Joe Leech

Cars & Houses vs Batteries & Books; the two different types of eCommerce and why it matters

Understanding the difference can lead to new, innovative ideas and dramatic improvements in performance.

Read time 8 minutes.


TLDR: User behaviour is different when purchasing expensive, complex products vs consumable items they need quickly. Design your e-commerce site to match the behaviours.

Here are the slides for the talk based on this post


Fridges are the same as washing machines right? White boxes you put in you kitchen to make your life easier.

You dig beneath the surface and you realise fridges are bought very differently from washing machines. Look at this electrical shop. The difference is clear.

Washing machine shop

Look where the washing machines are shown, stacked and hidden at the back. The fridges are front and centre.

I first came across this when working for a white goods retailer online. Fridges are considered purchase. Fridges are the centre of the kitchen. In conducting research in people’s home on this we can see this by what’s on the fridge:

We can all relate to fridges like these, cluttered with the details of family life.

And the fact that it is often in a prominent place in the centre of the kitchen.

The washing machine is often hidden, either in a laundry room or under the counter. Rarely is washing machine bought on looks. Fridges on the other hand. They need to look good as they are the kitchen centre piece.

Users spend almost twice the amount of time considering a fridge purchase as they do a washing machine. To find out why let’s look at examples of both types of behaviour.


Introducing considered and non-considered purchases

Considered purchases take time, are often (but not always) for more expensive items and are often are an enjoyable experience. They also often involve buying with another person.

Non-considered purchases are quick, for lower cost items and are all about getting in and out quickly and getting the item as soon as possible. Mostly they are purchases made by one person without asking others’ opinions.

examples of each
Some examples

Understanding the difference between the two can help you design your website to match user behaviour.

How users see it

I’ve conducted over 800 user research interviews in my career and have researched and improved many ecommerce sites. Here’s what I’ve heard in user research.

users quotes
Considered purchasing is experiential. Non-considered is about the usability.

As we can see different user attitudes. Slow and thoughtful vs fast efficient.

Let’s look at the two types of ecommerce in detail.

Considered purchases

Typically considered purchases are more expensive and it doesn’t get more expensive than a house.

This from Foxtons.com

Foxtons

Look at that large image. Note the price in smaller text, and the obvious absence of a Buy Now button. Buying a house is a fun, exciting experience (except when it’s not of course), but you get the point. The website should be about the experience not rushing you through to buy in 3 clicks or less.

Also holidays / vacations, an expensive item.

holiday villa
And cars:

jaguar

Spot the theme here? Images are big, it’s about the experience of buying as much as the product.

Considered purchases are also never done alone. There is always someone else involved. More often than not that’s a partner / spouse but could be a close friend or family member. Users want to engage with the other person to get their thoughts. The purchase will be for both of them.

You may only see one user. After all it’s just one person creating an account and entering their credit card details. It’s very unusual for someone to buy a considered purchase alone, we just see one person because of the single-user nature of 99% of account / login processes.

Considered purchases are not about speed, or optimising clicks. Often by shortcutting the experience by making things efficient you loose the exact things users need. No-one wants to buy a car in 3 clicks.

When it comes to considered purchases it’s not about optimising. It’s about the experience, about context, support and above all time.

It’s very different proposition when it comes to batteries, groceries or memory cards. These purchases are done with little thought, quickly and more often than not on Amazon. Let’s look at non-considered purchases.

Non-considered purchases

These are items that require less thinking or decision making. It’s about speed, efficiency and ease of use.

Buying batteries, memory cards, car insurance, a hotel for one night for work. All these are purchases that will happen in one session, quickly and with less thought. The user needs to get it done.

This is why many traditional ecommerce optimisation techniques work with these straight forward purchases. Just get out of the way and get the user to checkout and purchase as efficiently as possible. Nudge psychology works on these products, only 2 left, 10 people purchased in the last hour. Those techniques are far less effective for vacations, houses and cars.

Let’s look at a classic ecommerce page:

Buying a printer ink cartridge on InkFactory.com

They are really laying it on thick but the messaging is great. In stock immediate dispatch, letter box friendly, free shipping, 142 people recently viewed. Everything on the page is about getting you to buy the item NOW! Which is again, what the user wants. There is no consideration here.

Back to fridges and washing machines

Hold on, oh no. The kitchen is flooded. The washing machine has broken down. For a family with two toddlers and two busy parents we can’t be without a washing machine for more than a few days. Quick let’s jump to John Lewis and buy one.

JohnLewis.com

We need one that has a big drum (we’re a family), has a quick wash (we’re busy people) and most importantly will be delivered as fast as possible. And if they can collect the old one that’d be great.

That product page is no help.

Big load is useful in the description, but I don’t care about energy rating, what is A+++ anyway? Has it got a quick wash? Free delivery, great and all but how quickly can you get it to me?

How a user sees this page.

Yet, refrigerators are a considered purchase. How about when buying a fridge? Most often as part of a brand new kitchen.

The fridge is the centre of kitchen. We want it to match and compliment the design. we stick everything to our fridge, the food plan, kids weekly plan. I don’t like the colour of that one. I’ll ask my partner what they think? Oh and my mum she’s got an eye for these things.

The fridge is an important part of any kitchen.

Um, tasty fridge
Not so helpful. Come on John!

Yet we can see here the product page is identical. We know that users shop for considered purchases more on emotion, where’s the large photos? That photo gives no insight into the fridge. There is no emotion, no context, no help to make a decision.

Two seemingly very similar products are bought very differently.

How to identify if you are selling considered vs non considered purchases

Which category a product is in can depend on many factors. Be that based on gender, age or country of residence. If a purchase is considered vs non-considered may be different. Think about it as a continuum. For certain people an item may be a considered purchase. Clothing for example, more fashion conscious people might take their time with a purchase.

A pair of socks may be non-considered whereas a coat is a considered purchase. The behaviour is different and that means the experiences need to be different too.

Different Behaviours

To identify if your product is one type or the other you can look for these symptoms.

2.1 to 1 the visits to purchase
More visits per purchase.
channels
Historically more channels, eg desktop and less mobile but that is changing.

We start to see the following behaviours more for each type of purchase.

Considered Purchase Non – Considered Purchase
– Fun
– May be bought with partner
– Ask a friend / family member
– Think about it & come back later
– Multi-channel
– Read around 
– Read product reviews
– Look at pictures

Shop by 
QUALITY and SERVICE
– It’s a chore
– Get it it done
– Mono-channel
– Speed is important
– Shop around to get a cheaper price
– Read vendor reviews



Shop by 
PRICE and SHIPPING SPEED

How to design for each type of behaviour

Design for considered purchases

Users are shopping by QUALITY and SERVICE.

  1. Big pictures
    • Large pictures help show the detail and detail is really important.
    • The bigger you can make the images the better.
    • This is especially true of holidays / vacations to get users excited about the trip.
  2. Bespoke pictures
    • If it’s clothing show the stitching, details, close ups as well as shots with models wearing the clothes.
    • For washing machines users like to see images of the controls to understand how easy it will be to use.
    • For hotels and travel if a user is travelling with kids shots of the elevators, the pool, kids specific features like a play room or a fold away bed.
    • The more focused and varied the imagery the more questions can be answered and more reassurance given.
  3. Make it easy to share / Link two accounts
    • Non-considered purchases are not done alone so ensure that two people can link accounts to share configuration and purchase.
  4. Save for later / Remember last viewed products
  5. Live chat for questions on the product
  6. Run an email drip reminder campaign
    • (+4hr, +24hr +3 day)
  7. Reviews of product
    • Social proof is great but also customers often look for questions they have a product in the reviews
  8. Third party product reviews
    • External validation
  9. Show previously viewed items
    • Design for return visits
  10. Selectable delivery dates into the future,
    • I may need to take the day off work to be home, be flexible to my schedule
    • I might not have space for the new washing machine for a week or so
    • Let me choose my delivery company
  11. It’s about emotion not product features
  12. Above all make the experience enjoyable

Design for non-considered purchases

Shop by PRICE and SPEED.

  1. Be cheap
    • Amazon and eBay are the kings of this kind of eCom journey.
  2. About trusting the brand, I know I want the product
    • Reviews of the store / brand from Trust Pilot, Google or Freefo.
  3. Clear, quick shipping times, shipping partner + costs
    • Users want their clothes, batteries, memory card quickly.
    • Zero shipping costs
  4. Easy to re-order previously purchased items I reorder contact lenses every 6 months. I visit the site the thing I see is the last thing I bought
  5. Get out of the way:
    • No pop-ups, delays, sidetracking, rat holes or distraction
    • No sign ups to email lists or sharing this on social media.
    • The user is here to buy and they have a short attention span and you have competitors. Avoid distraction and get out the users’ way.
    • You can ask them to sign up on the post purchased confirmation page
  6. Use classic e-commerce optimisation tactics
  7. Make it QUICK & EASY
    • Short one page, checkout flows, save my payment details for later, fewer clicks the better.

do this advice

Bryony Thomas in her book Watertight Marketing talks about how to market to the considered purchaser.

Wait, our store sells both considered and non-considered items

The simple answer is you can’t use the same page design for both. Your development team might not like it but your customers will.

Supercharge your ecommerce site by designing for behaviour

By understanding user behaviours you can greatly improve the user experience and have a more successful ecommerce site.

I’d love to hear your experiences of optimising for considered and non-considered purchases.


I talk more about this on the Mind the Product podcast. You can watch a video of me talking more around this issue and how to use Jobs to be Done to tackle it.

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