What Factors Affect Consumer Behavior Online?

Eric Pong
What Factors Affect Consumer Behavior Online? - Floship

Analyzing consumer behavior can be a pseudo science.
I have come across advice in ecommerce journals that seems to be nothing more than a confirmation of the author’s prejudice. If analysis of consumer behavior lacks rigor, it can be prejudicial.

Generalizations Across Consumer Segments May Lead to Meaningless Averages

Nine women cannot get together and give birth to a child in one month.
That right there presents strong evidence of the risk of converting statistical data (i.e., one woman takes nine months to give birth to a baby) into seemingly actionable conclusions.

Consumer Behavior Can Actually Be Pretty Non-Intuitive

Several ecommerce websites are like a maze without signposts.
Some customers will locate their desired product and purchase options, while others will run around in circles.
Effective navigation can make your ecommerce website intuitive, and easy to use.

Some of the most crucial principles in planning your ecommerce navigation are:

1. Useful Navigation Is Better Than Fancy Navigation

There are many fancy technologies that help you create scrollers, sliders, exploding menus, and other fancy navigation.
While your designers might pat themselves on their backs for creating a really “cool” design element, customers will be pulling their hair out while trying to select the right choices. I am all for “cool” design, but not at the cost of usability.
Make sure that ease of use is the first principle you follow while designing your ecommerce navigation.

2. Set the Navigation in Stone

Even if your navigation is highly intuitive, there will be a learning curve for new users as they try to locate various options and features. You must ensure that their learning does not go to waste. What that means is:

  • The navigation must be at a fixed location on all pages of your website. The only exception would be when the customer initiates checkout. During checkout, you might want to reduce navigation to keep the customer on track, and prevent shopping cart abandonment
  • Keep the same order: If some of your sidebars are sorted alphabetically, while others are sorted by popularity, the customer can get confused. Maintain a standard and stick to it as the default choice. If the customer deliberately chooses to sort the options differently, then that is her choice.


3. Different People Navigate in Different Ways

Let me illustrate this with an example.
Consider the case of customers who are interested in purchasing a toy for an 8-year old. Some would be keen to first narrow down the toys by age.
For them appropriate choices would look like:

  • Newborns
  • 1 – 2 year old
  • 3 – 4 year old
  • 5 – 7 year old
  • 8 – 10 year old

Some others would want to drill down by type:

  • Craft
  • Electronics
  • Models
  • Outdoor
  • Plush
  • Puzzles
  • Science

Still others would want to select the price range or brand name first. Your job, as an ecommerce business, is to facilitate the path to purchase that the customer chooses.
Different consumers navigate online stores in different ways.

4. Use Words That Customers Use

I am no expert in toy retail, but I assume that most parents would refer to toys such as science kits as “science toys” and not “early development tools.”
The choice of language in ecommerce navigation should mirror the language that the customer uses and understands.

5. Use an Effective Internal Search Engine

If navigation is about getting from one point to another on your ecommerce website, then the internal search engine is definitely a form of navigation.
All you need to do to make an effective internal search engine, is to program it to be able to read the mind of the customer, and present the appropriate result. Ok, ok, I am kidding. But you get the idea.
Continuously evolving the quality of internal search will pay dividends. Quite likely you will end up using one of the many search providers. That is ok. But keep track of your search analytics to locate problem areas.
Then work with your search provider to improve the search experience.

When you are in a large location — a mall, an amusement park, or the like — you have maps posted strategically to help you navigate.
One of the most important features of these maps is that they tend to have a place marked as, “You Are Here.” I do not want to borrow from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” but you will know where you want to get to, only when you know where you are.
In ecommerce websites, the equivalent of a “You Are Here’ marker is something called a bread crumb trail. This looks something like:

Home > Toys > Electronics > Remote Controlled > Helicopters

Regardless of how the customer landed up on a specific webpage, the bread crumb trail informs the customers of their present location, and offers them with the means to jump to a higher-level category.
These recommendations are sound in general; even if you were to ignore the specific study mentioned earlier.

Ecommerce Merchants Understand the Importance of Behavioral Targeting

Telling ecommerce professionals the importance of behavioral targeting is like preaching to the choir.
Monitoring, measuring, and analyzing consumer behavior is possible, as web servers log online activity.
Social media adds a new dimension to online consumer behavior

Social Media Adds a New Dimension to Consumer Behavior

The way people respond to marketing messages on your ecommerce website is quite different from the way they respond to messages posted by their social network.
If I, as the marketer, tell you to watch a movie because it is “the greatest epic drama ever,” my words will probably bounce off you. But if your cousin commented on your Facebook page and told you to watch that movie, you would react differently.
This is why marketers are struggling to harness the marketing potential of social media.

Monitoring and Targeting Based on Behavior Can Have Damaging Consequences for Consumer Privacy

As people live more and more of their lives online, concerns relating to the potential misuse of private information get shriller.
No one wants to feel like their big brother is watching him or her all the time. I would go so far as to say that I do not like that advertisements alongside my email account are closely related to the content of my email.
It seems like an intrusion into my private space.

Final Words

As technology progresses, we experience two simultaneous trends.
On the one hand, a greater amount of consumer data is available. On the other hand, the misuse of this data becomes an increasing worry.
Policy makers, business owners, and consumer groups wrestle with the unique challenges that the connected world throws up.


Nicholas H. Parker is a business coach and marketing manager with a huge experience. He writes articles for those who want to buy essay to develop their knowledge. He is highly interested in the web design sphere.

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