By making sites both more fun and more functional, they hope to appeal to as many shoppers as possible. This broad approach may not be as fruitful as conventionally believed.
Retailers first need to understand who their customers are.
Online retailing is big business, with global annual sales exceeding $1.4 trillion. However, only about 2.5 per cent of visitors to retail web sites actually purchase anything. To convert more visitors into buyers, retailers are investing in website improvements. By making sites both more fun and more functional, they hope to appeal to as many shoppers as possible.
However, research by Professor Narongsak Thongpapanl and his colleagues suggests that this broad approach may not be as fruitful as conventionally believed. Their study compared the website preferences and personality traits of 399 online shoppers.
Thongpapanl says that retailers first need to understand who their customers are. For example, some shoppers focus more on seeking positive outcomes. They emphasize growth and accomplishment. Other shoppers focus on avoiding negative outcomes, and emphasize security and responsibility.
The study found that positive-seeking shoppers preferred web pages with colourful pictures and emotional language. These helped to make shopping fun. They also preferred descriptions emphasizing the pleasure or performance that products would provide. Websites that combined fun layouts with pleasure-oriented descriptions had the greatest appeal.
Conversely, negative-avoiding shoppers preferred practical layouts and clear menus. These made shopping efficient. They similarly preferred descriptions emphasizing product functions and reliability. The best sites combined practical layouts with function-oriented descriptions.
Thongpapanl also recommends that retailers keep their web sites focused. This is because both shopper types disliked seeing too many of the “other” type’s features. For example, negative-avoiding shoppers not only preferred seeing more functional features on web pages, but also fewer fun features.
Narongsak (Tek) Thongpapanl is Professor of Marketing and Product Innovation. His research (funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs) covers new product development, innovation and technology management, e-commerce, wine marketing, and strategic marketing management. He received the 2015 Departmental Researcher of the Year Award within Marketing, International Business and Strategy.
Abdul R. Ashraf and Narongsak (Tek) Thongpapanl, 2015. Connecting with and Converting Shoppers into Customers: Investigating the Role of Regulatory Fit in the Online Customer’s Decision-making Process. Journal of Interactive Marketing 32, 13–25