I’m going to start this post with a little story. It’s not quite James Joyce but will give some imagery to carry through the message of this post!
I recently was out for a run, along my run it started to rain, no surprises, there but this was not the average spit it was torrential pelting rain, I needed to stand in somewhere, I found myself in the doorway of a gift shop. As I was standing there huffing and puffing a customer from inside came out to doorway before hurrying back inside to wait for the rain to pass, at the moment I felt the heat and gentle music from the cozy shop waft out into the doorway. Ping. No harm looking inside while I’m waiting I suppose. In I went and spent a lot longer than the shower of rain, inside this gift shop. I exited the gift-shop with new picture frame for the photograph I received from a friend in the post that morning.
Now lets reflect on what happened there, if that had been a market stall selling the exact same picture frame would I have purchased it? The likelihood is no. The friend who sent the photograph was not on my mind at that particular time, I had the best intentions of continuing on my run without any burdensome bag. But that picture frame was contained within a shop which offered me a lot prior to purchase. It offered me heat, nice lighting, friendly faces, pleasant music and nice scent. This is off-line consumerism 101. And although I consider myself immune to any sort of commercial manipulation, it works. We’ll come back to this later.
OFFLINE CONSUMER/ONLINE CONSUMER
As a business we know how invaluable insight into our consumers behavior and psychology is. At the moment consumer behavior is going through something of a revolution, which is the direct a result of the web and e-commerce. It is pivotal brands stay aware of the behavioral and psychological changes your consumer undergoes as they cross over from off-line to on-line.
So let’s break this down to the bottom level, why would someone shop offline vs online in the first place and vice/versa.
Offline consumers have first hand contact with the product or service they are deliberating on, they can see it, feel it hear it etc. Not only this but they have person to person contact. This is critical. Person to person contact can make or break the completion of a purchase or reputation of a service. These are the two primary reasons people make decisions off-line, they are hugely important and not to be forgotten. Purchasing decisions are cited to actually be 80% emotion and 20% logic, the tactile nature of off-line shopping bears well with this ratio.
However this tactile in person experience is being negated by the convenience, time Saving and value comparison tools that the internet offers. These may not sound like the biggest emotional triggers in the world but when a consumer feels like they are being time and value efficient this affords them a great feeling of satisfaction that lasts longer than giving into impulsive desires of off-line shopping.
These are the initial psychological considerations pushing online shopping ahead of off-line shopping. Convenience, Time Saving and Value comparison. So on a basic level, these three qualities are basic attributes that your website must have:
Do a quick review of your C.T.V.
Is your website searchable, how is it’s S.E.O.? (i.e. where does in rank in a google search) Does your website have a presence on social media? How easily can people come across it? Online consumers value convenience over off-line consumers, on the flip side they have hundreds of thousand of web pages, posts and profiles to click through and choose from, make yours the convenient option by having good S.E.O. and a strong social media presence.
Online consumers save travel time by shopping online, don’t punish them for this with a slow loading website with poor navigation. If it’s a product purchase site do not make the payment process slower than Christmas day. Things need to move quickly and efficiently for the online consumer.
Online consumers are cost savvy and they will look for the best value by comparing your products/services/ to similar. This however does not mean you need to enter into cost-dropping wars with competitors. Know the value of your wares and maintain it, become competitive by adding value to the customer experience rather than dropping costs. Also be aware many online consumers are actually doing research before the purchase a product or service offline. High-light in-store offers, free consultations and any off-line experience that may lead the consumer to you rather than competitors.
By being constantly aware of these basic premises of on-line shopping, you should reach the stage where your website is serving a purpose rather than acting as token. But how do you push your website into flourish?
Let’s think back to the giftshop story, Imagine your website as the vendor containing the picture frame. Are you a seductive cozy shop or a market stall? Are you offering consumers anything more than a low price and convenience? How do you move your website from market stall to cozy shop?
Simply, offer consumers more.
More than your wares and sales pitches. A true online business knows its consumers need to Enjoy coming to it’s page, they want to be entertained informed, engaged with and probably most key they want to identify with you. This comes down to branding, creative content, tips, tutorials, free advice, an active customer service avenue and social engagement.
Let’s reference another off-line consumer experience, I go into a hairdresses for a haircut — a truly offline service, while my hair is being cut the hairdresser asks me have I any plans for the weekend, advices me not to get high-lights, offers me magazines and a cup of coffee. All these are the intangibles of the service, I did not tick boxes saying I would like them included but if they weren’t there I would have valued the service a lot less and would not have returned to this hairdresser, as although not stated these intangible are expected are parts of the package.
On the web it is even more vital you offer your audience an exceptional experience, what with all that time they’ve saved by just moving from the couch to the desktop and you’re amazing paypal system in place, they’ll simply click on a few more, 5,6,15 similar pages to yours and see which keeps them there longest. They generally don’t have to commit to a purchase they can “save for later” and if your website isn’t engaging enough most of the time later wont happen. Everyone needs to start thinking of their web presence in these terms. How will I make my audience keep returning to my page? Once you put time into figuring this out the payback will be worth it.