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How shopper behavior should inform your ecommerce strategy

Jessica Farelly
By Jessica Farrelly

Online shopper behavior has changed drastically in the past year. Pandemic shutdowns led many consumers to try ecommerce for the first time, while seasoned online shoppers experimented with new brands and changed their existing habits. 

According to a report by McKinsey, the shift to online shopping is here to stay. “The crisis has prompted a surge of new activities, with an astonishing 75 percent of U.S. consumers trying a new shopping behavior in response to economic pressures, store closings, and changing priorities.”

Ecommerce has been around for over 20 years – long before the pandemic – and has slowly progressed as the go-to option for shoppers. Understanding shopper behavior will help any brand grow, but using shopper behavior to inform your ecommerce strategy will be a sure-fire way to beat the competition.

Shopper behavior you can track

Shopper behavior is about the “how” just as much as the “who”. Ideal customer profiles are extremely important, but when speaking about shopper behavior, we’re looking at how those customers are interacting with your brand, your online store, your products, your social media, etc. This is an important distinction to take note of.

There’s ample shopper behavior data that you can collect on your ideal customers, you just need to know where to look.

To start, you can collect past visitor actions on your website, from page visits and the customer journey, to repeat buying patterns and social media sharing.  

Digging deeper, you can review your analytics to establish CLV (customer lifetime value), AOV (average order value), abandoned cart rates, email opens, email clickthroughs, types of questions they ask customer service, and so on.

Then, there’s the data and personal details that customers are willing to share with you directly. The Accenture 2018 Pulse Check report shows that 91% of shoppers are more likely to buy from companies that recognize/remember them and come up with relevant offers and personalized recommendations. The report also shows that 83% of shoppers are prepared to share their data in order to receive a more personalized shopping experience.

Monitor and respond to shopper behavior

With certain behaviors, you can easily monitor and respond in (virtually) real time. If you know which questions customer service always receives, you can easily address those on your site’s homepage, FAQ section, or add the information to a product description page. Or, if customers are abandoning their carts after they are informed of the shipping charges, you can adjust your policy or display fees more prominently so there are no surprises.  

Your site search reports are another valuable insight into shopper behavior and preferences. For example, if you know that “black” is the most searched color, you can prioritize inventory in that color and consider displaying black products above other colors on category and search result pages.  

Insights to shape your ecommerce strategy in 2021

ecommerce report

Adjust your merchandising strategies

Gathering and using shopper behavior to develop your merchandising strategies should be a priority. As mentioned above, your search reports can inform how you choose to display products across your site, but you can also employ automated rules to produce the same effect with less manual effort. 

Does your site get a lot of frequent, repeat visitors? If so, it’s probably a good idea to dynamically boost new arrivals so your customers consistently see fresh results. Or, if you tend to attract a lot of new, one-off site visitors who may be unfamiliar with your brand, consider boosting your best sellers instead, so they can quickly spot the products they’re most likely to buy. Merchandising rules learn from these shopper behaviors and preferences, while giving you the ability to control what happens next.  

Using shopper behavior to adjust your strategies can also go deeper than that. It can shed light on which promotions are most successful, why customers abandon carts, which ads work and which don’t, and much more. It can also influence the personalization and recommendations functions of your ecommerce site to ensure each individual shopper receives suggestions that are relevant to them.

Conduct shopper behavior analysis

Shopper behavior data is invaluable to any ecommerce business, and should be used to your advantage when iterating on existing strategies. Having a robust reporting system on shopper behavior can help your team understand and improve your merchandising and overall shopping experience. 

David Nolen, vice president, category management, Hershey, explains it best, “By understanding what motivates customers, and using that complex information to devise a simple shopper value equation, we are able to better understand shoppers, and that in turn makes shoppers feel understood. When that happens, we all come out ahead.”