal, and nothing is sweeter than free, or even flat, shipping rates.

VISUAL SEARCH – Enhancing the shopping experience is vital, especially as more and more online retailers adopt the same product listing techniques (think images, reviews, ratings, and the like). Incorporating video into the shopping experience shows a tremendous leap in conversions and longer on-site visit. What’s more, it makes your product listing viable for placement within YouTube (arguably the second largest search engine.

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