The Ergonomics of Online Shopping

» Some shoppers are just browsing, with no specific product in mind

» Some are ready to buy if they find the right type of product, at the right price

» Others are ready to buy a specific type of product, if its available

» What are the specific needs for each type of shopping activity?

» How does your Website address these shopping modes?

The rest of this article will explore possible differences in the shopping experience in the “Brick-and-Mortar” (B&M) stores or the Internet and between the different types of shopping modes or patterns. Both in the “B&M” world and on the Net, the storeowner must provide a satisfactory shopping experience or lose the customer, possibly for good.

What is the customer looking for? While a “B&M” store has the doors open, someone is usually watching customers and takes notice when a customer does not make a purchase or is about to leave the store. The customary “May I help you” allows the storekeeper to offer some type of assistance the customer may be looking for. For the “browsers” (not THE Internet related browsing, but the real lookie-loo-type!) the offer will be to “take your time and let me know if you need any help”, while for the buyer in a hurry, you offer to help get the goods to the register, fast. The experienced shopkeeper can distinguish from a distance the type of shopper entering the store and their likely needs. The browsers need lots of time and can’t be hurried, the buyers in a hurry just want to get their items, pay and get out. If you can match the shopping experience to the needs of the buyer, you then have a winning formula. Think of Nordstrom’s, Macy’s, MacDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, Seven-Eleven and many others who identified a shopping pattern they wanted to serve, then custom-tailored and created an exact shopping experience to match.

How can you gauge to the shopper’s needs on a Website? The only feedback the site owner gets relative to the customer’s “needs”, is the order count, the abandoned shopping-cart count, (all relative to the total visitor count), except for an occasional tirade of dissatisfied and outspoken customers who got frustrated by something. A customer survey may help, but these can be time-consuming, expensive and biased since customers frequently tell you what they think you want to hear and not necessarily what they truly feel. The only true feedback is purchases, (or voting with one’s “pocketbook”) as the true measure of how a Website (store) is performing.

There is a big difference between a “brick-and-mortar” and a Website environment for the customer experience. In a real store some customers want to browse, others want to find their item, get the best price, pay and get going. In the real store, you can usually tell what type of shopper a customer is, by their body language, their way of “entering the store”. On a Website not only can’t you tell what kind of shopper is entering the site, you can’t even ask the question, if you wanted-to. The only way to match the shopping patterns on a website to the customer, is by offering different shopping experiences for each type of shopper you wish to serve.

Buyers (both in the real world and on the Net) can be grouped in five distinct categories according to their shopping modes, patterns or mindsets. The key to offering them a satisfying shopping experience is to “match” that experience to their desire or “mindset”. The most common needs or “mindsets” of a retail customer are one of the following:

1. Investigating or data gathering relative to a specific product type, like major items, without intending to make the purchase until a later time. Examples are comparison-shopping experiences when beginning to look for a car, a computer or an entertainment system.
2. Browsing without a specific product in mind, but considering buying a product in a certain category. Examples are looking for a present for someone, a clothing item for a new season or a decorative item for a new house.
3. Shopping for a specific type of product, but not determined to make a purchase without further investigation, evaluation, product comparisons and price-value deliberations, like needing new shoes, a raincoat, a watch, etc.
4. Ready to buy as soon as a product with certain characteristics is found, like a predetermined price, a certain color, size, look or other predetermined product, for example a music CD including a certain song, a good bottle of French wine under $15, etc.
5. Let me pay and get out of here as soon as the item is found in a given store, like buying a quart of milk, a hamburger or a set of batteries, since there are no substantial product differentiating characteristics and price is usually not a consideration

The key to a satisfying “buying experience” is being responsive to the shoppers needs.

In the “brick-and-mortar” world successful stores and chains have been established to respond to all the “mindsets” described above. Consider how the following stores are designed and targeted towards each specific shopping “mindset”:

1. Investigating or Data gathering – Typically a manufacturer’s show rooms offered as service to both retailers and customers, (i.e. the Sony product showroom).
2. Browsing – Offering a large number of items within a wide range of products, displayed in a comfortable setting, (i.e. Nordstrom or Macy’s) showcasing many different products from many different manufacturer’s, price ranges, styles, colors, etc.
3. Shopping – Offering a limited range of products in specific categories to enable the customer to easily make a purchase decision, (i.e. specialty stores Pay-Less Shoes, Comp-USA, etc.)
4. Ready-to-buy – All retailers are attempting to serve the “ready-to-buy” customer, some better than others.
5. Let me pay and get out of here – Specialty retailers serving the time-conscious customer, who prefers convenience over value, (i.e. Seven-Eleven, MacDonald) where speed of purchase is preferred to choice and value

On the Internet few websites appear to have either identified the specific customer types they consider their primary customer or those they intend to serve. If a “Web” merchant is able to satisfy one or more customer types, their business will likely be much more successful than the site that does not consider the type of customer it is targeting. The advantage of the Internet is that the merchant does not even have to put up a different building, a new sign, hire more staff, or carry any additional inventory in order to cater to more than one customer type. The merchant simply needs to offer a separate Website (designed for a different “customer experience”) targeted toward specific customer type (or types) and a specific “mindset”. Once this is accomplished, the Website (or each one of the different websites) will offer a satisfying experience for each one of these needs and bring its customer back, time and time again.

The questions you want to ask of yourself, are as follows:

1. Who Are YOUR TARGET CUSTOMER TYPES?
2. What kind of Shopping Mode are these PRIORITY CUSTOMER TYPES looking for?
3. Does your Website offer THE BEST POSSIBLE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE for them?