What we know about online shoppers – use it to your advantage

Written on 04 July, 2008 by Jonathan Crossfield
Categories E-commerce

A Pew Internet and American Life Project study has revealed some rather unsurprising data (to people like me) about how online shoppers feel about using the internet to buy goods. It was segmented into age, but the stats are pretty consistent for those between the ages of 18-49, the percentages still show a tendency after 50 towards the same feelings about online shopping, just with a little less enthusiasm.

So, straight to the results….

Online shoppers feel the internet is the best play to buy items that are hard to find (84%). So if you’re stocking a product that can be easily bought from your local K-mart, you better have a ridiculously low price on it.

83% believe that shopping online is convenient, so if your website is hard to use and 83% value convenience they’re probably not going to be shopping with you and will look elsewhere.

70% are online because it saves them time, so you better have an easy to navigate and easy to use site. If 70% of people value the fact that shopping online is quicker than dragging yourself around a shopping center, then it should actually be quicker. Your site better load quickly, your better direct customer quickly to the products they’re looking for, and you should avoid a lengthy sign in and registration process.

Most of the people up to 49 years of age also feel that the internet is the best place to find bargains (62%). This tells us that a large number of people are online looking for the best price. You should at least be offering a better price than customers can get in bricks and mortar stores since your website doesn’t require a wage, or many overheads. If not, then you need to address the other features above in order for you to be successful online. Your site will also need to ‘sell’ those features, not just have them the present onsite hoping they’ll be discovered.

Next we turn our attention to sale blockers. These are the objections people have in using the web for shopping. The most prominent two (that outweigh just about every other objection) are giving up personal details (like credit cards) online and wanting to see the products before they’re purchased (71% and 85% respectively).

With regards to the first objection, this can be solved by having a clear privacy policy displayed at the point where you’re asking for the information. A lot of clients I have seen, bury it in a sub menu or as text in the footer. Ideally it should be on the page where you ask for personal information. This is the point where someone who might object on the basis of privacy is likely to want to read it. And don’t ask for stuff you don’t need to complete the order. As soon as you do, people will ask “Why do they want that? And what are they going to do with it?”

With a lot of products, people do like to see them before they buy. Until shopping sites go virtual, you will have to do some simple things to overcome the issues that people have with buying products without being able to try them out for size.

First of all, describe products by their qualities. Don’t refer to them by a barcode number or anything without adjectives. If you have anything worn or used by humans, put them on human models. Clothes, accessories or bags that are designed to be worn or used on the body should be on people not mannequins. Furniture, stationary etc should be displayed in a setting so people can see the product in use or the “serving suggestion”, and not have to dream it up. It also allows them to see the size and perspective of things in relation to other objects. Why do you think IKEA and every other major department store have the “lounge room” set ups? They’re not subletting I assure you.

By understanding what online shoppers are looking for, you’ll be able to provide a much better experience for them and beat the competition hands down.