16-36-year-olds shop with intent

Shopping with intent

When shopping online, UK millennials often have a clear idea of what they want, with strong intent to make a purchase. It’s telling that the most universal perception of what makes a positive ecommerce experience (as voted for by 44% of millennials) is where the shopper knows what they want and are able to ‘find it quickly and easily’.

Amazon’s success as a transactional site that caters to those shopping with strong intent to buy is reflected in the low-inspiration, low-to-medium-value commodity items that make up the Amazon product categories millennials shop from; the most frequently-shopped categories are digital entertainment (shopped from ‘on a regular basis’ by 41% of millennials) and physical entertainment (51%). With Amazon designed to facilitate product search and discovery, rather than brand discovery, it’s easy for millennials to search and find the ebook or movie they’re looking for.

But providing a frictionless shopping experience for those shopping with strong intent is where many retailers are falling short of expectations. The number-one reason (28%) provided for what makes a negative ecommerce is where the experience isn’t ‘enjoyable’ – for example, where a site is slow, had errors, or is hard to navigate. The issue of slow, error-riddled websites crops up again with nearly a third of the vote (28%) when millennials are asked to select the most common ecommerce problem they encounter.

What is the most common problem you encounter when shopping online?

  • Lack of product information and / or reviews 40%
  • The website is too slow or has errors 28%
  • It’s hard to navigate the site and find what I’m looking for 18%
  • The online checkout is frustrating to use 14%
Using evaluation to identify improvements

With nearly 1 in 5 (19%) millennials saying that the key characteristic of bad ecommerce experiences is knowing what they want but struggling to find it, all retail brands, even luxury retailers and those selling high-inspiration products, need to cater to millennials shopping with intent, i.e. those who have a good idea of what they want to buy as they land on your site.

Which of the below best describes a bad online shopping experience?

  • The overall experience of using the site isn’t enjoyable e.g. it’s slow, has errors, is hard to navigate 28%
  • The site doesn’t give me confidence 20%
  • When I know what I want but it’s difficult to find it 19%
  • When I don’t know exactly what I want and the site isn’t able to help me make a decision 12%
  • The registration / purchase experience is complicated and slow 12%
  • The site is purely transactional and fails to inspire or engage me 9%

Making these journeys frictionless means nailing site performance and navigation, and eliminating errors. When it comes to developing and improving a website or app, digital teams often want to invest in new features rather than investing time in understanding where existing features of the website can be improved.

These neglected areas are often older, core components of the site, built when it was first launched, such as checkout funnels and registration processes. Neglecting these areas can result in needless friction for your customers at critical moments in their purchase journey. So how can retailers identify where to reduce friction for consumers shopping with strong intent to purchase?

Heuristic evaluation is one method that aims to find usability problems by giving a small group of evaluators the task of examining a website or other digital product and judge its performance. It does so using a set of recognised usability principles such as: ‘systems should speak the user’s language’, ‘the user shouldn’t have to remember information across journeys’, ‘errors should be prevented rather than just captured’, and so on.

The evaluation group is focused on a specific goal or user journey the retailer wants to assess, ensuring that the problems and improvement opportunities surfaced relate to the same area of the website or digital product. These improvement experiments are then prioritised based on their ability to drive value back to the business.

It’s a testing strategy that’s fast, easy, and helps ensure you don’t lose sight of the basics when it comes to delivering seamless journeys for your customers. Other methods of evaluation, such as usability testing, A/B testing, and multivariate testing (MVT), are also key to creating fast, pain-free journeys.

Providing information that aids purchase

A staggering 93% of millennials are very likely (56%) or likely (37%) to read product reviews before making an online purchase. But retailers are clearly failing in this area, with a ‘lack of product information and / or reviews’ representing the top problem (39%) millennials face on ecommerce sites.

Even for millennials arriving on a website with strong intent to buy, that website’s ability to instill trust and confidence is key to conversion; after all, the ‘amount of product information and / or product reviews’ is what makes millennials trust an online retailer the most (52%).

What makes you trust an online retailer most?

  • The amount of product information and / or product reviews on their site 52%
  • Reputation and what my peers or social network say about the retailer 51%
  • The look and feel of their website 33%
  • When they’re clear about how they use my data 30%

Despite the prevalence of fake reviews on Amazon, with almost 10% of Amazon reviews having ‘unnatural characteristics’, half of all shoppers say they rely primarily on Amazon for reviews, according to one ecommerce analysis firm. So, for some retail brands, it’s worth having a presence on Amazon if only to build up valuable reviews.

But millennials are savvy shoppers, and if they come to distrust Amazon reviews, this could force the ecommerce giant to make significant changes to its marketplace. Regardless of what happens with Amazon, there’s a great opportunity here to reward customers for post-purchase behaviours such as sharing a review and promoting it on social media. Brands also need to produce rich content that helps drive the user to purchase, whether it’s product guides, or third-party and media endorsements, and they need to closely align their content and commerce strategies.

The millennial generation is more likely to listen to and connect with people like them rather than celebrities; over 60% of people aged 18-24 would try a product suggested by a YouTuber, and 69% of millennials have admitted to experiencing FOMO (fear of missing out). What’s more, the majority of millennials (51%) cite brand reputation, and what their friends and peers using social networks say about a retailer, as the main factor in what makes them trust the brand.

This is another reason why it’s critical for retailers to leverage the power of peer reviews and social media to garner honest feedback about the product and online service, and to use that insight to continually refine the shopping experience. If a retailer is going to invest in a review tool, it needs to ensure its customer base is able to understand who the people behind the reviews are, or to use respected social influencers to review product.

In addition to fake reviews, we know that Amazon has a significant counterfeits and illegal goods problem. The second-most-popular reason to avoid shopping with Amazon is millennials’ concerns around the authenticity of Amazon’s products, with 15% saying that the fear of ‘being sold a product that isn’t authentic’ is the main reason they stay away.

Some retailers opt to have a presence on Amazon to try and capture some of these sales, and others have publicly locked horns with Amazon; footwear brand Birkenstock, for example, has stopped deliveries to Amazon in the US and Europe, describing the Amazon counterfeits issue as ‘modern-day piracy’.

What’s clear is that the sale of unauthorised items can hurt retailers’ sales, along with their reputation for quality products. But there’s a clear opportunity for retailers to talk to the quality of their offering and the unique attributes of their products.

In Amazon’s quest to be the low-cost provider of everything on the planet, the website has morphed into the world’s largest flea market — a chaotic, somewhat lawless, bazaar with unlimited inventory’.

– Ari Levy, CNBC