Key Factors Influencing Online Buying Behaviour

Key Factors Influencing Online Buying Behaviour

What influences how people buy online? What do your visitors value? And what can Shopify and other ecommerce businesses do to increase the chance of a customer buying from them?

Written by Matt Allen

7 min read

Customer behaviour has evolved. People browse and buy across more channels, making the buying process a long and complicated one. It’s important that retailers are there at every touchpoint, and they make sure their websites meet user needs to maximise the chance of a conversion.

Using data collected from Google Surveys from 1,200 respondents, we’ve evaluated which design and content factors influence how people buy online, what influences their behaviour and how this has changed over time. The aim is to show you, as ecommerce business owners, what you can do to improve performance in your own stores.

Alongside the results, we’ve summarised the stats into key takeaways and guidance for ecommerce stores to improve their sites to take advantage of the insights. So let's dive in and find out what's important to online shoppers.


How often do you make use of the onsite search functionality when purchasing online?

  • 57% occasionally
  • 26% never
  • 17% all the time

Key takeaway: Over a quarter of users never use onsite search functionality

The stats show that rather than spending time perfecting your onsite search functionality, it makes sense to concentrate on making it easy for the customer to navigate via collections and product categories. Make sure people can find your products effectively that way, and you’ll be one step closer to a sale.

Free time is a precious commodity and there’s a lot of competition out there. If you’ve managed to persuade someone to visit your website, you need to make sure they can find what they’re looking for, quickly. Easy navigation should be at the top of your priority list. Through simple, responsive menus and navs you can create an intuitive user experience.


How important is a good ‘About Us’ page when it comes to trusting a website?

  • 42.2% extremely important
  • 29.3%% of some importance
  • 15.2% not very important
  • 13.3% not important

Key takeaway: 71.5% of respondents place importance on the About Us page, with 42.2% of them saying it is ‘extremely important’ when it comes to trust

If you consider the kind of visitors who will typically be looking at your About Us page, they’re likely to be potential customers considering whether they should buy from you, or work with you. They’ll be checking out the people who work in your business, examining the levels of expertise you have, and what it is that’s special about your company that means they should become a customer.

It’s a page that is clearly important to customers, and is also an area of your site that gives you the opportunity to sell yourself and convert a lead into a customer. (It’s also often overlooked by many ecommerce stores.)

Use the About page to tell your story, answer key questions to demonstrate expertise in your field, introduce your key team members - and don’t forget to include a CTA so visitors can take the next step on their purchase journey, whether that’s a link to your products or a form to fill in and subscribe to your newsletters.


When shopping online, how likely is it that good product imagery influences your decision to purchase?

  • 57.8% think product imagery is very or extremely influential
  • 27.5% think product imagery is quite influential
  • 14.7% do not think product imagery is influential

Key takeaway: Over 85% of those surveyed said good product imagery influences their purchase decision

When you can’t see the product in real life, the next best thing you’re going to use to help inform your buying decision is a photograph, as the results of this survey show. Check out our blog on how to create professional looking product shots (and remember we can do it for you if you need).

Product images capture your customers’ attention, make the product more compelling and help answer key questions about it. Some things to bear in mind:

  • Make sure they’re good quality
  • don’t add distracting backgrounds
  • Ensure you can zoom in on them
  • Use several images to show your products from different angles
  • Provide images to show technical information (like the ports on the back of a TV)
  • Make sure they’re optimised for mobile
  • Show the products in context as well as on their own
  • Incorporate UGC (for example clothes retailers might invite customers to send images of themselves wearing the items)

What is the main reason you would leave an item in your basket without purchasing? Pick one.

  • 50% shipping costs
  • 26% long or complex checkout process
  • 24% I am forced to create an account

Key takeaway: Shipping costs is an issue for nearly half of online customers, closely followed by ease of process. (Free and easy wins!)

It is clear that customers are more demanding than ever and don’t want to pay to get their stuff - either with money or time. They want it to be easy to buy - so no forced account creation or complex checkout processes - with free shipping, the appeal of which is obvious (although perhaps not to the business!).


When buying online, how important is it that you have the option of contacting a person in customer services if needed?

  • 68.3% extremely or very important
  • 18% quite important
  • 13.7 not very important

Key takeaway: over two thirds of people place high importance in having real customer service agents available

This figure of nearly 70% may have crept up since the COVID crisis. With many more people reliant on ecommerce (including a whole new group of consumers who had previously avoided shopping online entirely) it is imperative for online retailers to build trust by demonstrating that there are real people behind the business and that they can help customers pre- and post-purchase.


How important is it to you that the products you buy are environmentally friendly?

  • 53.8% extremely to very important
  • 39.8% quite important
  • 6.4% not important

Key takeaway: Buying from environmentally friendly businesses is of some importance to over 90% of those surveyed, with half of those saying it is ‘very’ or ‘extremely important’. It is unimportant to only 6.4%.

While we don’t have the historical data for this, we suspect this number has risen over the past decade as society has become more environmentally aware. More brands recognise the impact they have on the planet and have amended their business practices and marketing to reflect this. With 9 out of 10 people preferring environmentally friendly businesses, it is key that businesses change their behaviours in line with this. It’s good for business, and it’s good for the planet!


How important is it that you read customer reviews of products before you buy online?

  • 55.8% extremely to very important
  • 24.2% of some importance
  • 20% not important

Key takeaway: Customer reviews matter to 80% of online shoppers

Customer reviews are another element that helps build trust and can persuade someone on your site to make a purchase. You can’t underestimate the power of social proof - a customer saying they love your product or service has ten times the value of you saying you have a great product or service!

Along with that credibility, you also get valuable feedback from customers to help you improve. Sometimes this feedback will be negative, but that’s fine. The opportunity to turn a complaint into a compliment demonstrates your commitment to resolving customer issues and is really valuable.

Great reviews on your site also help with local online presence from an SEO point of view and is free, high quality marketing.


How important is free shipping when you are considering an online purchase?

  • 62.6% of people say free shipping is extremely or very important
  • 20.5% think it is somewhat important
  • 16.9% place low to no importance on free shipping

Key takeaway: Over 80% of consumers place value in free shipping

This reinforces the findings from question 4 where it was clear people valued free shipping. This survey drills down specifically on the issue of free shipping and it is clear that it’s something online retailers should seriously consider if their business model allows it.


Which factors are important to you when considering an online purchase? (select all that apply)

  • 36.2% good product descriptions
  • 34.8% low shipping costs
  • 33% clear returns policy
  • 32.6% easy to navigate website
  • 32.3% seeing other reviews
  • 23.6% ease of checkout
  • 33.6% none of the above

Key takeaway: When it comes to making it easy for customers to purchase, it’s best to cover all points

This question didn’t reveal any clear favourite when people were able to select several choices. The data shows that every option, from product descriptions to ease of navigation, were important to a quarter to a third of people surveyed. Equally a third of respondents said that none were important to them. The best approach is to make sure that your website ticks all those boxes and creates the best buying experience for all of your visitors.


How important is website speed when you are shopping online?

  • 67% extremely important
  • 16% of moderate importance
  • 17% little to no importance

Key takeaway: Website speed is of some importance to over 80% of consumers

Making sure your website is fast across all devices has become increasingly important as mobile commerce has grown and consumer expectation has risen. In such a competitive landscape you need every edge you can get. Over 32% of Gen Z purchases take place on a mobile device, so it’s key that your shopping experience caters for shoppers across all devices. Losing an impatient customer to a competitor because your product page didn’t load quickly enough is something you can avoid by testing and optimising your site. Check out our guide to increasing your Shopify store’s speed.


The Impact Of COVID On Buyer Behaviour

There have been many implications of the pandemic for retail. As we know, with the option for physical shopping gone, there was a huge surge in online shopping, including from a whole new demographic of consumers (typically over 40 years old) who had, until that point, resisted buying online. There was also a surge in additional businesses starting to retail online, from established brands that simply had online presence and needed to get on quickly (see Lindt) to furloughed or redundant individuals looking to try something new and make a living.

With many people expecting COVID-19 to negatively affect their finances as well as their daily routines for the foreseeable future, consumers are being mindful about their spending and trading down to less expensive products, so not only is there a shift in onsite behaviour, but purchase habits have shifted too: more household goods and the ‘new essentials’ being bought, but perhaps less luxury spending. Ecommerce is on the rise, but there may be caution around individual spending, for the time being at least.

Conclusion

The responses to the surveys show how customer behaviour and expectation has evolved. It’s important online retailers make sure their websites meet these needs and expectations to maximise the chance of conversions. It serves as a reminder that constant review of performance and consumer trends is important to ensure websites are always best serving their customers (and by extension, themselves) to make it as easy as possible to purchase.

If your online store needs a performance audit, review or amends, or if you’re looking for a complete overhaul to improve conversion, get in touch. We can improve your site to make it more likely your visitors will convert to customers.

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