As online sales continue to grow faster than brick-and-mortar retail sales, companies are all looking to optimize their eCommerce effectiveness. But beyond offering competitive pricing and high-quality products, what can brands do to increase the likelihood of that next sale? Let’s examine some of the more unexpected factors influencing shoppers’ decisions online and how you can adapt.
The fact that internet speed can affect online shopping is maybe not that surprising. However, the extent to which that manifests itself in actual decision-making is impressive.
By tracking users who added items to a cart and then did not end up buying them at the checkout loading stage, research firms have been able to split test how loading time affects purchase abandonment. For example, in results published by Radware, a loading time increase of two seconds caused more than a 15% increase in canceled transactions.
This holds up even more internationally: a U.K. study found that more than 50% of U.S. consumers and more than 65% of those in the U.K. would abandon a planned purchase due to an annoyingly slow website.
As a business, make sure that your websites and eCommerce platforms are loading smoothly and quickly. Redesigns of your interface and site map can lead to faster loading without needing to invest money in more bandwidth or hosting capabilities (although that can be a wise investment as well). In addition, many businesses avoid speed issues by going through preexisting online marketplaces like Shopify.
Website design is another factor that matters much more than people think.
A lack of trust and comfort with online shopping is a major reason why online sales have thus far not surpassed retail figures. On the other hand, this is partly why unified online marketplaces like Amazon have a leg up; people are comfortable using them and thus trust the service more.
What can businesses do about this lack of trust? Invest in better design.
Studies have linked better website design to increased trust in the internet shopping experience and higher purchasing rates. Therefore, businesses can significantly boost internet sales by having an online shopping platform that makes it easy to find information, navigate where users want to be, and look good.
Good design also means making it as fast as possible to save items to a cart, check out, and pay. Each one of these steps is a potential stumbling block for an online transaction and should be bypassed as easily as possible.
An important note on design: since web browsing is now more prominent on mobile devices than on computers, all eCommerce platforms must be mobile-friendly and aesthetically functional. The millennial share of the market is growing, and with it are impulse and on-the-go buys that happen exclusively via smartphone.
Shipping is a major hold-up for the new breed of internet consumers used to free two-day Prime shipping and on-demand streaming.
An offer for free shipping over a certain price point, a practice used by many online retailers, is a clever way to capitalize on this need for fast, free shipping. The same consumer might pay more for an item in the first place to make the shipping “free” later on to avoid the hassle of not knowing the full payment amount upfront.
Hidden fees bother consumers who deal with them in the extreme when buying concert tickets or fights. So for companies trying to get into online consumers’ good graces, it may pay off to advertise a code for free shipping in the website banner or as a pop-up, or even as part of a loyalty program.
Raising prices overall to enable transparent pricing and “free” shipping, although it may just seem like moving costs around, will likely lead to more traffic and an increase in sales.
Peer pressure works, not only in social situations but in the world of internet shopping. However, the impacts can be very significant when it comes to a greater online community endorsing a product. This kind of peer endorsement can come in three main forms.
First, an organic recommendation from a friend or colleague that has used the product is a major point of influence in online shopping decisions. However, this direct recommendation is hard to come by means other than just making an excellent product or service, potentially giving out free samples, and hoping people like it enough to recommend it.
A second social factor affecting online shopping decisions is whether celebrities or similar high-impact figures have affiliations with a product and have recommended it.
In the last decade, this has meant the rise of partnerships with social media influencers and brand ambassadors, who use their organic following to promote a particular product. In addition, many companies turn to online event staffing agencies to find influential Instagram personalities or other online demi-celebrities to endorse a project.
The last peer-endorsement factor may be surprising: user reviews, even generally mediocre or negative ones, boost sales. Consumers prefer to buy products online that have some peer review, even if that’s three out of five stars.
The reasons for this are similar to the design-related ones: trustworthiness. Even knowing that another internet shopper has ordered, received, and used the item can lead to increased trust that the transaction may be worth it.
Many factors play into online shopping decisions, but some often-overlooked ones can be surprising in their effects and magnitude.
Online interface speed and design play a huge part in internet shopping behavior. With ever-increasing competition for e-consumers, online businesses are often distinguished by their ease of use and navigation, as well as the time it takes to get from a search result to the payment page.
Free shipping, or a lack thereof, is another significant singular factor that can sway consumer decisions. Companies who have options for free shipping are both more likely to seal the deal due to a lack of last-minute costs and draw in modern consumers used to near-immediate gratification and two-day shipping times.
Lastly, whether organic or via brand ambassadors and promo models, peer endorsements have a huge effect on internet shopping habits. Businesses who open themselves up to feedback via user reviews have a much better chance of gaining new business than those who don’t.
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Katherine (Tori) Lutz is a graduate of Florida State University and a current student at Columbia University. Her professional experience surrounds freelance work in writing, editing, and marketing. She is currently living in Brooklyn, NY, and aspires to be a journalist.