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Online Shopping: Know Your Customer

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October 26, 2021

You’ve worked hard on your website and online presence, but without digging into the customers visiting your platforms and investigating the touchpoints that brought them there in the first place, you’ll struggle to grow your sales. You could be at risk of shouting into the void if you’re using platforms or targeting devices that your target audience aren’t using or aren’t used to using when browsing for your products. Whilst customers are on your site, it’s important to understand their behavior and intent in order to respond in that moment in a way that supports how they discover your products, and gain an affinity with your brand.

If you aren’t set up for mobile, you’re missing out

Firstly, you need to be aware of what device your customer is using. A recent study shows that 55% web traffic comes from mobile devices, and 42% from desktop, so it’s worth digging into your own analytics to see how you match up. Last year’s holiday season saw a third of all online purchases being made through mobile devices. If your website still isn’t set up for mobile browsing, you’re giving over half of your visitors an inferior online experience. When a customer notices that an experience isn’t catered to them, they are more likely to leave and browse elsewhere, especially if they are in the early, exploratory stages of their buying journey. Inferior online experience gives the impression of inferior products, and no one wants that.

On the other hand, if your customer is sitting at a computer or laptop, it’s likely they’re focused and have a high intent to make a purchase, with order values being higher overall for desktop than other devices. The searches they are making are likely to be more detailed, and their attention to the task more focused. Using a desktop may also mean it is an older consumer, who is more familiar with shopping at a desktop. This can alter the way they use your website and for these customers especially, you want your interfaces to be clear and easy to use (check out our post on Gerontechnology for more information).

Consider your customer journey

Next, you need to consider how likely the visitor to your website is to make a purchase. For this, you need to look at what they are searching for – are they making specific searches, or looking for inspiration? Has the customer already searched for this item on your website before, have they bought from you before? 

Establishing the answers to these questions helps you build out a customer journey, and you can act at varying points of this journey to lead the customer to a sale. For example, if the customer is a returning customer who has signed up to receive marketing emails from you, you could send them emails containing offers on the products they have been looking at (or similar). If the customer hasn’t visited your site before, offer them a new customer discount and encourage them to create an account in your system so you can continue to track their activity. If the customer is further along in their journey with a higher intent to make a purchase (which you may be able to anticipate by the terms they are searching for being more specific, and the customer making repeated visits to the same product pages on your website), you may have to do very little in order to convince them to make a purchase. It is important for the search experience on your site to be intuitive. Often consumers are used to the Google-like experience of using more complex long tail searches (“I’m looking for a red dress with a v-neck”), so it’s important that, on-site, their searches are almost second nature by being able to do the same. And that the results presented are contextual to what they are looking for. Brands need to ensure that they are delivering relevant products and inspiration – and even guiding them when there isn’t an exact match to other similar recommendations.

A way to encourage that later stage of the customer journey is retargeting people who have visited your product pages in the past, using ads or emails. However, you need to keep in mind the demographics of your customers, as this will determine how likely they are to offer up their data. Joining up the gaps in your customers’ journey with targeted ads keep your product and brand front of mind for your customer but meeting them in a place where they are likely to both see and engage with the ads is likely to depend on the customer’s demographics – the platforms they use, their age and gender, and their interests.

Look at your demographics

Does your target audience match up with the audience currently visiting your website? Hopefully yes, otherwise you’ll need to conduct some research on how to change your online offering to better suit the people you want to attract (or amend your target audience). With platforms such as Instagram rolling out shopping options, it may be that your target audience is looking for your products outside of your website. COVID-19 saw many brands successfully turning to innovation across their digital channels, with bricks-and-mortar stores taking a backseat. In fact, of the 58% of businesses who increased digital spending over the course of the pandemic, more than a third (36%) say their revenues have grown as a result. Around a fifth (19%) also report a boost in margins/profits since investing in digital.   

While it’s straightforward enough to sell your product on your own website, for some sectors this may not be the first place customers think of looking. For example, for sectors such as health and beauty, customers may first think of searching for products similar to your offering on drugstore websites. This can be for a number of reasons; the drugstore offers reward points, is more of a household name and therefore already holds the customer’s trust, the drugstore offers a faster shipping option, etc. Whatever the reason, you need to ensure that your products are not only available on the platforms of these drugstores but are being promoted so that they appear as the top offering in the sector. Take a look at how many of your customers are visiting your website directly, versus how many sales you make from other places selling your product. You may want to change up your strategy based on these demographics. 

If you aren’t offering your product on other websites, your customer will be able to find out more about your brand if you target them with ads on the platforms they use. Younger people aged between 16 and 24 are more likely to be following influencerson social media platforms. If you’re targeting these customers, it may be a more effective strategy to hire influencers to advertise your products than traditional digital ads on Google. If your customers aren’t following these influencers, you’ll be wasting your advertising spend if you use them.

As mentioned in the previous section, a lot of digital marketing strategy relies on customer data to engage customers at different stages of their buying journey. However, older customers are less likely to be persuaded to give you their data. Research shows that around 40% of adults between 55 and 64 were concerned about brands holding their personal data. This drops with age, with 25- to 34-year-olds being the least concerned, but the percentage is still relatively high, at 30%. If you want older customers’ data, you’ll need to offer bigger incentives in order for these customers to feel that exchanging their data is worthwhile. It might also mean showing that data shared will result in a better, more individual experience online. 

Are you set up for your sector?

Finally, you need to differentiate your products and brand from others in the market. A great way to do this is to reassure the customer that they have come to the right place by providing clear descriptions of what to expect from your products and providing supplementary content that guides and inspires such as videos, ratings, and reviews. For example, in a sector like health and beauty, these products can have a learning curve for use and proper application, product discovery could make customers feel less sure about what they’re getting or whether it meets their individual needs or aspirations. Where has your customer discovered your product – from an industry expert, or from a friend? This can alter your customers’ expectations of what to expect from your online offering. Take a look at our Online Shopping: Know Your Sector post, which explains how you can best position your products and website for your customers’ expectations.

Key take-aways:

  • Ensure your customer has access to your product on the platform they are most familiar with.
  • Guide your customer along in their purchase journey by connecting the gaps in between their actions through retargeting activity or real-time responsiveness with personalized recommendations.
  • Ensure you are targeting the correct customers and conduct research into where those customers expect to find your product.

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