This is a guest post written by Van Schlichting, SEO & Optimization Practice Lead at Corra, a global digital agency creating transformative commerce experiences for fashion, beauty, and lifestyle brands. To learn more, visit corra.com.
A good first question when familiarizing yourself with a new customer base is, “Who is my typical customer?” This is usually a question that you can readily find an answer to, but where does one go from there?
Having a clear understanding of who is hitting your site, and what they are looking for, is key to developing an immersive and relevant customer experience.
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Who is on your site anyway?
The place e-commerce occupies on the cusp of technology and marketing often puts us in the mindset of a traditional marketer. One thing we often miss with this approach is the understanding that visitor composition changes naturally throughout the year, particularly for businesses in a highly seasonal industry. Some customers may seek your brand only certain times of the year. For instance, some shoppers are only interested in the winter clothing line, or they tend to shop in advance of summer activities.
Beyond changes in your customer base behavior, you also can see site visitors who aren’t actually your customer at all. For instance, your customer Mr. Smith is very loyal, and purchases fairly regularly. Mrs. Smith, however, only shops on your site on Black Friday, or during a peak season for a gift for her husband. While she may know what she wants to purchase, her unfamiliarity with your site or product leads to a shopping journey that is very different from what you might expect. Since so much of a good testing program is about looking at the end-to-end experience, this can complicate your interpretation of the results.
Identifying the Gift Buyers
Learning how your customers act during gift-buying times is the key to achieving the most relevant and engaging experience. There is no magic bullet that will solve everything, but there are some variables to begin looking at to identify gift buyers:
- New vs. Returning – While we may not be able to identify Mrs. Smith on Mr. Smith’s computer, we can be fairly certain that gift buyers like her are going to be “new” to our site. Beginning by looking at new visitors, and then refining them into some of the more detailed sub-segments listed here is a good place to start. It’s also important to note that Mrs. Smith may be using Mr. Smith’s computer or even account, and so may not show up as new at all. A good way to begin profiling this scenario is to focus on the typical time windows you can predict, when gift buyers surge, and develop segments for only that time period. You can then compare their behavior to other periods more readily.
- Index/Product Page Loiterers – Pausing longer than usual on the index or product page is most commonly a characteristic of someone buying gifts. I’ve seen 20%-30% increases in time on these pages during the holidays! Combine this with new visitors, and you’ve done most of the heavy lifting toward identifying gift buyers. Just be sure that other factors—such as other tests you are running, or content changes—are factored out.
- Product Page, Index Page, Product Page – Similar to sitting on the index page, new and unfamiliar shoppers tend to move back and forth from products to product lists more often. This could be Mrs. Smith looking for that perfect gift, particularly when aligned with specific keyword searches (such as Mr. Smith wanting that new gadget that is being advertised) or within a specific deep (level 4) category on the site.
- Keyword Searchers – For most retailers who aren’t high SKU count/category spread, returning users tend to use the navigation more often than keyword searching. A new visitor doing a single keyword search during the holidays is likely to be a gift buyer because they already know what is wanted.
- Cart Adds & Abandons – Generally, you will see a negative correlation between gift buyers and abandoned carts. We often miss this one because in general, add-to-cart rates and cart abandonment rates will both rise during the holidays. This is because the existing customer is more likely to price shop, while a gift buyer goes straight to checkout.
Keeping an eye on these behavioral patterns will help retailers to see which customers are new or returning, and which have landed on your site to shop for gifts. Knowing this will allow you to target these customer groups with promotions that speak to their interests, and in some cases acquire them in their own right.