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May 27, 2008

New Chart: Shoppers Choose Different Routes to Purchase Your Products & Search for Information

SUMMARY: You need to think like your customers if you want to retain them. New research data can help you keep bringing traffic back to your site.

Different search options for different visitors with differing purchase priorities are the answer. More navigation options can help you hang onto your customers. Our latest chart, an eyetracking heatmap, tells you where shoppers’ eyes actually look.
View Chart Online
Click here to see larger, printable version of this chart

Marketers pay so much attention to the end of the purchasing funnel -- shopping cart and registration pages -- that many overlook another important aspect of the purchasing process. All page visitors are unique, and they prefer to find products or information in more than one way.

The proof of this omission shows up on this heatmap of’s category page. Notice that the hot spots show consumers’ attention as widely dispersed. With 11 ways to search this site, visitors don’t have a clear preference. Understanding these differences can help you optimize site design and tailor content to the shopper -- actions that ultimately raise conversion rates.

The most basic division is between internal search and menu-based navigation. In previous studies, we found a 50-50 split in how shoppers prefer to search. Their methods depend somewhat on the type of products a site offers. High-consideration items, such as clothes, drive higher menu-based navigation. Consumers who shop for known products, such as office supplies, mostly use internal search.

First-rate sites for audiences that prefer navigation offer different ‘lenses’ with which to see merchandise. Price, brand and best sellers are the three most common options, but creative marketers don’t stop there.

The page illustrates that visitors can choose a suitable style using large images. These images instantly convey the tiny style-defining details that influence the consumer in a way that words cannot. Using variations on the ‘style’ theme can be powerful. In a study of laptop category pages, a minority of shoppers preferred the ‘Shop by Lifestyle’ menu, but their inclination to go with this search choice was very strong.

The key takeaway is that a well-designed site reflects visitor behavior. It offers a robust set of merchandise definitions and multiple choices for finding products. The Internet allows merchants to aggregate thousands of products with relative ease. Therefore, sellers must design navigational choices to assist the shopping experience.

Don’t overlook differentiation as well. Most ecommerce merchants complain about customer disloyalty fueled by product commoditization and the search bar. Sellers can establish relationships with their audiences by creating comprehensive, creative and intuitive site navigation. You need to think like consumers so you don’t frustrate and disappoint them.

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