The Anatomy of an Online Purchase

By ​Rob Falcone

March 5, 2013

I’m pretty sure the last time I bought jeans for only $20, I was in middle school, my mom was paying, and they had to be worn with one of these.  Yes, it’s been a while, so I was cautiously jubilant when I came across recently. Cool clothes for only a Jackson? Could it be?

The most effective online marketers are operating at a level substantially more strategic than simply trying to drive purchases in the short term. They are looking to build lifetime relationships based on elegant customer experiences across all touchpoints. I decided to chronicle this process as I experienced it with 20Jeans. In each step, you’ll see an incrementally narrowing definition of “me” as defined by historical and real-time data, followed by suggestions for how marketers can take action by leveraging that data to add value to my shopping experience.

Off-Site Messaging

20Jeans_Facebook ad Everyone has seen “buy our cheap stuff!” messaging before; what hooked me in this particular Facebook Ad’s case was not the price point, but the word “addiction.” This was clearly not your average “cheap stuff” retailer, but a website that could become a part of my clothes-buying routine. You’ve caught my eye, purple cow.

Know Me: A young professional guy in his 20s browsing Facebook.

Take Action: Know your brand, what type of customer you’re looking to attract, and craft compelling messaging that resonates.

On-Site Messaging

Would there be a bait and switch? In this case, no. 20Jeans clearly reiterated the messaging I saw off-site—it sells cool clothes for $20 or less that I would actually wear. Touché 20Jeans, I will now explore you more.

20Jeans_landing page

Know Me: A young professional guy in his 20s, who is a first-time visitor, on his first page, who arrived via a specific Facebook ad.

Take Action: This step is key! You are spending money to drive visitors to your site via various channels; don’t confuse them by forgetting to clearly reaffirm the promise you made to them off-site. If they saw a certain promotion, restate it, and be sure to link to relevant products or categories.

Third-Party Validation

It is important to clearly understand the psychographics of your customer when crafting your on-site experience. For example, in 20Jeans’ case: My dad buys $20 jeans; I do not want to dress like my dad.

Know Me: A young professional guy in his 20s, who is a first-time visitor, on his first page, who arrived via a specific Facebook ad.

Take Action: 20Jeans prominently calls out the fact that it’s been featured in Maxim, AskMen, and Thrillist—third parties that I know curate content for guys in my age group and socioeconomic status. This goes a long way in encouraging me to continue browsing. Are there third parties your ideal customer trusts? For new visitors—or repeat visitors who have never purchased—consider ways to call out that your brand is popular and trusted among “people like you.”

Social Loop

20Jeans’ social connect buttons are clearly displayed, but not intrusive. During my first visit, I liked the retailer’s Facebook page, and within minutes a friend commented saying that they loved the website and had already purchased. This social validation was key to keeping me engaged, further evaluating the brand and its products.

20Jeans_Facebook OfferThe next day, I received a Facebook offer from 20Jeans within my news feed: A free tie with any purchase made within the next two weeks. With this timely effort, 20Jeans retook mindshare, utilized a promotion that did not devalue its brand, created a compelling event, and drove me back into the shopping funnel.

Know Me: A returning visitor, who is coming back due to a compelling offer.

Take Action: Online consumer-brand relationships are no longer simple, linear transactions (discover/consider/convert). While social media can absolutely play a role in a customer’s purchasing decision, it can also be a distraction. Leverage social as a way to continue a conversation off-site. When consumers are on-site, use the available data to know where they are in the funnel, what role social has already played, and then determine whether to be more or less overt with social callouts.

Sell "Life After Conversion"

A trend I’ve heard about from a few retailers in the fashion space centers around bringing a product to life. When shopping, a website visitor is no doubt considering “who am I, what am I shopping for, and how would it look on me.” While some retailers have begun to help answer these questions by deploying user-generated content—actual customers wearing said products—20Jeans offers a “Shop by Look” section. The site clearly serves multiple, perhaps drastically different personas; for example, fashionable college guy versus young professional working in a business casual office setting.

Know Me: A returning visitor, who has browsed a specific product set over a time interval but has yet to purchase.

Take Action: Marketers in every vertical need to clearly portray the vision of “life after conversion”—how much fun will be had in the hotel I just booked, the financial freedom I’ll have thanks to the credit card I just applied for, or how great I’ll look in the shirt I just purchased.

With the knowledge that I have spent considerable time browsing oxford shirts and ties but have NOT purchased, 20Jeans could move its “professional” looks to the forefront of my experience, helping me to envision the look they know I am trying to portray, and more prominently calling out sizing details (providing useful functionality at a key stage). Likewise, for those visitors who have already purchased and are comfortable with 20Jeans’ sizing, the retailer could utilize the same real estate in a different, more relevant way.

Cross-Device Functionality

Customers routinely use different devices to accomplish various tasks over multiple days within the buying process. Do not miss out on a key point in the consideration stage by deploying a site experience that is NOT optimized for tablet.

Know Me: A returning visitor, using a tablet, and who has browsed specific products over a time interval but has yet to purchase.

Take Action: For tablet users, 20Jeans enabled click-to-hover functionality that mimicked the experience I encountered on its desktop website, making it extremely easy for me to continue my leisurely browsing. Without this consistency, I likely would have left the site, assuming that I would pick up at another time on my laptop… and probably would have forgotten. In that case, how many more resources would 20Jeans have needed to re-engage me?

Post Conversion

I finally converted on via my laptop, one week after my initial visit. The next step for the retailer in our relationship will be offline, as I wait for it to quickly deliver items that match my expectation, with no issue. When I return to the site, ostensibly thrilled with my first purchase, how might it build on what was, overall, a very good user experience during my first go-around?

20Jeans now has A LOT of data about me. But the elements influential to me as a first-time customer will now play a diminished role in my second purchase. How can the retailer add value to my next shopping experience based on its knowledge that I am a returning visitor who browsed the “Shop By Look” section heavily, and ended up purchasing an oxford shirt and tie?

Furthermore, Can it replicate that relevant customer experience based on data across five different audience segments? What about 25? Or 50? This is where the challenge of online personalization lies—taking what you understand about your vast customer base and developing a scalable way to address each visitor as if you truly know them personally.

The data needed to make this happen is plentiful. How will you use it?

Rob Falcone is the former Director of Solutions Engineering at Monetate, where he helped brands such as Brooks Brothers, Famous Footwear and others accelerate digital revenue growth through personalization. Prior to joining Monetate, Rob co-founded an award winning social media startup that was selected for funding by DreamIt Ventures, one of the world's top 15 startup accelerators. A Philadelphian born and raised, Rob is a diehard Phillies baseball and Drexel basketball fan.

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