Discover Why Customers Proceed to Checkout Online

For anyone who has ever shopped online, you know the experience is traditionally one that is relatively convenient and that you can often find things which wouldn’t be available in your local area. It turns out, though, that there are a lot more reasons than just these that people decide to hit that ‘Proceed to Checkout‘ button when they are shopping. Whether you are an online shop or not, the information we are about to share with you is most likely going to be helpful because it delves into the psychology of shopping on the web.

What you learn here might surprise you and that’s always a good thing. For those involved in online retail right now, there is so much involved in making your store competitive that it is easy to forget some of the core things people want from your business. This article is designed to get you up to speed if you are founding a store or refresh you on the core basics that matter to your customers if you already have a shop set up. For the rest of us, these lessons do give actionable takeaways we can implement because Internet Marketing is, after all, all about selling successfully. The statistics cited are from a recent post by Joann Pan on Mashable and mentioned to help illuminate the points we want to make.

Fewer Hassles From Online Shopping Helps Lure Customers

No one likes hassles and we will go through a lot to avoid them, in many cases. In fact, easy and pleasant shopping experiences are part of branding for certain online retailers like Overstock, Amazon and Etsy. These big name stores go to a lot of trouble to convince prospective shoppers that their shopping experience will be hassle free. No lines, no waiting, no confused cashiers, no nasty weather, no driving or other transportation hassles, and no screaming children. It’s a pretty good deal, right? Pan actually states that half of the 500 people surveyed by the Lab42 market research company do almost three fourths of their shopping online – that’s close to 75% – and you have to admit, that is pretty impressive. Those of us who remember the naysayers that believed Amazon and other first generation retailers would never ‘catch on‘ will find this particularly delightful.

In addition to a lower level of hassles in the shopping process, easy returns also convinced shoppers surveyed to choose the online route. Less than a third of respondents preferred to take their purchases back to a physical store, but 68% preferred to make their return via the mail to an online retailer. In case this sounds as if a lot of people are returning merchandise online, that’s not the case. In fact, more than 60% said they rarely return anything they bought online.

Some store owners want people to return items until they get what they want while others would prefer not to deal with customers that want to make returns. Those stores that want customers to be happy regardless of price usually offer free returns. Free returns, it turns out, can drive a huge amount of business towards your stores. A full 87% of respondents said that they give preference to shops that have a free returns policy. You’ll notice that while the Mike & Troy brand is in a different industry, one of the things they are known for is a no-questions-asked money back guarantee on their digital products. This is one of the world’s most powerful ways to win over those who want to buy with confidence. That’s because only sellers who have confidence in their products or services would dare to offer such a guarantee.

Shopping Online is Better Than In-store Shopping

We listed a lot of benefits above that could sway people to choose your online shop, but there are other factors that can make a difference, too. Some people flat-out prefer shopping online and that figure, according to the Lab42 survey was around 66%. To think that two-thirds of the online population would rather shop online means your customer base is potentially quite a lot larger than you might think and this population is only going to grow. New ways to pay, more people coming online and easier ways to reach those people via social media all mean good things for anyone with an online shop. Yet, there are more advantages you will want to make sure your customers are informed about. 

For one thing, people like shopping online because there is a broader selection. Among those surveyed, 80% said that broad selection was important to them. This makes sense when we consider that Wal-Mart has and continues to dominate the brick and mortar retail world. Stores similar to Wal-Mart also boast the most sales. Why? Because they offer convenience. You can get many different things in one location and just about everyone appreciates that. Even if you serve a small niche, if you offer a comprehensive selection of products, including those only loosely associated with that niche, customers are likely to appreciate having options. 

Lower prices, another feature massive retailers like Wal-Mart and Amazon are known for, is another thing that drives people to shop online. Over 60% of people shop online due to lower prices 70% know that when they do, they are going to find superior sales and better promotions. You see, just as in the ‘real world’ those online like a good bargain. If you can get them excited about a sale or even build a reputation as the place to get low-cost products then you are definitely going to make their list of great places to shop. 

Online Shoppers Listen to What Others Have to Say 

Here’s something worth paying attention to: the #1 thing that respondents said convinced them to buy something online was a positive customer review. Makes sense, doesn’t it? We like knowing that another person, not a sales person, bought a product and can vouch for how good it is. This is why your store is going to need to have reviews even if you screen those reviews to make sure they are quality and not spam or offensive to potential customers. Wondering what the #2 reason was? The retailer’s description. That’s right, customers want you to describe the product to them and explain what all it has to offer. Does this sound like a good time to mention the importance of studying top content marketing strategies? We definitely think it is. Consider how you can make your content informative and engaging just like so many of our articles here on this blog are all about doing. Survey says: it’s a smart idea that pays off. 

Now here’s something else that you should pay attention to in case you think your customers would back out of a potentially good deal if they heard a gripe about one of your products. It turns out that the #3 reason people decide to buy a product online is actually negative reviews. That’s right, they read the review and buy the product anyway. We don’t know for sure exactly why they do this, but in my own personal experience if I see a review that is complaining, but does not mention a negative feature that affects me, I often buy with increased confidence. This could be exactly what others are doing. 

Customer Service Counts in a Big Way 

What might surprise you most is that customer service is incredibly important to those surveyed. As much as they liked convenience, low prices and big selections, they were not so much looking for a robo-store. Only 7% of those surveyed said they had never contacted customer service. This means most people, for one reason or another, are going to contact you if they buy from you and possibly even before they do. What is surprising is that it is not phone help they want (25%) most, nor even live chat (27%). What they want is good old-fashioned email and 41% of respondents reported that this is their preferred method of contact. It makes sense, too, because the customer has time to compose their thoughts and not feel as if they are under pressure or perhaps even awkward during the encounter. Email makes it easier on them and if you are timely and courteous in your responses, they are definitely likely to appreciate it. 

Guess what customers also know? The savvy people that they are, today’s customers of online shops know that they will get a better response if they openly contact you via social media. Almost half said they got different customer service by posting on the social media page of a brand. About 67% of respondents said the company then responds a lot quicker to their inquiry or complaint. Over half said they knew they would get their issue resolved and about 43% said their opinion was heard if they expressed it on the company’s social media page. While this certainly makes sense, it is worth considering being more proactive in taking care of your customers instead of forcing them to go to social media and make their demands in public. 

Secrets, Shipping & Smartphone Savviness 

Here is a tidbit that you might have guessed, but did not have proof positive about. A lot of shoppers like to shop for specific items online because online shopping is discrete. As you might guess, there are some things people are simply not comfortable purchasing from a brick and mortar store. Items like lingerie, books with embarrassing titles and sex toys are some of those mentioned by survey respondents. In fact, 45% of those surveyed said that they bought things online that they never would have in a face to face marketing situation. What does this tell us? That there are huge opportunities out there for those who sell products that might typically be embarrassing for someone to buy in a store with a cashier, or even other customers, seeing them. Obviously, adult markets have benefited from this, but there are other items that could cause embarrassment for the customer and offering a discrete way to have these types of products shipped to your home is certainly a good way to solve that problem. 

Shipping turns out to be an equally important issue for online shoppers. Just how big of an issue? Well, 79% of those surveyed said they would rather have free shipping than to get a discount. That is a powerful motivator, then, but this is actually not even really capturing just how important free shipping is to the average online consumer. A full 96% of the survey’s respondents said they would prefer to shop at a store that offers free shipping when given the choice. People do not want to have to tally up the full cost in their head nor do they want to get an ugly, price-increasing surprise at the end of their shopping trip. If you can factor shipping into the price of everything you sell, you certainly stand to sell a whole lot more. 

Finally, smartphones are a major factor in online retail success. You will note that sites like Groupon, Ebay, LivingSocial and Amazon all offer apps today to help ease the shopping process. With around 45 million people out there owning smartphones today who are accessing shopping oriented apps regularly, having one for your store is not a bad idea at all. In fact, marketing to smart phone users makes a lot of sense because according to recent Nielson ratings, close to half of all smart phone owners in the United States are now shopping via their phones each month. Imagine the opportunities out there – absolutely breath-taking levels of potential customers! 

Using This Data to Improve Your Own Store 

Hopefully, these survey findings have given you some insight into how online consumers think while they are shopping. We want you to succeed in your business and that’s why we share this kind of information. Knowledge in itself is not as powerful as putting that knowledge to work in intelligent ways. Once you understand how those coming to your store think, you can position yourself better in the market and take advantage of the many different marketing strategies we talk about here on TMS. After all, the goal is to succeed and strategies help you do that. 

Have you noticed any of the same trends in your own customers or even in yourself as an online shopper? Are there any tips you have for those that have an online retail store that you believe could help them improve their sales or perhaps even the quality of the experience they offer their shoppers? We want to hear from you so we invite you to leave a comment below. We also encourage you to ask any questions you have because we’ll get back to you as quickly as possible.