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Understanding eCommerce Customer Motivation

The Importance of Understanding E-commerce Customer Motivation 

Modern e-commerce is about much more than just offering products online. On one hand, the increasing accessibility of the internet on a variety of devices has made it easier than ever for people to browse and complete transactions online. For example, mobile e-commerce via web browsers and dedicated apps is on the rise, meaning more people are choosing to shop and buy on the go. While this opens up great potential for retailers to connect with shoppers, it also means competition to do so is fierce.

Hence, offering a solid product lineup is not enough these days. Merchants should never underestimate the importance of understanding e-commerce customer motivation; only this will help them market and sell in a way conducive to helping buyers along on their purchasing journeys.

Psychology 101: Motivation

First, let’s take a look at motivation as a psychological concept. To put it simply, motivation is the “why” driving human behavior. Motivation works behind the scenes to influence external actions. As Psychology Today notes, one theory called “incentive theory” guides many modern-day marketing efforts: “A good marketing strategy will cause you to want something you neither have nor think you need. You expect that by having this “thing,” you will be better off than you are without it.”

This goes to show that motivating buyers depends in part on demonstrating the value of your products, so they feel they need to own them—or at least strongly desire them. But another facet is helping shoppers avoid pain throughout the buying process. Shoppers nowadays value speedy, seamless online purchasing experiences. Hitting a snag is often enough to make people reconsider, perhaps even going so far as to abandon their shopping cart before checking out.

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While motivation may start with incentivization, it only continues to influence shoppers’ behavior if they feel like each subsequent step is worth it. This is why it’s so crucial for online retail stores to support marketing efforts, meaning your website must be able to facilitate an intuitive and hassle-free buying experience so as not to squander the valuable motivation your marketing efforts have drummed up.

Customers Want Options—But Not Too Many

Have you ever stood in a retail store, staring at products on the shelves and wondering which one is best for you? It can be a confusing and frustrating experience, as it eats into your valuable time and makes you second-guess your own decision-making ability. Well, this same potential for so-called analysis paralysis can occur online just as easily as in real life.

It’s undoubtedly important to offer online shoppers options but forcing customers to make too many choices along the way tends to be a deterrent. For example, if your website is full of calls to action, links and product listings, customer motivation will quickly deplete as they navigate this taxing shopping journey. This is precisely why it’s so important for cloud-based e-commerce solutions to feature a user-friendly interface with clear-cut navigational controls and optimized product pages.

Research shows that customers value product choices, provided merchants make the differences between various products clear so it’s simple for site visitors to make an information-based decision. However, customers only become confused when navigating your website and selecting products requires too many choices. The former strategy enhances motivation while the latter erodes it.

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Shoppers Seek Social Proof

Social proof is a powerful motivator when it comes to making or breaking e-commerce purchases. Providing social proof from other buyers can push a shopper over the edge of their purchasing decision, prompting them to take the plunge. Conversely, failing to provide social proof can leave a prospective customer feeling suspicious, underwhelmed or wary, meaning they’re more likely to need more time to mull over a purchasing decision. In the worst-case scenario, a lack of social proof can actually derail a sale, motivating customers to visit a competitor.

The numbers don’t lie: Over half (55 percent) of online shoppers say reviews from others “are an important factor that influences their ultimate decision to buy or not buy,” according to one survey of 1,000 online users.

Displaying honest customer reviews is no longer optional. It’s now second nature for shoppers to seek out this social proof before buying. Too many low ratings and negative reviews serve as a red flag for people teetering on the edge of buying. On the flip side, an unbroken string of glowing reviews and perfect ratings may make people feel distrustful of their validity. The best strategy is to incentivize your buyers to leave their honest feedback—be it positive, negative or somewhere in the middle. Follow up each purchase with a friendly email prompt soliciting a review. Make the process as painless as possible so people will partake.

Use Promotions to Motivate Purchases

The power of promotions resides in the fact they can provide that little extra push people need to commit to a purchase. As one HuffPost contributor cites, 57 percent of shoppers “are motivated to complete the first-time purchase when they are able to redeem a coupon.” This is vital to keep in mind because first-time business is the gateway to future loyalty, also known as the only way to boost customer lifetime value.

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So, consider raising motivation levels by offering a coupon, limited time promotion, a freebie with a first-time purchase or free shipping. This gives shoppers a concrete reason to buy from you, in a timely manner. If they have a positive experience the first time around, they’re much more likely to return for future purchases and perhaps even tell their family and friends to visit your online store.

There is great importance in understanding e-commerce customer motivation because psychology holds real power over people’s actions. E-commerce customer motivation boils down to a few key factors: a streamlined shopping experience, an appropriate number of choices along the way, social proof to boost confidence and the power of a compelling discount. Merchants able to provide a purchasing journey complete with these advantages will influence more shoppers to stay in the funnel long enough to complete conversions.

Understanding eCommerce Customer Motivation


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