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The Impulse for Ecommerce, pt. III: Harnessing Mobile Impulse Buys

shopping bags on mcommerce smartphone

Does mobile ecommerce encourage impulsive buying? The short answer is, “Yes!” Almost 1/5th of consumers believe their mobile devices increase their impulse purchases. And since we now know what impulse buying is, have identified who impulse buys most, and how website UX affects impulsive shoppers, let’s examine how smartphones and tablets increase m-commerce conversions by catering to impulse buyers.

More Triggers from M-commerce

For customers using mobile tech, their impulse to buy can be triggered by any experience they might be having with their surroundings or within the actual device, like email promotions or blog reviews. Impulse purchases on mobile still fall into the 4 categories of impulse buying that we examined in Part I—pure, reminder, suggestive, or planned—but on mobile there can be a wide variety of pathways to the same impulse. Ecommerce marketers benefit because m-commerce opens up and connects channels for discovery and buying. So how can we optimize conversion rates for impulse shoppers?

Why Impulse Shoppers Love Mobile

Half of all ecommerce site traffic now comes from mobile users, with 40% from smartphones and 10% from tablets. As stated above, a Rackspace survey found that 17% of consumers believed their mobile devices increased their impulse buying. Respondents cited how simple it was to browse and make a purchase and overall ease of use as the biggest reason for this increase.

Mobile impulse shopping may be strong because customers, now able to shop anywhere, are exposed to more products over time. As we learned in part I, the more products a customer sees, the higher their urge and likelihood to buy.

This is all great news for ecommerce sellers, who can count on a steady natural increase in mobile shopping and unplanned purchases, but only if your site is easy to use. Major sites are turning away from m-dot sites in favor of responsive mobile sites, which are speedy, SEO friendly, content-rich, and adaptive to both smartphones and tablets. Additionally, mobile-optimized menus and checkout processes work to improve mobile engagement and conversion.

Mobile-to-desktop shopping

Even though mobile encompasses half of ecommerce site traffic, shoppers abandon 97% of mobile carts. There are a variety of reasons for this, including security issues (59% of online shoppers are uncomfortable storing credit card information online), usability issues, and slow loading speeds.

So how are mobile shoppers impulse buying so much if they’re abandoning so many carts?

The answer: they browse on mobile and buy on desktop.

Customers use an average of 2.6 devices per transaction, meaning that mobile-to-desktop ecommerce is typical of m-commerce users. Here are a few ways to promote this type of buying:

  • Structure your mobile design for fast, easy browsing and navigation
  • Use category links and speedy search to give direction to impulse shoppers
  • Provide detailed product information and viewing on mobile
  • Make it easy to save items in an online cart/wish list, and finish the purchase on desktop (abandoned cart reminder emails also help bridge the gap)

Informed Impulse Buying—the Happy Medium?

Lastly, let’s consider mobile impulse purchases made in-store. Often, shoppers look on ecommerce sites while browsing in-store for research purposes. In fact, 62% of mobile shoppers say they perceive info gathered on mobile as more beneficial than in-store promotional literature.

For these customers who browse and buy on mobile while inside a store (in your store or a competitor’s store), mobile bridges the gap between exhaustive product research and impulse buying. Whether they are using your store as a showroom, checking your competitor’s prices, reading product reviews and ratings, or checking for out-of-stock items online, your ecommerce site should be prepared to answer all of their questions quickly: these are customers who want to buy now but get a great deal and product at the same time. Include a ratings and review section on each product page to help these m-commerce shoppers make an informed decision, and display exclusive offers like free shipping to assure them of the best possible price when the impulse buy.

Series Recap

To sum up what we learned in this series:

  • There are 4 main types of impulse buys – pure, reminder, suggestive, and planned
  • The more products and promotions a customer sees, the more likely they will buy on impulse
  • Category links and fast search encourage browsing for unplanned purchases
  • Impulse buyers love high quality websites and m-commerce
  • Appeal to customers’ impulses post-purchase, both online and in-store
  • Ecommerce and m-commerce allow consumers to make better-informed impulse decisions


Please leave any questions in the comment section and they will be answered.

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The Impulse for Ecommerce, pt. II: How to Increase Impulse Buying with a Better User Experience


More and more impulse purchases are made online everyday as B2B and B2C ecommerce expands. In the second part of our series, we take a closer look at ecommerce site design and its effect on impulsive buying, and we will explore the user experience principles that increase unplanned purchases made on your site.

Anatomy of an Impulse Buy

Before we dive into user experience best practices, it is important to know that all unplanned purchases follow a two-step mental process:

  1. The urge to buy when you encounter the item
  2. The decision to act on that urge

Studies show that the more urges a customer experiences, the higher the chance of ultimately buying something unplanned. So in order to increase impulse-based conversions, a website must entice customers with products, and often.

Website Quality Matters to Impulse Buyers

Just as brick-and-mortar retailers adjust store atmospherics like lighting, music, and floorplan to encourage impulse buying, ecommerce websites can take steps to optimize their site design for this kind of purchasing.

One case study showed that higher perceived website quality increased the urge to impulse buy. In particular, when the site demonstrated higher perceived security, ease of navigation, and visual appeal, all resulted in a stronger temptation to buy. Additionally, the study found that the effect of website quality was even stronger for inherently impulsive customers. If you want to attract likely impulse buyers, the best way to do that is by improving your website quality.

Site Design Practices That Lead to Impulse Purchases

Here are a few practical solutions to improve website quality for likely impulse buyers:

  1. Security Cues:

Customers will only buy from your site if they feel secure with it in the first place. Display visual cues like lock icons near credit card information and security software credentials on your site to make users feel more at ease.

  1. Frictionless Navigation:
  • Category links on your site help customers browse more effectively because they help customers discover products in a more strategic way. A UIE study found that 87% of the dollars spent on impulse purchases came from category link navigation.
st tropez screenshot

An example of category links on sainttropez.com

  • Product Search: Although impulse shoppers are not looking for a specific item, they may still have an idea of what they want, so a powerful search capability can assist a user as they narrow down the type of item they want. Functions like type-ahead and drop-down lists with product icons expose users to more items, increasing the likelihood of an impulse buy.
  1. Visual Appeal: Much like brick-and-mortar atmospherics, organized, beautiful websites increase the desire to browse and explore its products. Consumers enjoy interactive and moving elements that create a dynamic experience. Your website is like the shelf on which your products are displayed—a better display makes customers want to pick something out.

Make the Most of Post-Purchase Impulse Buys

To top off a great user experience, you should think about generating impulse sales after a purchase is completed. It’s not like online shoppers leave the store after they check out, so reach out to customers with product suggestions on the sales confirmation page and in their confirmation email. These are great spaces to display suggested and complementary products.

If your company has both an ecommerce and an in-store presence, in-store pick-ups and returns are a great way to immerse your online customers in physical product displays and encourage already paying customers to add unplanned purchases to their shopping cart.

To recap what we’ve covered in the series so far,

  • There are 4 types of impulse buys to consider when you plan a path to purchase
  • Display more products and promotions to maximize the potential for impulse buys
  • Upbeat, action-oriented website copy appeals to likely impulse buyers
  • Higher quality websites appeal more to impulse buyers
  • Appeal to shoppers’ impulses post-purchase, both online and in-store

In the third and final installment of our series, we’ll take a look at m-commerce and how to harness impulse buys with mobile technology.

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The Impulse for Ecommerce, pt. 1: What is Impulse Buying and Who Does It?


As an ecommerce merchant, a large portion of your sales probably comes from impulsive buys.  But what if you could understand what triggers impulse buying behavior, who does it and how to best facilitate getting customers to add impulse purchases to their shopping carts?

You are going to get those answers in this series.  So, let’s start at the beginning.  What is the definition of impulse buying?

There are four different types of buying impulses:

  1. Pure Impulse: an unplanned novelty purchase, e.g. casually browsing Etsy and buying a handmade ceramic sculpture you like
  2. Reminder Impulse: seeing a product and remembering that you need it, e.g. buying AA batteries at checkout to power a gadget you just bought
  3. Suggestive Impulse: seeing a product and visualizing a need for it, e.g. purchasing socks after seeing them listed as a recommended product on an ecommerce website that sells shoes
  4. Planned Impulse: taking advantage of a promotional offer with an unplanned purchase, e.g. adding an item to your cart to reach a free shipping threshold

Tip One: Since shoppers only make impulsive buys after being exposed to a product or promotion, the more products, promotions, and complementary product-pairings you make visible on your ecommerce site, the greater the potential for impulse buys. Because impulse buyers are not driven by exact specifications, focus more on visual elements on product pages than on written descriptions—include multiple views that demonstrate exactly how a product looks and works.

Tip Two: Surveys show that younger people and people who consider shopping a form of entertainment are more likely to be impulse buyers. To appeal to these demographics, keep your website copy upbeat and action-oriented. For a clothing ecommerce website, for example, display product recommendations under a heading like “Complete the Look,” which suggests that the purchase of a particular item is incomplete without the complementary product.

Tip Three: Keeping in mind the 4 types of impulse buying, imagine how your customers might arrive at an impulse buy for every type of product you sell. If they are taking advantage of a promotion, what is their path to purchase, and what items are they buying with that promotion code? Does your site remind customers that they might be out of a product so they will buy a replacement? The answers vary widely across ecommerce sites and product categories, but the spontaneity of the purchase is the same.

The next post in this series explores how website design affects the psychological urge to buy spontaneously.

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Lessons in eCommerce from Grammy-Nominated Pop Divas, Part V: Beyoncé

source: Beyonce – Google+


Beyoncé branded herself as the pop artist of 2014 without the use of traditional “hype” channels for pre-release promotion (social media buzz, album teases, pre-release streaming, etc.). But it wasn’t always this way. Over the last few years, Beyoncé’s public image has blown up from former Destiny’s Child singer-slash-actress to undisputable American music royalty. She took the music world by storm in late 2013, releasing a groundbreaking surprise “visual album” of 14 new songs and 17 accompanying videos with an impressive roster of featured musicians and directors. Needless to say, this blog series simply wouldn’t be complete without Beyoncé. Here are the ‘flawless’ eCommerce lessons we can learn from Queen Bey’s astronomical success:

  1. Practice messaging realness

Because social media is such a major platform for music artists, it is fairly commonplace to see teaser messages like :

“New album out on [release date], get excited!”


“In the studio…new album’s sounding great, can’t wait to share it with you!”

Usually, this type of broadcasting is used to stir up conversations on social media and press wires from entertainment news sites in hope of a well-publicized album drop.

However, these promotional strategies also tend to annoy audiences by fishing for excitement over a product they have not yet experienced or judged for themselves. When there is really nothing to get excited about, teasers leave fans and listeners empty.

Beyoncé understood the pointlessness of album release teasers when she dropped a self-titled “surprise” album in December 2013 and co-released a collection of accompanying music videos on the same day. Ironically, the fact of the surprise release (and its impeccable songs) generated even more press for her than a typical “hyped” album.

On the subject of the “surprise” release strategy, Beyoncé was quoted with this wise piece of marketing advice:

“I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it…There’s so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans. I felt like I didn’t want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it’s ready and from me to my fans.”

In the quote, she demonstrates the importance of cultivating a relationship with your audience through direct, meaningful content.

  1. Utilize video to create a brand experience

Beyoncé has gained a reputation for creating successful music videos that are memorable in all the right ways. As early as 2009, her iconic “Single Ladies” video prompted Kanye West into his famous “Imma let you finish” rant at the VMAs. And with 17 videos constituting a “visual album” for Beyoncé, she creates a full sensory experience which makes her brand all the more memorable.

In 2015, video is projected to become an even more influential social media tool, with growth expected to be as much as 21% annually. As site and load speeds increase, social platforms improve their video players, and mobile viewing increases, video is quickly becoming one of the most powerful, creative tools for marketing your company and telling your brand story. According to a report from Demand Metric, “95% of executives confirmed that video was an important and valuable form of content, and over 70% of respondents stated that video was a better conversion tool than other types of content.” Whether on your website or social platforms, video is a compelling way to bring your brand message to life.

  1. Leverage your popularity

Few artists in the history of music have been as immune to criticism as Beyoncé. She is so universally liked that Saturday Night Live even parodied her popularity in the digital short “The Beygency,” where a secret police agency that takes down anyone who expresses the slightest dislike of her music.

Her impressive public image comes from her ability to leverage the popularity of her music with more personal messages filled with vulnerability, political frankness, and emotional strength. Plenty of musicians have great songs, but Beyoncé uses the attention she gains from her music to have real conversations about topics like fame, feminism, and marriage. Unlike many artists in the music business, of Beyoncé’s genuine public image leads fans to appreciate her music even more.

In the same way, you can leverage the likability of your great product and use its popularity as an opportunity to present thoughtful content about your industry. Like Mrs. Knowles-Carter, you should contribute new ideas to public conversations while maintaining a genuine, likable brand identity.

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Lessons in eCommerce from Grammy-Nominated Pop Divas, Part IV: Lorde

photo source: http://www.windishagency.com/artists/lorde


The Grammy Awards are upon us once again. In anticipation of music’s biggest night, let’s explore the many effective marketing lessons B2B and B2C businesses can learn from the success stories of Grammy-nominated pop divas.

Anti-pop pop star Lorde is undoubtedly the biggest breakout star in music over the last two years. The New Zealand artist’s song “Royals” reached #1 across the charts and her album “Pure Heroine” went platinum in several countries, an unprecedented feat for a female pop artist whose music and look defies all stereotypes and expectations for the genre. So what can we learn about e-business from Lorde’s ascent to pop royalty?

  1. Know your audience
  2. Personalize your content
  3. Allow users to customize their purchases
  1. Know your audience

Not all pop stars are the same, and neither are your customers. Lorde demonstrates a deep understanding of her young audience by writing songs that cater to things they deal with every day: growing up, falling in love, being betrayed by friends, etc. Her songs express a complex on-the-ground understanding of the common experiences and emotions she shares with listeners; she doesn’t rely on derivative or superficial notions of what young people want to hear.

As a marketer, you should possess a similarly complex knowledge of who your customers are. While you may already know your users’ general demographics—age, location, education level, occupation—it is also crucial to gather information about their journey—what their goals are, how your product or service will help them achieve that goal, and how they found their way to your company. Piecing together this dynamic customer information is known as persona mapping. “Persona” describes not only who your customer is demographically, but also what they are looking for and how they will find it. For each type of product or service you offer, you should have a clear understanding of the personas you are catering to and a map of their journey to your business.

  1. Personalize your content

While listeners have come to expect rehashed “party girl” clichés from pop music, Lorde’s unique charm stems from her edgy, gothic look and deeply personal lyrics. Audiences will feel more deeply connected to your product if you present them with personalized content that caters to their areas of interest.

Nearly every marketing channel can be personalized for users, from email to social media to in-person experiences. For websites, content personalization features bring only the most relevant information to customers, potential customers, and site visitors by detecting information that will help determine what they are interested in. For example, if a visitor views two pages of red sneakers, the site responds by presenting related results of other red sneakers, and the home page of your site will now show suggestions of sneakers within a similar price range. Additionally, your site can respond differently to new users vs returning users, B2B account users vs personal consumers. Overall, content personalization results in a better, more streamlined user experience.


  1. Allow users to customize their purchases

Lorde’s brand encompasses sophisticated music and a grown-up personal style that stands out among other pop stars in today’s musical landscape. Listeners are captivated by this difference, and they feel compelled by her defiant self-expression, such as when she declares, “That kind of luxe just ain’t for us, we crave a different kind of buzz.”

Lorde appeals to people’s desire to express what is unique and personal to them, which is also the underlying principle behind product customization. A survey of 1000 online shoppers revealed that less than 10% have tried customization options, but 25% to 30% are interested in customizing their products. Ecommerce is the perfect medium for buyers to place orders for custom products online, where they can select from varieties specs, colors, and styles using drop-down lists or specialized product configurators. Not only will customers be more satisfied with their one-of-a-kind products, they will also be more deeply engaged with your brand.

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