In anticipation of the predicted boom in online sales, Internet companies are updating their Web sites and double-checking their fulfillment processes. Everyone is talking about enhancing Web-based customer support and creating online experiences that increase site loyalty and drive sales. The goal is to attract and satisfy the greatest number of online shoppers, so they will keep coming back.
However, before calling in the Web designers and shipping experts, e-tailers should take a moment to recognize that not all online shoppers are created alike. Different types of Web shoppers have different goals and shopping strategies. A few savvy e-commerce companies will be able to break out of the pack because they understand — and cater to — the different needs of different types of shoppers.
So here is a study guide to the six basic types of online shoppers — and the tools needed to get their business. Get out your pencils and take some notes, or just save the link.
The ‘New to the Net’ Shopper
Shoppers who are new to the Net are still trying to grasp the concept of e-commerce. They typically use the Web to research purchases, and are likely to start buying online with small purchases in safe categories.
What they need: New-to-the-Net shoppers require a very simple interface, an easy checkout process and lots of validation to buy online. Product pictures will do a lot to convince these shoppers to complete sales transactions. Shopper-to-shopper interaction will also provide a non-threatening way for Web newbies to learn their way around and gain confidence in making online purchases.
The Reluctant Shopper
Reluctant shoppers are nervous about security and privacy issues. Because of their fears, they start off wanting to use the Web only to research purchases, rather than buy online.
What they need: Clearly stated security and privacy policies will help reluctant shoppers feel comfortable with the Web. These shoppers also need immediate online customer support to quell their concerns. Online discussions with other shoppers who report positive experiences of buying online will also help reassure these shoppers.
The Bargain Shopper
Bargain-hunting shoppers use comparison shopping tools extensively. Sporting no brand loyalty, these shoppers are just looking for the lowest price.
What they need: Retailers must convince these shoppers that they are getting the best price and do not need to continue searching online or offline for a better deal. Sale-priced items listed on the site, or made available through an operator, are very attractive to these shoppers.
The Surgical Shopper
“Surgical” shoppers know exactly what they want before logging online and only purchase that item. Typically they know the criteria on which they will base their decision, seek information to match against that criteria, and purchase when they are confident they have found exactly the right product.
What they need: Product configurators and archived opinions are essential to persuade surgical shoppers that what they found is what they need. These shoppers also benefit from quick access to insights from other shoppers’ experiences and real time customer service from knowledgeable operators.
The Enthusiast Shopper
Enthusiast shoppers use shopping as a form of recreation. They purchase frequently and are the most adventurous shoppers.
What they need: It is important to cater to the fun-loving character of the enthusiast shoppers. To fuel their enjoyment, Web sites should offer them engaging tools to view the merchandise, personalized product recommendations, and community applications such as bulletin boards and customer feedback pages.
The Power Shopper
Power shoppers shop out of necessity, rather than as a form of recreation. They develop sophisticated shopping strategies to find what they want, and do not want to waste time looking around.
What they need: Sites that have excellent navigation tools and offer lots of information on the available products — customer experiences, expert opinions and customer service — are attractive to power shoppers. These shoppers want instant access to information and support, and expect highly relevant product recommendations that match their criteria.
Is it Possible to Please Everyone?
Despite the variety of shopping strategies exhibited by the different types of Web shoppers, online merchants can adopt a few key approaches to satisfy their varied needs.
The two primary elements of an e-commerce site appealing to all six types of shoppers are easy site navigation and shopper-to-shopper interaction. Also, to avoid having shoppers click away, it is important to review the site navigation selections to ensure that there are no hidden pages, and that everyone can get anywhere from anywhere on the site.
Sophisticated and accurate search engines also provide every kind of online shopper with support destined to increase their level of purchasing online — no matter who they are or how they shop.