Help Indecisive Online Shoppers by Using Personalization Tools

February 12, 2021
7 min read
Ecommerce Indecisive Shoppers

You have successfully funneled a prospective customer to your online shop. Let's call him Joe. Joe fits into all your target demographics, understands your products, and wants to make a purchase. His credit card number is already saved in his browser and his CVV code is engrained in his long term memory. You have thought through every variation of Joe—red-loving Joe, purple-loving Joe, luxury car Joe, minivan Joe, single Joe, and married Joe. But as Joe rifles through your seemingly endless options, swiping and swiping, his fingers begin to ache. He knows exactly what type of Joe he is, but you never thought to ask. Now all sorts of thoughts are running through Joe's mind. That purple variation might impress his friends and maybe the cheaper option would be easier on his wallet. After clicking through 15 pages, Joe remembers he has to pick up his wife from the airport, picks up the keys to his red Porsche, and becomes nothing but another point in your bounce rate.

Customer indecision is a genuine contributor to lost sales. The average bounce rate across industries is 47%, with "confusing website layouts" being one of the top contributors. Customers want and expect simplicity. Think of the most popular user interfaces in the digital world (Instagram, Tik Tok, Netflix). They all have one thing in common: personalization. Choices are great and you should bring enough options to the table to satisfy all the variations of your best customer. But that does not mean that your customers are willing to spend time finding that variation on their own. Users have become accustomed to personalized content. They give a platform their preferences, willingly or unwillingly, and the platform gives them what they want.

Imagine a store with 10 products per category, each with three color variations and three size variations. Even after a customer selects the category he is interested in, there are still 90 potential products to choose from. This requires at least some tedious elimination by the customer.

Why are decisions so hard to make?

Decision fatigue is a well-understood concept in the commercial world. Why do convenience stores place candy bars and silly magazines at the counter? Because you are more likely to make a bad decision at the end of your shopping experience after having made dozens of decisions adding item after item to your cart. The word "decide" comes from the Latin root cide, which literally means "kill." Every time you ask yourself a question like "white or whole wheat?" you are mentally killing an option. Barry Schwartz, psychologist and author of The Paradox of Choice, considers the modern abundance of choice in today's consumerist world as a leading cause for depression. This does not necessarily mean that more is worse, but it does indicate that too many options leads to feelings of missed opportunity.

Even Jeff Bezos says that "three good decisions a day" is enough. If a billionaire genius can only make three decisions in a single day, how do you expect your customer to make multiple decisions in just a few minutes?

What you can do on your online store to prevent customer indecision:

While your e-commerce store might not yet have an AI-powered algorithm that aggregates millions of user actions to predict what your customer wants, you do have other tools at your disposal. Shopify and other e-commerce platforms have built-in tools as well as apps that promote personalization. These tools are actively being used and shoppers are quickly becoming acclimated to them. A study by Infosys found that 59% of consumers that have experienced personalization tools believe it has an effect on their purchasing decisions. Such tools eliminate the need for choice.

By giving your customers the tools to describe themselves to you, you can lead them to exactly what they need. That is what sales people have been doing for ages. A seasoned salesman will always start the sales process with a series of questions to get to know the customer. Sales people and e-commerce merchants should be experts in the products they sell. They should know exactly who the ideal customer would be for each product. Matching needs to products is not the customer's job, it is your job.

What is a personalization tool in e-commerce?

E-commerce personalizations tools are features on an online store that use customers' preferences to enable a unique experience for each customer. These come in several variations, but all narrow users' choices based on their interests and wants. Personalization tools can be used by new or returning customers.

For new customers, personalization tools will most likely ask the customer to give some inputs. Common applications utilize shopping quizzes and filters to allow the customer to input some of his own data before receiving any personalized recommendations. This requires some effort by the user but leads to a smoother customer experience. Time will be spent with or without the tool, but a good personalization quiz can cut that time by a significant margin. These quizzes can be enjoyable and give merchants the opportunity introduce new branding elements.

For returning customers, most tools will already have data on that customer based on their search and shopping actions. Amazon is an expert at this, leveraging not just an individuals' data but all their users' data. Returning customer personalizations often recommend products based on the users' previous purchases or purchases made by similar customers.

All personalization achieves the same goal: reduce options and prevent decision fatigue. As an online merchant, you may want to experiment with different tools to meet your customers' needs. Think about what experience your users would prefer and how those experiences could complement your brand.

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