The reason why customers aren’t buying what you’re selling

By Chris Tauber

January 22, 2015

Why won’t customers behave? You spent months and months on that website redesign. It’s true to your brand identity; your products look terrific on it, and any customer can easily navigate your entire catalog. But they’re not buying it. Literally. Your new website isn’t selling any better than your old website.

While this can be a common problem across industries, it may affect retailers most. That’s because it’s easy to think of your website as an online storefront. You build a store, fill it with your products and bring in customers. But the “storefront strategy” as an ecommerce plan is dead. For customers, it’s too much work; they have to search for their perfect product in your store.

The key to selling online is consumer behavior. For customers, this means “no work”; the perfect products should magically appear. Fortunately, you can graduate to the new “behavior strategy” in three steps. Insightful data, effective tools and data-driven decisions are essential; not just a cool website redesign. Here’s what you have to do to start selling more:

1) How do customers see your website?

Ironically, if you’re working on your website for hours a day, you’re the absolute worst person to evaluate the site. Potential customers are flitting through it for a few seconds, if at all. So when you look at the home page, for example, you’re seeing everything – all the elements have equal weight and you know where all the links go. However, a customer is zipping through the site, paying attention to only a few elements and ignoring the majority of the home page.

We use the visual technique below at Data for Decks based on click-throughs to show what matters most to customers. This example indicates that customers may be frustrated with this home page. Aside from that popular boot, customers are working too hard to search for the right product.

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2) How are customers buying your products?

Beyond the home page, don’t worry about every conceivable user flow through your website. The Users Flow chart in Google Analytics can melt your brain. Worry instead about the one most common path to your products. What’s your top traffic source? Top entry page? Top commerce page? Then see how the customers flow through this particular path. Look at what percentage of your traffic this represents and the metrics along the way, such as exit rate and time on page. Think about what this common path tells you about customer behavior.

Your #1 customer flow likely looks like the example below: a customer’s search leads them to your home page and then on to your catalog. But if you have a hugely popular product that everyone is searching for, why not skip the home page? Get customers from the search result to your shopping cart as quickly as possible.

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3) Which customer behaviors should you target?

Here’s where the real fun starts. Now that you’re seeing your website through your customers’ eyes, how can you optimize that flow for them? If new customers are coming from search, test sending them to your home page versus showing them a landing page of the most-searched-for products. Try displaying less-popular product options to customers only after they’ve been on the site for a certain amount of time. Dig even deeper into their behaviors; maybe overnight orders spike on Thursday afternoons, so offer special shipping deals at those times. Monitor the range of KPIs, not just conversion rate and average order value, but time on site, bounce rate, clicks on specific calls-to-action. Test, learn and repeat; dovetail your efforts closer and closer to customer behaviors.

As you go through these steps, what’s essential is that your online storefront is no longer the core of your strategy. Instead, focus on customer behavior. Target that behavior to surround each customer with the right products. Instead of having them do all the work, you’ll be doing the work for them. All they have to do is behave.

Cart Illustration courtesy of Shutterstock.

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