Increasing Online Conversions: The Window Shopper Syndrome

Brett Welch | BC - Sunday, June 15, 2008
Every business owner wants to increase conversions. Whether it's trying to get browsers in your street level clothing store to buy, or website visitors to add a product to their cart, we're all playing a game of converting browsers into buyers.

Naturally there are some browsers in your shop that are really quite serious and almost ready to buy. And there are also various degrees of browsers. I'm going to bunch all the browsing customers and call them Window Shoppers - ranging from completely uncommitted passers by to browsers in your shop tugging at a new sweater.

Recently I was in a store that I had no intention of buying anything from. As I walked through the store casting my eyes around, I started wondering:

How could this store's owner turn ME into a buyer?

Which leads me to a second thought. If I'm in your store I'm 1000 times more valuable than someone in the street, even if I have no intention of buying today. Why? Because you have my attention. It's your shop, your staff and your message. You should have a pretty good chance of converting me. Maybe not today, but one day. Buying decisions are often cumulative things.

But before we get too deep into this, let's try and get inside the head of a window shopper.

The Window Shopping Syndrome

While this would apply to both online and offline stores, I'm going to focus on ecommerce, or online stores. In this context, a window shopper is someone browsing your ecommerce store.

Window shoppers, the lovable little creatures that we are, share some similarities in the way they think. I've identified two things that are true of online window shoppers (By Brett's hand-waving theory of common sense and reasoning).
  1. They're actually looking for a product they want that you have, but they're not ready to buy yet. This is sometimes called pre-shopping - finding out information and prices etc before the purchase.
  2. They're interested in some information that you have, or just like to look at the latest widget thingy-ma-bob. They're a fan. In any case, they're not buying anything in particular, but you probably sell products or have information that they're generally interested in.
Thankfully when your shop is online your visitors are usually fairly targeted already. You're not so likely to get people wandering onto your website who are just waiting for their tardy friend.

So if that's what they're, how can we keep them happy? How can we convert these browsers into buyers - even though they're not really thinking of buying?

I think there's two things to accept up front:
  • They probably won't buy today.
  • They might buy in the future, but you can't be sure.
With that in mind, we've got to come up with ways so that they remember us when they DO want to buy.

3 Tactics to Increase Conversions: Recruit the Window Shoppers

Use Email Newsletters to Snag Future Customers

Have you got an email newsletter? Throughout your site, think about how you can prominently display your newsletter. Explicitly ask your website users to subscribe to your newsletter.

Use wording to incentivize the sign up - remember, you have to answer their inevitable question "why should I sign up? Phrases like "Sign up to receive updates on our products" are okay, but not as good as "sign up and receive discounts inside our monthly newsletter". Make sure you follow up on these promises though!

Give the Fans Even More Great Content

Search engines love content; so do fans. If you have reviews and comments on the latest iPod, it will be of interest to iPod fans. Write honest reviews of your products. Take photos and post them. Make videos showing you using the product or service if possible, and put them on YouTube. These things make your site a hub of information for people, and make you their top-of-mind store to buy their favorite widget from.

Build a Community

People like to hang out. They like to discuss and post their thoughts. Give your visitors a reason to stay! You can use Forums - why not link your forums to your products, so that people can discuss particular products? Or you could simply enable comments on your online store so that people can tell others what they think.

The 4Cs

Most of these ideas are easily derived out of the 4Cs framework - it's all about Content, Credibility, Conversion and Customer. Remember to keep what your customers are looking for right at the top of your list of priorities, and you'll be heading in the right direction.