E-Commerce User ExperienceVol. 1: General User Behavior andExecutive Summary for the SeriesResearch findings based on eyet...
This page is left blank for reports that will be printed double sided2           INFO@NNGROUP.COM                         ...
Table of Contents  Executive Summary ........................................................................................
Building Loyalty ............................................................................................................
Performance and Errors ......................................................................................................
Executive Summary    (Yes, this is a summary of the summary. Considering that the full E-Commerce User    Experience repor...
OLD STUDY FINDINGS STAND  The first edition of this report series was based on lab-based usability testing of 20  websites...
Other tasks were broader and assessed the degree to which the site could inspire    users who don’t have a particular need...
The key downside of e-commerce is that one cannot touch, feel, see, taste, or smell  the offerings. Nor do customers benef...
Summary of Research Studies and the E-Commerce Report Series E-COMMERCE REPORT SERIES This report is one of 13 reports abo...
Study One  The first research study was conducted in 2000. They conducted usability tests of 20  business-to-consumer e-co...
More than 100 sites were included in the user testing component of the study. Sites selected for testing included sites bi...
Whats Most Important  BACK TO BASICS  We ran our original ecommerce studies in 2000, when e-commerce was relatively  new. ...
Pros and Cons of Online Shopping WHY SHOP ONLINE Users’ key reasons for shopping online were:     •   Access to products a...
Many users’ favorable comments about online stores were about pricing. One user  said of oddballshoe.com: “The prices are ...
Many users preferred finding their own answers on websites, rather than having to contact the company. One of the benefits...
Users can always pick up the phone and call someone for input. Its also a good idea  to let shoppers email products to the...
Willingness to Shop Online WHAT PEOPLE WILL AND WON’T BUY ONLINE Users were most comfortable buying a known product, such ...
The level of zoom available on Bluefly.com let users see product details, zooming in   to the level of being able to see t...
E-Counters offered low cost samples of countertop materials. Expensive Items Some users were hesitant to buy expensive ite...
Blue Nile offered a customer service phone number in the upper right corner of the   page as well as below product informa...
Godivas website included information about climate control packaging and     reassured users the items would “arrive in pe...
User Hesitations about Buying Online  Product Type            Solutions  Tactile:                          Quality and var...
Designing for Different Types of Shoppers REASONS FOR E-COMMERCE VISITS We started our research with a notebook study, whe...
The chart above shows the 10 diary study participants stated reasons for visiting e-   commerce sites during the 6-week st...
While a good site experience is crucial to all types of shoppers, different elements of the shopping experience take on mo...
A user was happy when FYE.com carried an item she had trouble finding elsewhere.   The site allowed her to quickly search ...
It may seem counter-intuitive, but having browsers on your site is a good thing. These are people who are choosing to spen...
Sasa.com highlighted new products and bestsellers on the homepage.  Another opportunity here is word-of-mouth marketing. L...
Keys for success for browsers are:        •     Highlighting new or popular products, or items on sale        •     Leadin...
Circuit Citys site provided well-structured layers of product information. The page   started with key features, then had ...
Keys for success for researchers are:         •     Providing clear and detailed product descriptions         •     Offeri...
One user said, “They often offer $10 coupons that make the prices even better.”  Another said, “I just went back because t...
Many shoppers tried to take advantage of free shipping offers. One of users complaints about shopping online is paying an ...
One-time shoppers didnt want to have to register for sites in order to checkout.   Office Depots site allowed users to che...
How Users Shop IN-STORE AND ONLINE, RATHER THAN IN-STORE OR ONLINE Shoppers didnt distinguish between online shopping and ...
Other users blurred the lines between online and in-store shopping with in-store  pickup of items ordered online or shippi...
LOCAL DIFFERENCES: PATIENCE AND PRIORITIES While our study was not large enough to declare regional or international diffe...
These differences led to some guidelines in the report series, as well as some  detailed examples within the guidelines. W...
DECIDING WHERE TO PURCHASE Our study focused mainly on tasks where we asked users to visit specified e- commerce sites. We...
Users visted an average of 3.2 unique sites while completing open-ended tasks. The  lowest number of sites was 1 and the h...
Users started open ended tasks by typing the URL of a known site 54% of the time     (28), and with a search engine 46% of...
Of the 28 users who went directly to a site when completing open-ended tasks   (rather than to a search engine first), 53%...
Of the 24 users who started the open-ended task by going to a search engine, 35%     (8) completed the task on the first s...
Key Findings  The full E-Commerce Report Series includes more than 500 guidelines about making  your e-commerce site easie...
A user wasnt sure where to go to find blenders on Cooking.com. She wanted to see     a category called Blenders, but only ...
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  1. 1. E-Commerce User ExperienceVol. 1: General User Behavior andExecutive Summary for the SeriesResearch findings based on eyetracking, user testing, and diary studies2nd EditionBy: Amy Schade and Jakob Nielsen 48105 WARM SPRINGS BLVD., FREMONT CA 94539—7498 WWW.NNGROUP.COM USA Copyright © Nielsen Norman Group, All Rights Reserved. To buy a copy, download from: http://www.NNgroup.com/reports/ecommerce/
  2. 2. This page is left blank for reports that will be printed double sided2 INFO@NNGROUP.COM Executive Summary
  3. 3. Table of Contents Executive Summary ....................................................................................... 6 Summary of Research Studies and the E-Commerce Report Series ............. 10 E-Commerce Report Series ........................................................................................................ 10 Research Studies ...................................................................................................................... 10 Study One............................................................................................................................ 11 Study Two ............................................................................................................................ 11 About the Second Edition .......................................................................................................... 12 Whats Most Important ............................................................................... 13 Back to Basics .......................................................................................................................... 13 Whats Improved ...................................................................................................................... 13 In this Report........................................................................................................................... 13 Pros and Cons of Online Shopping ............................................................... 14 Why Shop Online ...................................................................................................................... 14 Access and Selection ............................................................................................................. 14 Price 14 Convenience......................................................................................................................... 15 Whats Missing Online ............................................................................................................... 16 Shopping Is Social ................................................................................................................ 16 Delayed Gratification and Additional Cost ................................................................................. 17 Willingness to Shop Online .......................................................................... 18 What People Will and Wont Buy Online ....................................................................................... 18 Tactile Products .................................................................................................................... 18 Expensive Items ................................................................................................................... 20 Perishable Items ................................................................................................................... 21 Designing for Different Types of Shoppers .................................................. 24 Reasons for E-commerce Visits................................................................................................... 24 Supporting All Types of Shoppers ............................................................................................... 25 Product-focused .................................................................................................................... 26 Browsing.............................................................................................................................. 27 Researching ......................................................................................................................... 30 Bargain-Hunting ................................................................................................................... 32 One-Time Shoppers ............................................................................................................... 34 How Users Shop .......................................................................................... 36 In-Store And Online, Rather than In-Store Or Online..................................................................... 36 Shipping: Delayed Gratification and Additional Cost ...................................................................... 37 Local Differences: Patience and Priorities ..................................................................................... 38© NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW.NNGROUP.COM 3
  4. 4. Building Loyalty ........................................................................................................................ 39 Deciding Where to Purchase ...................................................................................................... 40 Key Findings ................................................................................................ 45 Homepages and Category Pages ................................................................................................. 45 A Welcoming Homepage ........................................................................................................ 45 A Clear Structure .................................................................................................................. 45 Cross-Referencing ................................................................................................................. 46 Featured or Full Inventory? .................................................................................................... 46 Providing Product Information ................................................................................................ 47 Product Comparisons ............................................................................................................. 47 Sorting through Options......................................................................................................... 47 Product Pages .......................................................................................................................... 48 Full Product Details ............................................................................................................... 48 Consistency between Products ................................................................................................ 51 The Value of Reviews ............................................................................................................. 51 Adding Items to the Cart........................................................................................................ 53 Shopping Cart, Checkout and Registration ................................................................................... 54 Shopping Cart as Dressing Room ............................................................................................ 54 A Clear Path through Checkout ............................................................................................... 54 Optional Registration ............................................................................................................. 55 Money Matters ...................................................................................................................... 56 Shipping Options .................................................................................................................. 56 Search (including Faceted Search) .............................................................................................. 57 Search Behavior ................................................................................................................... 57 Search as Feedback............................................................................................................... 58 Scoped Search...................................................................................................................... 58 Narrowing the Choices: Faceted Search ................................................................................... 58 Customer Service ..................................................................................................................... 60 Easy to Find ......................................................................................................................... 60 A Good Site Experience.......................................................................................................... 60 Getting in Touch ................................................................................................................... 60 Clear, and Customer Friendly, Policies ...................................................................................... 60 Selling Strategies ..................................................................................................................... 61 Clear Pricing ......................................................................................................................... 61 When Will It Arrive ................................................................................................................ 62 Free Shipping ....................................................................................................................... 62 Welcome Back ...................................................................................................................... 62 You Might Also Like... ............................................................................................................ 62 Trust and Credibility .................................................................................................................. 63 Appearance is Everything ....................................................................................................... 63 Privacy and Security .............................................................................................................. 634 INFO@NNGROUP.COM Executive Summary
  5. 5. Performance and Errors ......................................................................................................... 63 Availability ........................................................................................................................... 65 International Users ................................................................................................................... 66 Forms and Data .................................................................................................................... 66 No Local Support .................................................................................................................. 66 International Usability Testing................................................................................................. 66 Success Rates, Task Failures and Task Times .............................................. 67 Success by Type of Task ............................................................................................................ 67 Specific Product .................................................................................................................... 68 Customer Service.................................................................................................................. 69 Criteria Tasks ....................................................................................................................... 69 Purchase Tasks ..................................................................................................................... 70 Known Sites ......................................................................................................................... 71 Open-ended Tasks................................................................................................................. 72 What Went Wrong .................................................................................................................... 73 About the Authors ....................................................................................... 75 Acknowledgments ....................................................................................... 76© NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW.NNGROUP.COM 5
  6. 6. Executive Summary (Yes, this is a summary of the summary. Considering that the full E-Commerce User Experience report series clocks in at 2,140 pages with 1,715 screenshots, the more summaries the merrier :-) To give away the bottom line, the number of usability guidelines for e-commerce sites has increased from 207 in the first edition of this report to 874 in the current edition. Using this rough metric, we now know 4.2 times as much about e-commerce user experience as we did during the dot-com bubble. USABILITY METRICS SHOW NICE IMPROVEMENTS In our first e-commerce studies, in 2000, we recorded a success rate of 56% across 496 task attempts on the e-commerce sites of the day. In our new research, we observed 507 e-commerce task attempts and measured a success rate of 72%. In other words, during the dot-com bubble, user failed almost half the time when they tried to shop on e-commerce sites. No wonder the bubble burst, with sites that bad. Now, users fail slightly more than a quarter of the time. Sites are still leaving plenty of money on the table, but not as much. Today, our main reason to recommend usability improvements for e-commerce sites is really the competitive pressure from other sites that keep getting better. Yes, there’s also an argument for improving design purely to reduce user failures, but this is not as critical as it was in the past. Today’s consumers are not satisfied with sites that simply make it possible to shop. The experience must also be pleasant, so we should look beyond success rates, much as the ability to complete tasks remains the first line of requirements. Search remains a sore point, even though it has improved somewhat. In our first study, users succeeded in their first search attempt on an e-commerce site 51% of the time. In the new study, users’ first within-site query was successful 64% of the time. Users’ expectations for search quality are far beyond what’s actually delivered by today’s websites. As with most other aspects of web usability, user expectations are set by their aggregated user experience 1 from around the web. In the case of search, this mainly means Google and the other major search engines. While not perfect, these sites do work pretty well. When users search an e-commerce site and don’t find what they want, they often assume that the site doesn’t have the desired product. Users have poor search skills and will leave more often than they will figure out how to reformulate their queries. 1 As Jakob’s Law of the Internet User Experience states: users spend the majority of their time on other sites than yours.6 INFO@NNGROUP.COM Executive Summary
  7. 7. OLD STUDY FINDINGS STAND The first edition of this report series was based on lab-based usability testing of 20 websites across 7 product categories: clothing, department stores, entertainment, flowers, food, furniture, and toys. Testing was conducted in 2 countries: the US and Denmark. This was a relatively limited amount of research, though more than anybody else had done in 2000. Of the 207 early design guidelines, 206 were confirmed in our recent — much more elaborate — research. One guideline has been retracted: to offer a special welcome page for new shoppers. Today, it’s relatively safe to assume that by the time a user arrives at your site, that person has already shopped at several other sites. E-commerce is no longer new, and users no longer need to be told what it is. As long as the site is easy to use, people will use it. The fact that 99.5% of these very years old guidelines were confirmed is an indication of the longevity of usability findings. Our design recommendations are based on the characteristics of the human mind which change much more slowly than the technology that seems to fascinate so many people in the field. NEW USER RESEARCH Our new research encompassed 3 usability methods: traditional user testing (as was done in the original study), eyetracking, and field research in the form of a diary study. Studies were conducted in 3 countries: most sessions were in the United States (in Georgia, Indiana, and New York) with a smaller number of users in China and the UK. In total, users tested 206 sites — more than 10 times as many as were tested in our original research. As noted above, we “only” identified 4.2 times as many usability guidelines, indicating some degree of diminishing returns from enlarging the research study. The sites covered an incredibly wide range of industries: from high to low culture (Paris Museum Pass and NASCAR), from cheap to expensive (Walmart and Tiffany’s), from virtual to physical products (TicketMaster and The Container Store), and from general-interest to highly specialized products (Zappos and Lightbulbs.com). Except for the diary studies, all our studies were in the form of direct empirical observation of users’ actual behavior as they engaged in online shopping. We sat next to users on a one-on-one basis and asked them to think out loud as they performed specific tasks. This research approach provides deep insights into why users behave the way they do and results in findings that are not available from other methods. Some of the test tasks were highly directed and assessed the degree to which the design supported users who arrive at a site with a pre-determined goal in mind. For example: “Buy an air conditioner to put in the window of a room that is 10 feet by 20 feet (200 square feet). Get one that is energy-efficient and that has a remote. Buy it from www.homedepot.com.”© NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW.NNGROUP.COM 7
  8. 8. Other tasks were broader and assessed the degree to which the site could inspire users who don’t have a particular need in mind. For example: “You just got a promotion and a bonus and you want to treat yourself. Buy yourself something. Spend no more than £200 at Links of London.” We also tested web-wide tasks where we didn’t specify what site the user should use. For example: “The lightbulb in your desk lamp just burned out. Get a replacement for it.” (With this task, we gave users the burned out bulb.) Finally, we tested a range of customer service tasks. For example: “Can you get a refund for tickets you buy from cinema.com.hk if there is a typhoon signal?” SUPPORTING DIFFERENT TYPES OF SHOPPERS Our diary study looked at why and how people shop on their own, when we don’t give them test tasks to perform. In total, diary-writers recorded 263 visits to e- commerce sites. 2/3 of the time, users visited a site with a pre-determined goal: 35% of visits were to look for a particular type of product (without having a specific product in mind), and 27% of visits were to look for a specific product. 1/3 of the time, users visited a site to see what the site had to offer. Many of these visits were prompted by the receipt of an email newsletter or otherwise learning about sales or special offers. Sites must support all these forms of use: • Known-item purchase. • Category research, leading users to identify and buy the best match with their needs. • Bargain-hunting. • Browsing for inspiration. Finally, some users are one-time shoppers. They don’t know the site, and they don’t intend to return, but they may want to shop there once. (Maybe they received a gift card, or maybe a relative wished for a gift carried by that site.) BAD CONTENT KILL SALES The first rule of e-commerce design remains: if the customer cannot find the product, the customer cannot buy the product. But in our new studies, the main problem was not so much finding the product as it was finding out about the product. 55% of the 143 user failures we observed were caused by bad content: incomplete or unclear information, uninformative error messages, or simply users stating that they would have to call or email the site. (The latter clearly indicating that the company had neglected the opportunity to answer the user’s questions on the site.) Content can be verbal or visual — in either case it needs to provide the information users need to decide on products and to be convinced to trust the site with their money.8 INFO@NNGROUP.COM Executive Summary
  9. 9. The key downside of e-commerce is that one cannot touch, feel, see, taste, or smell the offerings. Nor do customers benefit from the essential credibility boost of having the purchase in hand before paying the price. No tactile experience. Online shopping is purely an information experience. (Or user experience, as we like to say.) This again places a huge premium on good content. One many sites fail. LOYALTY = BUSINESS One of our study participant said, “If I have a good experience with something, Ill stick with it forever.” Not all users are that loyal, but our research does indicate the tremendous benefits from fostering customer loyalty in e-commerce. In the web-wide tasks, we didn’t specify what site users should visit for their purchase. No surprise, half of the users went straight to a search engine. But it was a bit of surprise that the other half of users went directly to some site they already knew. Bypassing the search engines’ tollbooth on the information highway is the first benefit of user loyalty. But the advantages reach much further. Of users who started by searching the web, only 39% completed their task on the first site they selected from the SERP (search engine results page). Almost 2/3 of search users abandoned their first love and proceeded to do business elsewhere. This outcome demonstrates that SEO and good search engine ranking are necessary but not sufficient for Internet business success. It’s actually more important to satisfy users once they arrive at your site. Search users exhibit little loyalty to the sites they happen to click on. In contrast, those users who bypassed search in order to go directly to a preferred site overwhelmingly ended up giving their money to that site: 71% did so and only 29% completed their task on another site. (Of course, this is a sufficiently big amount of lost business to point out that you can’t take e-commerce users for granted, even when they’re loyal to your site.) The benefits of loyalty might make you push aggressive registration requirements, but that would be a mistake. You must convert first-time shoppers before they can become long-time shoppers, and users strongly resent up-front registration. On the other hand, users frequently complained about the drudgingly large amount of data entry they were forced to perform to complete their purchase. So by reminding repeat users of the time savings, you can nudge them to register eventually. In general, a longer-term perspective on the full sales cycle and total user experience would benefit sites. A transmedia design strategy should reach beyond the main website to encompass a mobile site, an email newsletter strategy, and good customer service (including good confirmation messages). Yes, e-commerce user experience has come far, but it has even further to go to truly meet customers’ needs.© NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW.NNGROUP.COM 9
  10. 10. Summary of Research Studies and the E-Commerce Report Series E-COMMERCE REPORT SERIES This report is one of 13 reports about the E-Commerce user experience. Ten of the reports in the series were generated from the findings of two rounds of e-commerce research studies. The first editions of these reports were published as a book, with each of nine chapters also available as a downloadable report. The second edition includes an additional report, based on the same series of studies, about customer service. This series also includes three additional volumes which are a result of additional research studies, separate from the main e-commerce research. These reports are included in the series due to their direct relationship to the e-commerce user experience and cover the topics of wishlists and gift certificates, store locators, and confirmation and transactional email messages. Each of these reports includes a section about methodology, covering the details of each research project. The entire E-Commerce User Experience series is available for download at www.nngroup.com/reports/ecommerce and includes the following titles: 1. General User Behavior & Executive Summary [this report] 2. Homepages and Category Pages (including Product Listing Pages and Product Comparisons) 3. Product Pages (including Reviews) 4. Shopping Cart, Checkout & Registration 5. Search (including Faceted Search) 6. Customer Service 7. Selling Strategies 8. Wishlists, Gift Certificates and Gift Giving 9. Trust and Credibility 10. International Users 11. Store Finders and Locators 12. Transactional Email and Confirmation Messages 13. Methodology RESEARCH STUDIES The information in these reports is a result of two separate rounds of e-commerce studies conducted by Nielsen Norman Group. The studies took place in the United States, United Kingdom, Denmark, and China (Hong Kong), and involved user testing, a diary-based longitudinal study and an eye tracking component. The Methodology report in the E-Commerce Report Series includes the full details of each study, the list of sites tested, and information about participants. The Wishlists and Gift Certificates, Transactional Email and Confirmation Messages and Locator Usability reports are based on additional research studies. Each of these three reports includes its own methodology section. Summary of Research Studies and the E-Commerce Report10 INFO@NNGROUP.COM Series
  11. 11. Study One The first research study was conducted in 2000. They conducted usability tests of 20 business-to-consumer e-commerce websites. A total of 64 people participated: 39 from the United States and 25 from Denmark. Nineteen of the twenty sites tested were American websites, which were tested by users in both countries. Users ranged in age from twenty to sixty. All users had previously shopped online and most had made purchases; however, we screened out people who had extensive technical knowledge of the Web. Usability testing sessions lasted two hours, and users typically tested three of the 20 selected sites in that time. Each site was tested by a minimum of nine users: six from the U.S. and three from Denmark. Sites were selected in seven different industries, such as clothing and toys, so that within each industry we had two or three sites for comparison. Tasks were modeled on common goals of online shoppers. Most tasks asked users to find a specific item or were open-ended, allowing freedom to shop according to their own preferences. In most cases, we stopped users before they entered a credit card number, so they did not complete the purchase. We also included tasks involving customer service information. For each test session, a facilitator sat next to the user, providing instructions to the user and taking notes. Users were asked to think aloud as they worked, describing their decision processes and any positive or negative reactions to the sites. Study Two The second study included a diary-based longitudinal study and user testing, including an eyetracking component. Research began with the diary-based study. Ten participants from around the United States were asked to record information in a notebook about their online shopping experiences for a period of six weeks during the winter holiday shopping season. The goal was to understand how users shopped online. Users answered questions including the goal of visiting the site, why they visited that particular site, and if they achieved their goal. Users were also asked about what they liked and disliked about the site. Information from this round of research was used in part to develop tasks for the user testing portions of the study. The study also included user testing with participants in London, United Kingdom; Hong Kong, China; Munster, Indiana; Kennesaw, Georgia; and New York, New York. The New York City component, which was the largest, included eyetracking. Eyetracking allowed the facilitator to observe and record where the user was looking on the screen. Ninety-eight users participated in user testing. Participants included an almost even split between men and women who ranged in age from 18 to 64. All participants had purchased online previously, with varied amounts of online shopping experience. The least experienced user had purchased online once in the past year and 10 participants had made more than 30 online purchases in the past year. Users were recruited across a range of household income levels and general online experience.© NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW.NNGROUP.COM 11
  12. 12. More than 100 sites were included in the user testing component of the study. Sites selected for testing included sites big and small, from various industries with varied product offerings and different design approaches. In addition, users completed tasks on sites they had previously visited. Participants provided a list of sites during the recruiting process and were asked to visit one of them during the study. This expanded the number as well as the types of sites tested. Tasks were modeled after those in the first study, including directed tasks asking users to find specific items, open-ended tasks allowing for site exploration, and customer service related tasks. Users proceeded as far as possible through the purchase process with fake user information. Users completed three additional types of tasks in the second study. Users visited sites they had visited before, which allowed us to observe users returning to a site as a repeat visitor. Users also completed open-ended tasks where they were given a goal of something to purchase, but were not directed to any particular website to make the purchase. The New York component of the study also included a task where users completed a purchase. Users selected one of five sites on which to shop and were given a budget. They could purchase any item or items they wanted from the site within their budget, send the purchase to themselves, and be reimbursed for the purchase price. The same facilitator ran all sessions in the second study, except for the Georgia tests. In all sessions, the facilitator sat next to the user, providing instructions, observing and taking notes. Users thought aloud as they worked. ABOUT THE SECOND EDITION The second edition includes new guidelines derived from our second study, as well as revisions, clarifications and further examples of guidelines from the previous edition of this report. All screenshots in the reports show how each site appeared at the time it was tested. This includes screenshots from Study One, which are included without updates. Although any of the site designs in the report may have changed since the sites were tested, we use the screenshots as the sites appeared when our test users tried to use the sites. For instructional purposes, all examples are valuable. They reflect actual designs and real user behaviors, which in turn create best practices that stand the test of time. Lessons learned from these designs are valid, even when the specific sites where those screens were found have updated their designs. Including examples helps illustrate good and bad usability examples, which can help designers learn from previous mistakes and successes. Participants’ personal information has been blurred on screenshots. Summary of Research Studies and the E-Commerce Report12 INFO@NNGROUP.COM Series
  13. 13. Whats Most Important BACK TO BASICS We ran our original ecommerce studies in 2000, when e-commerce was relatively new. We ran our second set of studies years later, when users were more accustomed to online shopping, and when it was more difficult to find inexperienced online shoppers than experienced online shoppers. However, many of the problems our users ran into were the same sorts of problems users faced years ago. The basics of buying still confused users. Though e-commerce designs have changed, the new designs don’t always fix old problems. Users had difficulty finding products, getting adequate product information, adding products to the shopping cart, and successfully navigating the checkout process. Online shopping is filled with choices. The range of options available to online shoppers is almost endless. If your site does not do its job well, there are plenty of other sites that offer similar selection. WHATS IMPROVED We did see improvement in several areas, though. More sites offered user reviews of products, which helped answer user’s questions and gave them confidence in their purchases. This can help minimize the number of users who end up returning goods purchased online. When expectations are adequately set, shoppers don’t have much chance to be disappointed. Additional product images, with close-up images of features and characteristics, as well as zooming and panning tools, also helped users on many sites, giving them a much more complete sense of the product than could be given through one static picture taken from a distance. Site recommendations of associated, related, or accessory products have also improved, helping guide users to the products that meet their needs or accompany those they’ve already expressed interest in. Users were interested in these suggestions and often used them to navigate product inventory, but were more likely to rely on them if they were highly and clearly related to the products they were viewing. IN THIS REPORT This report starts with behavioral information about why shoppers go online in the first place, and what users say they are willing to buy online. This is followed by a discussion of supporting different types of shoppers, information which could be used to develop personas for site development. We then discuss broader topics of how users shop. The Key Findings section summarizes the most important information from the entire report series. The report ends with numbers — success scores and task times from our latest research, as well as a list of the most common problems users encountered.© NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW.NNGROUP.COM 13
  14. 14. Pros and Cons of Online Shopping WHY SHOP ONLINE Users’ key reasons for shopping online were: • Access to products and selection of products • Price • Convenience These may seem like obvious reasons, but it behooves websites to have their design emphasize how they meet these basic consumer needs and wants. Access and Selection E-commerce sites allow users access to products they might not otherwise have. One shopper living in Montana in the United States wanted to shop at The Children’s Store for her daughter, but the closest store was 5 hours away. The website allowed her to shop without driving 10 hours round trip. Another user explained, “My husband buys flour online. It’s for some whole grain bread he makes, freshly ground, a certain kind. I just got 10 pounds delivered the other day.” Some shoppers looked for goods internationally. For instance, shoppers in Hong Kong mentioned buying quality goods from other countries. While many of our Hong Kong participants did not shop online frequently due to the variety and ease of shopping in Hong Kong, several mentioned using international websites to find items they could not find in Hong Kong. One user said, “I buy books there that I can’t find in Hong Kong’s bookstores.” Several female shoppers in Hong Kong mentioned buying lingerie and underwear from Victoria’s Secret because it was difficult to find attractive, fashionable items locally. A male shopper said he ordered shoes from London because he used to live there and knew the shoes fit well and were well-made. He also bought golf equipment from a US site because he preferred the brand and could save money over buying locally, even factoring in international shipping charges. Users appreciated the access to products and the selection of products available online, which widely broadened the product selection available in local stores, regardless of their location. They enjoyed the selection, whether within one site or available across several sites. Price Users were often looking for a bargain online. Some users assumed online prices would be lower than local prices. One said, “Things are generally cheaper when you buy them online.” Another said, “Most of the time, items are a lot cheaper than in the stores.” Shoppers appreciated that they could look around for the best price online more easily than they could by going store to store. Traveling between stores is much quicker online than it is in the physical world.14 INFO@NNGROUP.COM Pros and Cons of Online Shopping
  15. 15. Many users’ favorable comments about online stores were about pricing. One user said of oddballshoe.com: “The prices are good and they have a clearance section with even better deals.” Our diary study participants echoed these ideas when explaining why they were visiting a particular site over another. Many responses mentioned prices, such as, “I went to this site because of their great prices on brand name products.” A good price could even trump a positive bad experience, though that was rare. One user visited a site “with reluctance” because of past problems with shipping. He purchased a TV stand, cables, and a DVD player because of the huge discounts on the product prices. He said, “The prices were exceptional on these items. I didn’t have any negative experiences this time, but we’ll see how long it takes for these items to actually be delivered and what shape theyre in when they arrive.” Convenience Convenience is a huge incentive to shop online. One convenience was delivery — users didnt have to go anywhere to get the items. One user said, “The best thing is its delivered to your door so you can stay there and do nothing.” Time savings was also a benefit. One user said, “You dont have to spend time running around to a lot of stores.” Another user said he shopped for movie tickets online so, “I dont have to queue up for movie tickets or waste time walking to the theater if its sold out.” Another user liked shopping for limited edition prints online. He said, “We couldnt go around to the shops: wed have to spend a year looking. But you go online and find it.” Further, shoppers could shop as quickly or as slowly as they wanted online. In a store, some shoppers said they felt rushed. One user said while shed never be comfortable shopping in the same store for hours, she could spend as much time as she liked online. She said, “I shop quite slowly. I spend my time. I can spend hours online at the end of the day, hours going through lingerie and clothes.” We saw this leisurely approach to shopping in our studies. Some users enjoyed browsing the full inventory on a website before making a purchase decision. In purchase tasks in the study, when users had a set amount of money to spend on a site, some leisurely perused every possible option before making a decision. Other users want to shop online to get through the shopping process as quickly as possible, and we witnessed this behavior in our studies as well. They appreciated sites that helped them locate products quickly, concisely presented product information, and led them through a fast and simple checkout process. Another benefit of online shopping for some users was the lack of salespeople and other shoppers — there was no one to bother you. One user said, “You don’t get plagued by the people in the store, who invariably know nothing about the product anyway.” Another said, “I buy clothes online. I don’t like crowded shops. And I hate going in changing rooms.” Another explained his process for researching and buying electronics. He said, “I have to spend time to compare. Its better to compare at home because I can spend more time. A shop may be busy and I dont like to spend so much time.”© NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW.NNGROUP.COM 15
  16. 16. Many users preferred finding their own answers on websites, rather than having to contact the company. One of the benefits users mentioned of shopping online was not having to deal with people — whether it was pushy or uninformed salespeople, cashiers, or other customers. These users wanted to be able to find and buy products without having to interact with anyone. For example, a user who was shopping for a custom fruit basket searched and ended up on the Gift Baskets of Pleasanton site, where such baskets were offered. However, the site did not allow users to customize baskets online — a phone call or email was required. The user said, “Ah, you have to email them. I just can’t order it. Let’s go back.” Having to contact the company was a hurdle in the user’s shopping experience. One user stopped shopping on the Gift Baskets of Pleasanton site when she realized she would have to contact the company to customize a basket. She wanted to complete her order without having to contact anyone. WHATS MISSING ONLINE Shopping Is Social The solitary nature of most online shopping was also a detriment for some shoppers. Some wanted input from friends and family, and a handful even called friends or family or asked the facilitator for input while shopping during our study. One user made a phone call during a task, explaining, “Shes been looking for a flannel blanket, too. I needed to know what color she wanted.”16 INFO@NNGROUP.COM Pros and Cons of Online Shopping
  17. 17. Users can always pick up the phone and call someone for input. Its also a good idea to let shoppers email products to themselves or their friends, either to remind themselves about a product or to solicit feedback from a friend. It is also important to save users shopping carts, as they may want to show the items theyre considering to others and may use the shopping cart as a holding area. Some users lamented that there was no one to help them when they were shopping online. One user shopping for a microwave on the Comet site was frustrated because he didnt understand the terminology used on the site. He said, “A situation like that makes me want to go to the old school style of shopping. Just walking around the shop.” Users missed the ability to view, hold, or try on items or to ask questions. Sites with robust product information helped alleviate some of these concerns, and we did see a handful of shoppers interact with live chat offerings to get assistance at key points in the shopping process. Delayed Gratification and Additional Cost Another concern about online shopping was the lack of instant gratification. For some, part of the fun of shopping is coming home with a new item. Delivery times, even short ones, frustrated some users. (Others thought the idea of delayed gratification — eagerly awaiting their new purchase — was a good thing.) Users also frequently complained about shipping charges, and fees if they returned items. Free shipping was a good incentive for users to make a purchase online. Eliminating the extra cost can make users more comfortable buying something online. As one user said, “The price was right, the shipping was free, so I made the purchase.” Users were also worried about returns. Simple returns with prepaid labels or in-store returns were also attractive to shoppers. One user said, “If my wife doesn’t end up liking some of the merchandise or it doesn’t fit, it can be returned to our local store.”© NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW.NNGROUP.COM 17
  18. 18. Willingness to Shop Online WHAT PEOPLE WILL AND WON’T BUY ONLINE Users were most comfortable buying a known product, such as a book, DVD or CD online. They were more comfortable buying known brands, or from stores whose products they knew well. They were most comfortable when what they were buying online was in no way going to be a surprise. Of course, shopping preferences vary by shopper. Some of our participants were willing to buy almost anything online for the convenience and price. Others stuck to only what was known. One user said, “A washing machine is a washing machine. You dont need to go into a shop to see that its a washing machine.” Some liked to get items that would be awkward or difficult to get home by themselves delivered to them instead. One user said she would buy “toilet roll because its bulky. It would be handy having that delivered.” Users commonly listed three types of products as those theyd be less likely to buy online: • tactile products • expensive products • perishable products Tactile Products The tactile nature of shopping in a store versus shopping online was a big consideration for many users. Users mentioned reluctance to buy clothing, bedding, pillows, and upholstered furniture — things they would like to see, touch, wear or use before buying. For instance, while a shopper may have been comfortable buying a sweater like one he’d seen in a store, he was more hesitant to buy another one sight unseen — and even more importantly, untouched. As one user said, “Anything like a bed, mattress, sofa: you need to lie on it and get the feeling of it before you make a decision.” One main concern for shoppers was fit, for items that they would normally try on in the store. A user said of buying pants from Lands End online, “I just dont trust fits until I try them on. I know Lee fits, so I buy it. But if I went into a store and tried it on and knew it fit, then I would buy it online. Now that I know about these pants, I would go and try them on and then get them online. I think Sears carries them.” Another said, “Clothes, I never buy online. I like to try them on before I make a decision.” There is no tactile nature to the Web. Stores will always have that advantage. But consider what can be done to assuage users’ concerns about buying items without having touched or experienced them. Excellent product descriptions can answer users’ questions. High quality images, from a variety of angles and showing various features, can emphasize and clarify product details.18 INFO@NNGROUP.COM Willingness to Shop Online
  19. 19. The level of zoom available on Bluefly.com let users see product details, zooming in to the level of being able to see the fabric and craftsmanship clearly. For items such as clothing, bedding or rugs, a high zoom on product images, or close up images of details, can help users assess the quality and craftsmanship of the product. A close zoom can allow the user to inspect a seam or a button. Fabric or color samples — free or low cost — can help alleviate users’ concerns. Such samples makes sense for more expensive items, such as upholstered furniture, where color and feel may make the difference to a shopper. This is particularly helpful since it is difficult to accurately judge color online.© NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW.NNGROUP.COM 19
  20. 20. E-Counters offered low cost samples of countertop materials. Expensive Items Some users were hesitant to buy expensive items online. Users couldnt necessarily assess the value of an item from an online description and picture. One user said, “Its hard to tell the quality of jewelry online.” Another said, “I wouldnt buy a car online — I couldnt commit to buying it without a test drive.” A third said, “I would never buy a big ticket item, like a car or quality jewelry.” In these cases, outside authentication of products was helpful, such as a gem report for high-end jewelry or an accident and maintenance report for a used vehicle. In addition, high-end sites require even better customer service, ready to answer a users question at any point of the shopping or purchase process.20 INFO@NNGROUP.COM Willingness to Shop Online
  21. 21. Blue Nile offered a customer service phone number in the upper right corner of the page as well as below product information, together with information about asking an expert. Perishable Items Some users hesitated to buy perishable items because delivery time was key. One user said, “Id worry about something susceptible to temperature in the summertime.” Another said, “You cant order fresh items from a website!” Providing clear information about shipping and delivery is essential for perishable items. Users wanted to know how items would be packaged, how to dispose of packaging (such as dry ice) or how quickly they needed to open, water, or refrigerate perishable items.© NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW.NNGROUP.COM 21
  22. 22. Godivas website included information about climate control packaging and reassured users the items would “arrive in perfect condition, no matter how warm the climate.”22 INFO@NNGROUP.COM Willingness to Shop Online
  23. 23. User Hesitations about Buying Online Product Type Solutions Tactile: Quality and variety of product images Clothing Deep zoom Bedding Fabric or color samples Upholstered furniture Expensive: Jewelry Outside authentication Cars Good customer services with friendly and knowledgeable customer support Perishable: Food Detailed information about packaging and delivery Plants© NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW.NNGROUP.COM 23
  24. 24. Designing for Different Types of Shoppers REASONS FOR E-COMMERCE VISITS We started our research with a notebook study, where we asked users to write down information about all of their e-commerce related activities over a six-week period. The goal was to get a sense of what activities users were completing on e-commerce sites, their reasons for visiting, and their likes and dislikes about the experience. Respondents, all located in the United States, participated between the Thanksgiving holiday in late November until New Years Eve on December 31. This is traditionally a heavy shopping time in the United States. However, this also meant users might be more focused on gift-purchases than at other times of the year. We asked users to note, "What was your main reason for visiting the site? What did you hope to accomplish?" Ten users participated in the research, and recorded 263 site visits. We wanted to collect information about what shoppers were already doing online, in order to create realistic tasks for user testing. We categorized the respondents answers to the open-ended question. The most commonly given reason for visiting a site was to look for a particular type of product. By that, we mean users were looking for a vacuum, a book or an HDTV, but without any one vacuum, book or HDTV in mind. Thirty-five percent of site visits were inspired by looking for a product type, but not a particular product. Twenty-seven percent of visits were aimed at finding a specific product, such as an Adidas gold-foil shirt, Six Feet Under DVD set, a taillight for a car, or a Cleveland Browns football jersey. Nine percent of visits were inspired by knowledge of a sale, or hopes that there might be a sale, and six percent of the holiday-time visits were looking for gifts. (Note that the product type and specific product categories likely included gift-buying activities: we only counted shopping activities as gifts when participants explicitly stated they were looking for gifts without a particular item in mind.) Other reasons for e-commerce visits were: because they received an email (5%), to browse offerings (4%), for customer service or account-related reasons such as checking order status (3%), to check prices (3%), to spend a gift card (2%), because they had seen a catalog or a print advertisement (2%), and looking for a coupon (1%). Other reasons accounted for 4% of visits. These reasons included gift card buy-back, to see if an item was from a store, to find movie times or make dinner reservations, to enter a contest, to check on product information for a product already owned, and to sign up for an email newsletter.24 INFO@NNGROUP.COM Designing for Different Types of Shoppers
  25. 25. The chart above shows the 10 diary study participants stated reasons for visiting e- commerce sites during the 6-week study. They reported 263 site visits. Looking for a product type accounted for 35% of site visits (91). Looking for a specific item added another 27% (71 visits). 9% (23) of visits were inspired by a sale or looking for a sale, and 6% were looking for gifts (15). Users visited sites because of an email message 5% of the time (14 visits), and for general browsing 4% of the time (11 visits). Customer service or account related activities caused 3% (9) of visits, and 3% of visits were to check prices (8 visits). Two percent of users were looking to spend a gift card (4) or because theyd seen a catalog or print ad (4), and 1% were looking for coupons (2). SUPPORTING ALL TYPES OF SHOPPERS There are many different types of shoppers, and varied approaches to shopping. However, there were five that arose repeatedly in our research: • Product-focused • Browsing • Researching • Bargain-hunting • One-time shoppers© NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW.NNGROUP.COM 25
  26. 26. While a good site experience is crucial to all types of shoppers, different elements of the shopping experience take on more significance depending on the users’ goal and approach. Designing with these user types in mind will help the overall user experience on the site. Product-focused Many shoppers go online knowing exactly what they want. They may need a replacement for something they already have. They may have already researched an item and know exactly what they want. They may have been to a store and seen the product they want, but waited to buy it online. Regardless of the reason, these shoppers are goal-oriented. They know what they need, and they want the site to give it to them quickly. In our study, our goal-oriented shoppers needed a James Bond DVD set, a replacement laptop battery, a Cleveland Browns jersey, a taillight for a car, and printer ink, among other things. These users weren’t looking to spend time leisurely browsing a site, to analyze product information, or to carefully consider a purchase. They wanted to find what they needed, get in and get out. These shoppers may know where to get the item in question — they may go to an online store they know that carries it, or the online presence of a store where they saw the product. They may have purchased the item in the past, or bought something similar. They may use search engines to find the product, typing in the exact product they want and picking a search result. They may even use meta-shopping engines or review sites, such as CNET, Froogle, or Kelkoo to determine who has the product for the best price. Once at the site, all these users need to do is locate the right product, confirm that it’s the right one, and buy it. Some won’t look at product descriptions at all. A quick look at the name and product picture confirms the product is correct, and they’ll buy it. The goal here is speed. Get the user to the right product, let them know it’s the right product, and let them checkout. The user may not be in a hurry, but he isn’t in the mindset to linger and spend quality time with the site. He may notice an upsell opportunity, but he’s more likely to continue on with his intended purchase without distraction. One user in our study had a product in mind when she visited FYE.com to spend a gift card. She immediately searched for the name of the movie — Heartburn — and was thrilled to see results. She’d had trouble locating the product previously and was excited to see it was offered and available. She even ended up buying two copies — one for herself and one for a friend.26 INFO@NNGROUP.COM Designing for Different Types of Shoppers
  27. 27. A user was happy when FYE.com carried an item she had trouble finding elsewhere. The site allowed her to quickly search for, locate, and buy the movie she wanted. Keys for success for product-focused shoppers are: • Clearly identifying each product offering • Offering an effective search that makes it easy to locate items of interest • Letting return users easily see items previously purchased for reorders or accessory purchases • Streamlining the checkout process to get users in and out as quickly as possible Browsing Browsers have a much more leisurely approach to shopping online. They may look to their favorite sites or new sites, for inspiration or to kill time. One user said, “When I don’t have time to go shopping, I go online to check out what’s new or on sale.” Another said of a visit to iTunes, “I didn’t buy any music, but I enjoyed looking for potential songs to download.” Several users in Hong Kong said they looked at websites that they knew did not ship to Hong Kong, but browsed the sites anyway. They checked the fashions on the sites and then looked locally for items that were comparable.© NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW.NNGROUP.COM 27
  28. 28. It may seem counter-intuitive, but having browsers on your site is a good thing. These are people who are choosing to spend time on your site, with your company, with your brand. They are using the site as entertainment and inspiration, and there’s a great opportunity there to turn these browsers into buyers. If users have a consistently good experience on your site finding things they like and seeing the latest products, they’ll be more likely to think of your site or even your physical stores when they are ready to buy. Browsers are not necessarily looking to make a purchase, but if they see something they really like, they may turn into buyers. Browsers may also be looking at the site because they are planning a trip to a store. One user explained she looked at Banana Republics site: “When I dont have time to go shopping, I check out whats new or on sale. I check it before I go to the store.” Another said of CostCos site: “I did not buy a gift. They had a bunch of good stuff, but I know Ill go in person in a few days and see the items up close.” Make it easy for your customers to see what’s new, what’s popular and what’s on sale. When shoppers come to the site on a regular basis, it’s not to see the same information they saw the week before, it’s to see what’s changed. Browsers are interested in the latest items, the latest deals, what other people are buying. Related items and suggested products can help them navigate through the site, leading them to new areas and new products. Top-selling products, most popular products, and top-ranked products can all do well for browsers.28 INFO@NNGROUP.COM Designing for Different Types of Shoppers
  29. 29. Sasa.com highlighted new products and bestsellers on the homepage. Another opportunity here is word-of-mouth marketing. Let users share information or “finds” on the site with their friends, and gain more site visitors and customers.© NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW.NNGROUP.COM 29
  30. 30. Keys for success for browsers are: • Highlighting new or popular products, or items on sale • Leading shoppers to new inventory through relevant related links and recommended products • Letting users share information about products they like Researching Researchers are goal-driven browsers. They plan to purchase, but the purchase may happen today, tomorrow, next week or in six months. They’re looking online to collect information about products and prices, and may be in any stage of research. Researchers may be educating themselves about unknown product types, either for a first time purchase or to purchase a gift. Or they may be well-educated about the products they’re looking for, and trying to find the best price for the best combination of features. Shoppers may have a product category in mind and be looking for the best deal or best product to meet their needs. Research may take place in several in-depth visits or be a one-time quick decision between options on one site. Researchers may visit multiple sites to gather information before committing to a purchase. (And keep in mind that purchase may occur online or in a store.) Users may also visit your site or others multiple times before making a purchase decision. They may use one site for researching and another for the eventual purchase. The goal is to turn these researchers into buyers. Trust is important in online transactions. If users have seen that your site offers detailed product information, excellent support, and clear navigation as they’ve been researching, they’re more likely to buy from your site. If your site offers limited or unclear product information, they won’t spend much time researching on it, nor will they think of it when it is time to buy. The opportunity is to convert researchers to buyers, to become a knowledgeable and trustworthy source of information and products. The biggest key to a successful experience for researchers is to allow easy product comparison. This does not mean creating large, elaborate comparison engines (though some comparison engines work quite nicely). Facilitating comparisons can be as simple as providing consistent information about products, so users can easily determine what the differences are among them. When sites do not offer comparison tools, users sometimes create their own. A user on BuyDig.com opened two browser windows to compare product specifications side by side. He said, “When you get close, you want to compare side by side. Id also open a new window to go to CNET.com to get reviews. That will tell me even more.” Researchers are looking for a high degree of detail in product descriptions and images. This means these additional sources of information should be available, but don’t offer so much information up front that you scare your product-focused or browsing shoppers away. Layer the information, but provide sufficient details to answer the questions researchers have.30 INFO@NNGROUP.COM Designing for Different Types of Shoppers
  31. 31. Circuit Citys site provided well-structured layers of product information. The page started with key features, then had a summary of highlights, followed by tabs for customer reviews, specifications and accessories. Provide assistance for unfamiliar terms, or explanatory text to describe what different features or characteristics are. User reviews are also incredibly helpful to researchers, who can gather even more information by reading what others think of the product. Reviews can offer more practical details than any product description, as they are descriptions written by people who have used the product. Researchers also needed a way to flag items they were considering, so they could narrow options and return to compare them. Many used the shopping cart for this purpose, using it to collect items they were considering. Users were more comfortable doing this when they saw it was easy to remove an item from the shopping cart. They also appreciated sites that remembered the items theyd put in the cart on previous visits. Researchers may leave a site to visit another, or think about a purchase for a few days, and like to be able to pick up where they left off.© NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW.NNGROUP.COM 31
  32. 32. Keys for success for researchers are: • Providing clear and detailed product descriptions • Offering assistance around unfamiliar terminology or product features • Listing user reviews • Allowing easy comparison between products • Saving users shopping carts to allow shopping to continue on a subsequent visit Bargain-Hunting A key reason that users shop on the Web is that they think they can get a better deal online. Some shopping behavior is motivated by this intention — to find the best deal possible. Bargain-hunters may or may not have a particular item in mind when they start shopping. And bargain-hunting behavior may impact any type of online shopper — the product-focused shopper, browser or researcher. One user admitted she tended to buy things solely because they were a bargain. When hunting for other items, if she came across a good deal, she found it hard to pass up. The most important thing for a bargain hunter is to be able to locate deals. Prices must be clearly listed. Sale items must not be hidden on the site, but listed alongside full-price items, with savings highlighted. Available discounts must be easy to use, such as coupon codes for money off or free shipping. Some users immediately looked for deals and discounts on sites, checking Sale sections first. We saw much of this behavior in purchase tasks, where users were looking to get the most for the amount of money we gave them to spend. The opportunity with bargain hunters is to turn them into repeat customers. Several users in our notebook study referred to returning to a site specifically because of knowledge of a sale, information they learned through catalogs, advertising, or email messages. Sites should take advantage of bargain hunting behavior by sending coupons, offering discounts for more expensive purchases, and offering free shipping with minimum purchases. Many shoppers may offer their email address if they know they will receive special discounts or offers in return. One participant in our study who was spending a gift card on a site signed up for the email newsletter 2 in order to receive a discount, and used the discount for her purchase. A diary participant advised his nephew to sign up for an email newsletter because, “The site is usually expensive and they dont offer good discounts unless one has a coupon.” 2 For much more about the design and usability of email newsletters, please see our separate report on this topic, available at http://www.nngroup.com/reports/newsletters32 INFO@NNGROUP.COM Designing for Different Types of Shoppers
  33. 33. One user said, “They often offer $10 coupons that make the prices even better.” Another said, “I just went back because they sent me a coupon.” When discounts are available, make them easy to use. One user went through a saga on the BabyStyle.com site, trying to get free shipping. The site informed users of free shipping with $50 purchase in the shopping cart, telling them how much more they needed to spend to quality for free shipping. However, when users reached the qualifying total, the message, including the coupon code necessary to take advantage of the offer, disappeared. One user hunted for more than 10 minutes for an item that was just expensive enough to push his total over the free shipping threshold. When the free shipping information disappeared, he assumed it would be automatically applied to his order. This was not the case. When he reached the order summary page in the checkout process, he was so outraged at the shipping charge that he canceled the order. Users wanted discounts that required no coupon code. While BabyStyle.com nicely showed users an available discount and associated code in the shopping cart, that information disappeared once users reached the $50 minimum order.© NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW.NNGROUP.COM 33
  34. 34. Many shoppers tried to take advantage of free shipping offers. One of users complaints about shopping online is paying an additional shipping charge. When sites offered free shipping, even when a minimum purchase was involved, users often tried to take advantage of such deals. A handful of users in our study looked for coupon codes when making purchases, leaving the site to do a quick search for any available discounts they could find on the Web. Many others mentioned doing so when they were shopping on their own at home or at work. Keys for success for bargain-hunters are: • Listing sale items alongside full priced inventory and providing an obvious section for discounted products • Clearly listing product prices and associated discounts and savings • Allowing easy coupon redemption or applying discounts automatically when criteria are met One-Time Shoppers One-time shoppers may be product-focused, browsing, bargain-hunting or researching. They are often gift card recipients, gift card buyers, or gift buyers. They may come with a goal in mind, such as a list of products the gift recipient is interested in. They may simply be browsing to find the best product. Or they may be researching and comparing across the sites inventory to buy the best item. They may be looking to spend a gift card or aiming for a certain budget, so may want to get the most for their money. These shoppers are not familiar with the site or, possibly, the products it carries. They have no interest in engaging with the site or learning more about it. They need clear site navigation to get to products of interest and get a sense of site inventory and selection. Clear product descriptions help them determine which items best fit their needs. Company information can help them feel more confident giving an unknown site their personal and financial information. A main complaint of one-time shoppers was site registration. When users were doubtful they would ever return to a site, they did not want to create a site registration or have the site remember their personal data. They appreciated sites that allowed them to make a purchase without requiring them to create an account.34 INFO@NNGROUP.COM Designing for Different Types of Shoppers
  35. 35. One-time shoppers didnt want to have to register for sites in order to checkout. Office Depots site allowed users to checkout as guests. Keys to success for one-time shoppers are: • Having clear site navigation • Offering complete product descriptions • Providing clear - and trustworthy - company information • Allowing checkout without requiring registration© NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW.NNGROUP.COM 35
  36. 36. How Users Shop IN-STORE AND ONLINE, RATHER THAN IN-STORE OR ONLINE Shoppers didnt distinguish between online shopping and in-store shopping. To them, it was all shopping. Their shopping experiences might be fully online, fully in-store, or a combination of the two. They expected consistency between online storefronts and physical storefronts. Users are already combining the in-store and online shopping experiences, so companies that are doing this well can reap the benefits. Shoppers looked to websites to direct them to local stores. Users “pre-shopped,” collecting information to make their in-store experience go more smoothly. One user said, “My water softener overflowed in the middle of the night and flooded my basement. I wanted to look up dehumidifiers online so Id know where to purchase locally.” Another said, “Im looking for a vacuum. We have a local Hoover retailer. I just wanted to pre-shop without running all over.” Another user looking for saw blades checked prices online to decide where to go to make the purchase. Another looked at a website to browse their selection and said, “They had a bunch of good stuff, but I know I’ll go in person in a few days from now and see the items up close.” Users were confused when inventory online and off differed. One user said of Sears.com, “It doesnt seem like they show everything [they have in stores] online. There was not a big selection of items to choose from.” Another said, “I only found two results. There werent enough choices. I wanted to look at several. It was not a very good range or selection or price.” Limited online inventory made some users reluctant to pursue the purchase at their local store. Stores could act as a back-up to online shopping and vice versa. If users couldnt find what they needed in one location, they tried the other. One shopper explained, “I was looking for a specific item — jeans my daughter likes from Arizona, a brand found at Penneys. Ive purchased these items before in a store. I did not find what I wanted online, but we did go to a store and find the jeans.” Others started in a store, but completed purchases online. Sometimes this was for convenience or for better inventory selection. (This can be a good reason to have a terminal in-store, to allow users to order right then and there, when theyre ready to spend their money.) The website can show users more options and combinations than any showroom or shop. For instance, one user was shopping for furniture at a local store, and went to the showroom to sit in the various chairs and decide which one she wanted. However, after making the decision, she returned home to look online at the various color and style options available for the chair. The showroom only had one or two examples, and had color and fabric swatches, but she couldn’t see what the chair would look like. Online, there were images to show her what the different options looked like. She said, “I wanted to see different style and fabric options for the furniture all in one place.” Another looked to VictoriasSecret.com because “they have a lot more available online than in stores.”36 INFO@NNGROUP.COM How Users Shop
  37. 37. Other users blurred the lines between online and in-store shopping with in-store pickup of items ordered online or shipping to a local store for free. These options helped address the online shopping problem of delayed gratification, as well as the in-store problem of pushy salespeople or crowds. Buying online let the user avoid the store experience, while picking up at a store avoided delivery concerns or delays. This also allowed users to save on delivery costs and to get the item at their convenience. Another intersection of online and offline commerce is through returns or exchanges. Users are starting to expect that they will be able to return or exchange at a store if they buy online. Allowing users to do so eliminates another concern some users have about online shopping: that they will have to pay return shipping if the item isnt to their liking. SHIPPING: DELAYED GRATIFICATION AND ADDITIONAL COST Even standard shipping charges which were relatively low drew complaints from users, depending on what they were buying. For instance, one user said on LaneBryant.com, “Their shipping would have been high [$4.95] for an inexpensive item.” Another user said on Campmor.com, “Shipping is OK at $6.95, but I wish they had it at a slightly better price. It is good that any order is that price for standard shipping.” His discomfort with the shipping charges caused him to reconsider his purchase. Though he found the sunglasses he wanted for “a third of the price of retail,” he said, “I still want to look around.” Another user said she found “great prices” on EyesLipsFace.com, but “I found what I wanted, but did not buy. Shipping was very high, despite low prices on items. I would have liked to know that before I filled my cart.” Users looked for other ways to get around shipping charges. One user on Symantec.com said, “I could download the product directly instead of getting it shipped.” Another said of Buemo.com, “They offer the option to ship or pick up. If you choose pickup, you can select one of about 30 stores and they have it ready in one hour.” Another said of BestBuy.com: “You can order on the Internet and then pick it up at the store closest to you.” Users were motivated by offers to get free shipping if they spent a certain total on the site. If the total was close to the amount the user otherwise intended to spend, they often spent additional time on the site looking for items that would qualify them for the offer. For instance, one user on PetSmart.com spent 11 minutes and 23 seconds looking for a product to add to his cart to qualify for free shipping. High international shipping charges were a deterrent for some shoppers. A user in Hong Kong explained, “I introduced the Victorias Secret site to my friends and we all order in one lot and share the delivery cost.”© NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW.NNGROUP.COM 37
  38. 38. LOCAL DIFFERENCES: PATIENCE AND PRIORITIES While our study was not large enough to declare regional or international differences in e-commerce shopping behavior, we did note differences across our participants in New York, Indiana and Georgia in the United States and in Hong Kong and London. Our user base was small in both London and Hong Kong, but we noted some differences between our participants. One key difference was in patience. Our users in London were the most patient, waiting for what seemed to be interminable lengths for pages or content to load, without complaint. Our participants in the United States were somewhat less patient, waiting for pages to load while complaining about the delay, or sometimes refreshing pages in an attempt to speed up the process. Our users in Hong Kong were the least patient, immediately refreshing pages, opening new browser windows or tabs, or even visiting other sites to fill the time while slow pages opened. Users also had regional concerns about shopping, depending on their location. In Hong Kong, shoppers were concerned that delivery had to be more convenient than shopping locally. They were particularly concerned that packages would not be left at their homes if they were not present, and they would have to retrieve the package at a local post office or from a local carrier. One said, “Its quite idiotic: You pay for delivery cost, but in the end you are the one going to the post office to pick up the large parcel.” Considering how convenient it was for many of our participants to shop locally, with the wealth of shopping opportunities available in Hong Kong, they had to have a good reason to want to buy online. In London, our users voiced concern about convenience — would waiting for a delivery be more convenient or less than driving to a local store. A user said, "This is still quicker than getting in your car and driving to the shop." Another compared shipping costs to “train fare or the cost of petrol.” Another said, “Things can be quite traumatic with congestion charges. Better to site at home and do it on your own time.” Another user complained, however, when she was on a site for an extended period of time, “I could have driven down to the store quicker.” Similarly, users in Georgia and Indiana in the United States sometimes contemplated the cost, in terms of gas and time, to drive to a mall or a store versus buying an item online and paying shipping charges. One said, “With gas prices high, I dont mind paying for shipping.” Users in New York, though surrounded with shopping opportunities like shoppers in Hong Kong, were still likely to want to shop online for the convenience of not having to carry items home. Many had methods for receiving packages, even when not at home, through doormen, neighbors, or local stores who would accept deliveries for them. However, we found our New Yorkers to be much more concerned with who would be delivering the item — which carrier or delivery service. Several of our New York participants had preferred carriers and would select specific delivery options to ensure those carriers were used. Many wanted to know which carrier would deliver a package, and not just when the package would arrive. A handful went so far as to refuse to shop at sites that didnt use particular carriers or that only offered a despised carrier. The only other local difference we noted was specific to New York. We found many of our New York participants entered NY or NYC as their city name, rather than typing, “New York.” Very few sites accepted this as a valid entry.38 INFO@NNGROUP.COM How Users Shop
  39. 39. These differences led to some guidelines in the report series, as well as some detailed examples within the guidelines. While we didnt see huge regional or international differences in behavior, we did note these smaller differences. This emphasizes the importance of testing with users in your own key markets, allowing you to identify smaller issues as well as larger ones. BUILDING LOYALTY A big part of your business should be building loyalty with customers. A great user experience is the best way to keep people coming back. When we asked users in our studies about sites they had good experiences with, they often remembered times when sites exceeded their expectations. As one user said, “I went to Beumo because their prices are unbeatable, selection tremendously vast, and they often offer $10 coupons that make prices even better. When I lived in California, I shopped there in person, which has helped to build me into a loyal customer.” Another user said, “If I have a good experience with something, Ill stick with it forever. My in-laws probably get sick of 1800Flowers, Sheryl and Company, Caribou Coffee. But I stick to the known. I like 1800FLowers because I get points. I joined their club, so I get points added and get discounts.” Some users even noted instances where the resolution of a problem was so good that they remembered the good response rather than the initial problem. One user complained of difficultly using a coupon code on Kohls.com. She had to ask a customer service representative how to use it, but in the end said, “Great store! I still shop the site!” Many of our diary study participants reported going to sites because of past purchases or past experiences with the site. Many of these repeat interactions revolved around discounts, coupons, deals or promotions. Users visited sites because of email messages about specials, or because they had loyalty points or discounts due to a credit card associated with the site. For instance, a user said she went to LLBean because, “I received an email that they had new sale items and I wanted to check it out. I went because of the sale and I have coupons and free shipping for the site because I have a rewards credit card.” A user on DisneyStore.com said, “They send me sale updates and special discount codes. I usually buy something when I get the discount and then I save what I bought to give as gifts later.” Good prices and promotions drove users to sites. One user mentioned visiting BassPro.com because “a friend sent me a link for 5 fishing lures for $5 from the site. I got a great deal on the lures — 5 for $5 and free shipping!” A user on Ulta.com said, “They sent me a coupon code for $5 off any $10 order, so I went to check out what they had. I received $5 off my order and also had free shipping, so I really got a bargain!”© NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW.NNGROUP.COM 39
  40. 40. DECIDING WHERE TO PURCHASE Our study focused mainly on tasks where we asked users to visit specified e- commerce sites. We also included 52 tasks where we gave users a goal, but did not specify what site to visit to make the purchase. We wanted to see what users did to pick a site, how or if they shopped around on several sites, how they evaluated unknown sites, and how they made a purchase decision. Though we encouraged users to act as though they were truly making a purchase, we saw several users who said they would make purchases on sites that they also expressed skepticism about, whether about the trustworthiness or the company, quality of the product, pricing, or security of the site. Others seemed happy to purchase on the first site they found, trying to complete our task quickly. On average, users visited 4.8 sites per task to accomplish their goals. This number includes repeat visits to the same site and visits to search engines. For instance, if a user visited AcmeProducts.com, checked another site, did a Web search, and returned to AcmeProducts.com, that was counted as visiting 4 sites. The median number of visits per task was 2. In the 52 tasks attempted, users visited only one site 29% of the time (15), and 2 sites 27% of the time (14). The highest number of sites viewed during a task was 27. The chart above shows the number of sites users visited during open-ended tasks. In 52 tasks, users visited only one site 29% of the time, and visited two sites 27% of the time. The maximum number of sites visited in one task was 27.40 INFO@NNGROUP.COM How Users Shop
  41. 41. Users visted an average of 3.2 unique sites while completing open-ended tasks. The lowest number of sites was 1 and the highest was 12, with a median of 2 sites visited. Twenty nine percent of users visited only one site (15), and an additional 29% of users visited just 2 sites (14) to complete their tasks, accounting for 58% of users. Fifty-eight percent of users visited only 1 or 2 sites to complete an open-ended task where a site was not specified (52 tasks total). Fifteen users visited one site, and 14 visited two. Four users visited three unique sites, and 7 visited 4 unique sites. 4 users visited 5, and 2 visited 6. Two more visited seven unique sites, and one user visited 8, 9, 10 and 12 unique sites. Users were approximately evenly split between those who went directly to a known site to begin the task and those who started the task with a Web search. Users started with search 24 times, or 48% of the time, and started by typing in the URL of a known site 28 times, or 52% of the time.© NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW.NNGROUP.COM 41
  42. 42. Users started open ended tasks by typing the URL of a known site 54% of the time (28), and with a search engine 46% of the time (24). Of those users who went directly to a known site by typing in a URL (28 users), 15 bought from the first site without visiting any other sites. Five additional users bought from the first site after visiting other sites as well — in other words, they returned to the first site they visited to complete the task. Eight users, or 29% of users who went to a site first, ended up completing the task at a site other than their first choice. Seventy-one percent of users who started at a known site ended up completing the task on that site.42 INFO@NNGROUP.COM How Users Shop
  43. 43. Of the 28 users who went directly to a site when completing open-ended tasks (rather than to a search engine first), 53% (15) of users completed the task on that site, without ever leaving it. Another 18% (5) returned to the first site to complete the task, and 8 users (29%) completed the task on another site. This is interesting to contrast with users who started with a Web search. Twenty- four users started with search, with 15 of them going directly to Google, 3 going to Yahoo, 1 going to MSN, three typing inquiries into the browser address bar (resulting in Live Search results), and 2 using the browser’s Search option, which was set to AOL Search. Of the 24, eight users bought from the first search result followed without visiting any other sites. Only one user bought from the first site after visiting another site. Fourteen ended up completing the task at a site other than the first result visited. One user did not complete a purchase.© NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW.NNGROUP.COM 43
  44. 44. Of the 24 users who started the open-ended task by going to a search engine, 35% (8) completed the task on the first search result they visited. Another 4% (1 user) returned to the first result visited to make a purchase. All other users, 61%, completed the task on a site other than the first search result visited. When they started with a search, rather than a known site, it indicated less familiarity with the product in many cases, so it is not surprising that it took more research to make a decision. 71% of users who navigated directly to a site stuck with that site, ultimately purchasing from it. But when users started with a search, they bought from the first search result visited only 39% of the time. Of those users who searched first, half clicked on a natural search result first, and half clicked on a paid search result first.44 INFO@NNGROUP.COM How Users Shop
  45. 45. Key Findings The full E-Commerce Report Series includes more than 500 guidelines about making your e-commerce site easier to use. Here, we summarize the most important key findings, guidelines and concepts from the report series. HOMEPAGES AND CATEGORY PAGES Further information about each of the following topics and additional topics can be found in the Homepage and Category Pages report in the E-Commerce Report Series. A Welcoming Homepage The homepage is a crucial page on the site, as it acts as a users introduction to the company, its products, and the site itself. The page needs to look trustworthy, make clear what type of products are sold on the site, and invite users to make a purchase. A Clear Structure A clear site structure is important for the obvious reason of letting users navigate to products of interest. But it is also essential for shoppers who arrive at your site via a link to an interior page, such as through a search engine, blog, email from a friend, or other source. Remember that many shoppers will enter the site without seeing the homepage. For these users, the site structure and navigational options become the way they are introduced to the site and all it has to offer. When users dont know what navigational categories mean, or the differences between them, they are unable to navigate to the right products on the site. Users cant buy what they cant find.© NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP WWW.NNGROUP.COM 45
  46. 46. A user wasnt sure where to go to find blenders on Cooking.com. She wanted to see a category called Blenders, but only saw Bar Blenders. She never clicked the category, and thought her only choices were the featured items, "a $500 bar blender or a hand blender. I just want a $50 regular blender." Cross-Referencing Products should be cross-referenced as appropriate, so shoppers can find items in multiple related categories. When users dont find what they want in one category, they dont necessarily look to another related category. They assume if no item is shown, no item exists. Featured or Full Inventory? We saw users erroneously think site inventory was limited because of the presentation of category pages and product listing pages. When such pages showed featured items rather than full inventory, users sometimes misinterpreted the pages. They thought the items shown represented the sites full collection, rather than a limited view of featured items.46 INFO@NNGROUP.COM Key Findings

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