Original article posted on September 15, 2015
The Need for Efficient shopping
Consumption and efficiency are thought to be opposing concepts. After all, shopping is considered therapy, exercise and sometimes a reward for any emotional hang ups. While browsing through a store on a bad day may give someone a change of mood and encourage them to buy something, browsing the internet aimlessly most likely won’t get the same result. So why then are the majority of shopping experiences online centered around customers narrowing down hundreds of selections through semi relevant filters?
Out of all the things mimicked from the in-store experience the most obvious err big online retailers make is assuming browsing through too many selections in a catalogue will help a customer make a purchase. My studies have shown this is not so.
Think like a Man
When it comes to creating a better user experience online, we can actually take advice from how men shop.
It is often assumed that men hate shopping and have no greater motivation to shop other than pure necessity. This idea is based on a narrow understanding of the male consumer.
Men approach shopping in a logical and efficient manner (utilitarian). In contrast, traditional retail stores are designed to be inefficient on purpose. Usually, merchandising manipulates the customer’s indecisive nature and emotional motivations easily persuading the unsuspecting person to buy more than intended. This is achieved through visual merchandising which parades the potential customer around the store to view more items that needed and add more considerations to their original shopping purpose. This type of shopping does indeed trap many women into buying more products than needed but at the same time repels men from enjoying the shopping experience. Men value efficient shopping experiences, so naturally aimlessly walking through a store for inspiration is a turnoff. Hence why there is a growing trend for men shopping online ( see photo below).
In-Store to Online
Online is all about efficiency, speed and getting exactly what you want. Online customers are a little like the ‘popular girl’ at school. They know that they have options and as a result commitment can be more difficult because they are looking for the BEST possible option. Attempting to apply in-store merchandising techniques into the virtual space leads to more inefficiency, window shopping and chronic non-commitment ( empty shopping cart epidemic). In other words, less sales. But I often see traces of in-store visual merchandising techniques showing up in online retailers. Merchandising techniques shouldn’t translate from in-store to online, but the guided experience from a well informed associate should in order to make the best user experience.
The Nordstrom Way
The most translatable thing about in-store shopping is the guided experience provided by a great sales associate. Nordstrom values the customer and sales associate relationship above all else because the Customer is actually the most important part of the organization. As a Nordstrom veteran I can attest to the success of this model.
In store, a well trained associate can observe a customer and create the experience needed for the customer to make their purchase decision. Efficient shopping experiences can mimic this by immediately controlling the experience.In lieu of help from a sales associate, a more personalized experience can assist consumers by immediately directing the shopping journey and narrowing down the catalogue to the needs of the individual based on purchase history, preferences, data and technology. At Nordstrom this was done through a sophisticated customer management system, great customer service skills and a relationship with frequent customers. Online we can simply use technology and a method of selectively narrowing down options for the customer.
Choices with Limits- Efficient Catalogues
It may seem counterintuitive to narrow the selection in order to allow a consumer to make a purchase decision, but it actually works best.
First, by intelligently limiting the initial choices, the chances of a purchase increase. The smaller selection pool helps the customer to feel less overwhelmed and also adds a slight sense of urgency.
The second part of limiting the selection is tailoring the selection to what that customer will most likely want. The retailer needs to understand the customer’s, size, fit preference, favorite colors, favorite brands, past purchases and so on just as a great sales associate would do. A purchase is more likely because the selection is based on what is favorable to the customer.
In a traditional funnel metaphor, consumers start with a set of potential brands and methodically reduce that number to make a purchase. A more efficient user experience will initially reduce the selection catalogs by using combinations of fit data, technology and purchase history. Smarter selections will make it easier for for consumers to make decisions if the selection is narrowed down to items they will most likely purchase.
Guided experiences work in-store and online. Giving consumers too much freedom of choice only results in lack of commitment. the proper integration of big data, fit data and purchase history can create better user profiles which then can be used to create more personalized user experiences. So when it comes to creating online user experiences don’t forget to Think like a Man. Less is more, efficiency is best and technology is most useful.
The information presented in this blog is based on a two part in-depth consumer purchase decision journey study for male denim shoppers. For more information on the study feel free to contact me via emailJessicavcouch@gmail.com