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Online Shopping: Know Your Sector


Authors: Imran Choudhary, VP Strategic Growth at Attraqt, and Samantha Mansfield, Senior Strategy Director at LiveArea, a Merkle Company

November 2, 2021

While we’ve discussed the importance of knowing your customer in a previous post, knowing your sector and where you sit within it is also important. If your customer expects a specific offering or service because of the sector your products sit in, they may be dissuaded from purchasing from you if you don’t meet their expectations. 

Are you recommending products that customers want? 

Once you’ve brought customers to your site, are you giving them the opportunity to quickly find and discover your product range based on their needs? Or are you irrelevant? From the moment a shopper is on your site it’s an opportunity to guide them to a sale. According to Forrester, 77% of consumers have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that provides a personalized service or experience. If brands get personalization right, they banish irrelevancy, instead they can deliver highly relevant digital experiences at scale, retain and inspire customers, and do so over time - this affects the bottom line and growth trajectory. Yet personalization isn’t easy to get right. This is partly because many look only at personalization in the context of what drives conversion and revenue directly. What they fail to do is gauge customer loyalty, customer satisfaction and customer lifetime value. These are all key metrics that require thinking of product discovery in a way that connects the entire online journey.  

How easy is your product to use or understand? 

Is your product easy to understand, or does it require education or inspiration? If the latter, you should provide ample guidance on how to use the product throughout the discovery and buying journey. Use different mediums to explain the product –video demonstrations as well as descriptions and think about the benefit of having a live chat option for people who want more instantaneous answers to any questions they have about the product. This helps to prevent people being dissuaded from making a purchase as a result of not understanding the product. If a customer feels they need expertise to understand your product, provide it to the best of your ability. Similarly, is it clear which product your customer should be purchasing to suit them? Ensure you have a blog on your website explaining the different uses of your product and have an FAQ page that is easy to use so customers can easily find answers to their questions. Aligning both product recommendations and content that educates and inspires requires a data-driven approach to understanding and responding to customer intent based on signals from their behavior at key moments on the site.  

How much does the customer care about the product? 

If your product is part of a customer’s self-image or impacts their daily life considerably, it’s likely they will care more about it than a one-off impulse purchase. A product like contact lenses, for example, can be vital to get right, otherwise you risk upsetting or even injuring your customer. In this example, if it isn’t clear to the customer which lenses are right for them on your site, they risk ordering lenses that are the incorrect prescription, don’t suit their lifestyle (in the case of daily versus monthly lenses), or cause harm by containing ingredients that don’t work for them. If you aren’t a trustworthy source for the customer to make a purchase from, there are plenty of other vendors for the customer to turn to, so you need to ensure the customer has no reason to doubt you. Have an FAQ page and showing your customer that you’re available for them to contact if they have any questions or issues. Ratings and reviews on your site show the customer that other people recommend your product/brand. Show them that you are the trusted authority on this product and follow through on that promise.  

Similarly, the importance of the product can determine the urgency the customer feels about making the purchase. Something like topping up on contact lenses can come as a surprise, and you need to offer a quick solution. If your product is likely to be an urgent purchase, give the option for express shipping, and the opportunity to order on a subscription basis so that the mistake won’t be made again. That way, the customer knows they can turn to your business to reliably fix a problem without any hassle for them and are likely to come back in the future. Harnessing data to understand your customer and how your customer engages with products on your site better, will help you to make recommendations for upsells, cross-sells and subscriptions.  

How premium is your product? This can alter your customers’ expectations 

Take a look at how premium your product appears in the market. If your customers expect a certain quality alongside your product, align to match that expectation. Luxury, high-end products, for example La Prairie will expect a more “white glove”, approach to service than a high street brand like Max Factor, who appeal to the everyday buyer. Premium brands tend to have a paired back, minimalist website design, whereas high street brands often have plenty of discounts and offers at the forefront. Take a look at where your product sits in the market and compare your approach to your competitors. Is your premium product sitting in an environment that makes it look less premium? Customers will be less likely to pay premium prices if that’s the case. 

Look at your customers’ product discovery journey. Is it likely your customer has been recommended your product by an industry expert, or by their friend? This will alter your customers’ expectation of your online offering. Once they are online, does the product discovery journey continue to be seamless across your site? Does this experience extend offline? Customers are discovering products from a wider array of sources, with plenty of opportunity to advertise across different platforms – from social media, to Google Maps, to games consoles, and beyond. Where should you be targeting to suit customers looking to buy in your sector? And once they are online, think of how you keep them on your customer journey with individualized product and content experiences. We discuss this in more detail in our Know Your Customer blog. 

Does your product require in-person viewing? 

Finally, how likely is a customer to buy your product from an image on your website alone? A customer may be put off buying a makeup product online because they want to see it in person to color match for example, and whether it would suit them. Throughout the pandemic, with fewer brick-and-mortar stores being open, brands had to adapt to bring those in-store experiences online. A number of brands developed apps that allowed customers to try out products virtually, from the comfort of their own home. This helped customers know what the product would look like and better inform them of whether they should make a purchase.  

Key take-aways:

  • Match your audience’s expectations for your product, and the product discovery experience.
  • Ensure you are offering relevant product recommendations.
  • Highlight your product in a way your customer would understand – if it involves a learning curve, educate them and show them you’re there to support them.
  • Look for opportunities that both inspire your shopper and meet conversion KPIs with upsells, cross sells 
  • Make sure the price of your product, the way your customers view your product, and your presentation of your product are all aligned.
  • Allow customers the opportunity to view your product in a setting that works for them.


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