Ecommerce is a massive economic phenomenon. According to the US Department of Commerce, more than half of Ecommerce Customers across the planet (53%) bought something online in 2016. That means no less than 1.7 billion people (out of the 3.2 billion global users) proceeded at least once through a shopping cart checkout.
Furthermore, the amount that the average Internet shopper spends is higher than you might think: numbers suggest American users spends an average $1800 annually, while the typical British consumer spends $1600. As would be expected, a large proportion of these shoppers are in the lower age brackets, with 2 in 5 men (40%) and 1 in 3 women (33%) aged 18 to 34 saying they would prefer to make all of their purchases online.
Clearly there is a huge amount of ecommerce activity occurring, which means is there’s a vast amount of potential for the growth of your online store. However, as with any efforts to build your website, it’s critical to understand how the user behaves. Plus, it helps to know how marketers, based on user behavior, are adopting more effective means to appeal to the visitors whom they hope to convert.
Elements of online shopping behavior
What are some aspects of the ecommerce user that can help you better understand them, so that you can meet their needs on their developing “buyer’s journey”?
Element #1 – Pre-purchase research
The way that we buy online is fundamentally different than how we purchase in-person, because the former offers immediate access to a wide range of product information. Four out of five online shoppers (81%) make use of that data.
The resources through which shoppers gather their perspectives on products and services range from testimonials to reviews, from forums to social media, from comparison sites to third-party ratings. One way or another, ecommerce users make an effort to get informed before they buy.
Element #2 – Different needs of men and women
Different groups of people tend to diverge in the way that they approach an ecommerce transaction – and that’s particularly evident along male/female lines:
- Women (on average) want shopping online to be more social, while men want it to be a no-frills, linear experience.
- Men shop because they need something now, while women are often planning ahead.
- Men are more geared toward finding a solution they view as acceptable, while women make their buying decisions more carefully.
- Men tend to make purchases to meet their own needs; women, on the other hand, are often getting presents for loved ones.
- Women tend to be more impulsive in their online purchases.
- Women are also more attracted to discounted pricing.
- Women are likelier to find out information about a product from their friends, while men tend to get their ideas from strangers posting on review sites.
- While men are more concerned with content such as reviews and product descriptions, women are more interested in forums, images, and live chat.
Element #3 – The multi-faceted user
Nearly all ecommerce users (90%, according to one study) use different devices for online shopping. Since consumers are typically accessing your site from different technological environments, it’s important to leverage a multi-screen approach.
Does that sound unlikely? The truth is that a significant amount of ecommerce moves from mobile to desktop. The majority of online shopping is completed on the latter, but the breakdown of where people start the buying process shows how important the former is for research:
- smartphone – 65%
- tablet – 11%
- PC (desktop or laptop) – 25%.
Element #4 – The concept of “showrooming”
Not everyone appreciates e-commerce, of course. To a brick-and-mortar business that doesn’t have a big Internet presence, your online shop means unwanted competition. What particularly bothers these offline stores is showrooming.
What’s showrooming? It is “the situation in which a customer goes to a physical store to touch, try on, or interact with a product and then purchases the product online from a different retailer,” explained John Rampton in Forbes.
Note that while this does happen, it isn’t really a rampant activity: one study suggests that only 1 out of every 10 consumers look at products in-person before buying them online from a different retailer.
Element #5 – Checkout expectations
As people have grown more accustomed to making purchases online, they have developed more specific expectations for the checkout process:
- They want it to be snappy, and that’s especially the case on mobile. When using smartphones or tablets, users like to be able to buy in just 1-3 clicks.
- They don’t like surprises but want the shopping experience to be straightforward. (That means it’s usually a good idea to list shipping or other added costs upfront.)
How the market is adjusting to changing needs
Understanding the consumer is, of course, just the beginning. How are ecommerce businesses adapting their efforts to better meet the needs of potential and current customers? Here are a few strategies that are becoming more central to online success:
Strategy #1 – Cohort-specific targeting
When you think about the value of a one-on-one interaction with a salesperson, it can be difficult for an online store to compete (since chat just isn’t the same). However, using the power of data, ecommerce sites can use cohort-specific targeting to zero in on the needs of certain types of buyers.
How does that work? “If data shows that customers tend to buy blue scarves after they purchase black boots,” suggested CellularOutfitter marketing VP Edwin Choi, “companies can now craft ad creative that speak to this specific merchandising experience.”
Strategy #2 – Mobile moving images
Cellular data costs are on the decline, as are mobile page load times. The result of those two trends is that the way people use their smartphones and tablets is quickly evolving. Specifically, apps are becoming more immersive, and video is generally becoming more prevalent.
To cater to the changing mobile world, savvy ecommerce sites are creating video ads that rapidly present their product in all its dimensions.
Strategy #3 – Engaging across channels
The ways in which businesses appeal to online consumers has become diversified, and not just in terms of the multi-screen experience. Marketers now speak in terms of multi-touch conversion and multi-channel attribution.
These concepts have become important because we now have a more sophisticated understanding of the way that people shop on the web – and that information has also become more widely accessible. For example, low-cost platforms such as Kissmetrics are giving websites a more granular viewpoint on user behavior, allowing them to make connections based on a full spectrum of data points.
Even free systems such as Google Analytics can provide powerful insights on how an integrated blend of channels leads to sales. It can even inform cohort analysis. “Marketing channels will continue to bake in this type of transparency into their baseline reporting metrics on a post-click and post-impression basis,” advised Choi.
High-performance ecommerce hosting
The interaction between online stores and online customers is rapidly changing, as user behavior evolves and businesses adapt to meet changing needs. One aspect we haven’t yet discussed is the pivotal role of hosting infrastructure on your site’s speed and reliability. At Job Flow Software, our high-performance hosting plans can accommodate everything from the smallest, static websites all the way up to large operations getting massive traffic. See our plans.