Optimizing website performance has become a key priority in e-commerce, as small changes may have a huge impact on conversions. Tools like Google Analytics have made analyzing every aspect of the website into science. However, numbers can only tell you so much of the full story in certain situations.
Are visitors leaving your website before a purchase decision?
The ever-growing number of options to choose from in an e-commerce store can overwhelm customers. Causing them to leave the website and instead research different alternatives before making a purchase decision. This problem can be difficult to identify using only website analytics, as it cannot be directly measured. A metric that can indicate that this an issue is bounce rate, as it tells you how many of your visitors leave the website just after entering.
However, it can be hard to distinguish why the website's bounce rate has increased. As issues can stretch from purely technical, such as website speed, to how the website is visually presented. It's therefore important for you to understand the user experience from the customers' point of view when analyzing your website.
Why more customers research alternatives before making a purchase
In 2020 a staggering 81% of consumers conduct their online research before making a purchase decision. Making an informed purchase decision has always been important for consumers. In an online environment, a potential customer is expected to read up on the alternatives themselves. Of course, there is plenty of information online, stretching from product reviews to price comparisons, but the visitor typically has to leave your website to access it.
Traditionally in physical stores, attendants guide customers. Taking on the expert role and presenting a limited selection of products that suit the customer's needs. Studies show that presenting fewer alternatives to customers increase their likelihood of making a decision. On the contrary, presenting more options can make customers feel overwhelmed and enter a state of choice paralysis, making their purchase decision harder. In one study the conversion rate increased from 4% to 31%, when reducing the number of products presented from 24 to 6.
The average scenario when presenting too many options is that the potential customer starts conducting their product research, often outside of your website, with some never finding their way back. The worst-case scenario is that choice paralysis occurs, making the barrier of self-educating too large for the consumer. Causing them to completely abandon their plans to make a purchase. Both these two scenarios contribute to increased bounce rates in for example Google Analytics.
How to mitigate bouncing due to research
There are many ways of mitigating the issue of consumers leaving your website to conduct their product research. In most cases, a combination of these can be used to reduce a large portion of the website visitors that bounce because of research.
Reviews and ratings
Striving to become the destination that consumers visit to compare and buy products is one approach. To be perceived by consumers as an objective source of information it typically means that the store has to become a marketplace, such as Amazon or Zalando, rather than a direct-to-consumer actor.
The main purpose of reviews on a direct-to-consumer website are mainly for providing social proof. This is because many consumers are aware that the reviews displayed have been moderated and approved by the store.
Guiding articles or blog posts
Writing guides and content that can be accessed by visitors on the website is a commonly used method. However, these are often purposed for attracting new visitors that search for a specific topic, using SEO. Rather than guiding visitors already on the website.
The reason why written guides are hard to display to visitors already on the website, is because it's difficult to identify when guidance is needed. Combined with the effort required by the customer to read a guide and the limited real estate to display a guide on a website.
Presenting fewer options
Narrowing down the options presented to the visitor on the website is another way to reduce research bounce. If you're a brand this can be having a limited range, such as expertly done by, for example, Apple.
However, if you are a retailer or a brand that offers a wide range of products, a good option is to use a product finder. A product finder lets you start from the customer's needs and take on the role of the expert, to guide and present visitors to a limited selection of products. This not only reduces the bounce but also shortens the purchasing process and lets you promote specific products in your inventory that you want to sell more of.