Why Don’t People Convert?

Published on 5th September 2017

The Rise (and rise) of Online Shopping

Online shopping is a big deal (stating the obvious – we know!) Gone are the days of toddling off to your local high street to choose from a (probably rather limited) selection of wares and have a chat with the shopkeeper you’ve known since you were knee-high to a grasshopper. Nowadays, we’re all too busy for that, and the convenience of having a global marketplace at our fingertips means that online shopping has gone from strength to strength since it was tentatively introduced.

ComScore, an analytics firm, noted in 2016 that people are now buying more things online than they are in shops. Furthermore, analysts at HSBC have predicted that ‘Online will be the primary driver of like-for-like sales growth’ and sales at online-only stores ASOS and Boohoo are both outstripping more traditional, physical-location, stores.

So, we hear you ask, if online shopping is enjoying such a meteoric rise, then why are Footprint Digital being such party poopers by suggesting that people don’t convert when they clearly do?

What are we Worried About?

In the Journal of Business Research, it was suggested that in 2014, global online retail sales were $1.3 trillion annually; however, almost 96% of website visits end with no consumer purchase and this figure is even worse when people are shopping on mobile devices.

So, yes, there are a lot of online conversions and they are making businesses a lot of money – but businesses are also potentially losing out on even more money because people actually aren’t converting that much. (Sorry to spoil the party).

Why Don’t People Convert?

Buying Versus Shopping

We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but some people simply won’t convert – no matter how hard you try. This is because they’re not using the web to buy, they’re using it to shop – two very different things. Buying is making a purchase, shopping is looking at things, researching, thinking about what our lives would be like if we made a purchase, immersing ourselves in the experience. People go to Tescos to buy, but they go to Harrods to shop (and maybe buy – if they’re feeling extra spendy).

In 2010, a study by Close & Kukar-Kinney, explained that the motivations for online shopping and online buying are different. They found that there are multiple reasons for somebody to put things into their online shopping basket – and often it’s not because they intend on buying them right away.

1) Entertainment. People use the shopping basket to entertain themselves, filling it up with all the fancy things they’d buy if they won the lottery/robbed a bank.

2) Information/ Research. People use shopping carts to do research before they buy things – sometimes they’ll put something in the cart as an easy way to see how much shipping costs, or they might put a few things in the basket of several sites, and then compare the prices etc. against each other.

3) Wish List. If you’ve got a wedding or a special birthday coming up, you might want to create a wish list to make sure you don’t get gifted four toasters, a couple of saucepan sets, and a slightly dubious pair of knitted socks from Aunt Nelly. Some websites have a wish list function – others don’t, so on these sites the shopping cart is the next best thing.

Getting into the Flow

A reason that users who want to convert, don’t, is because they simply can’t get into the flow of buying. McDowell et al (2016) explain that websites with better conversion rates often have users who are in flow when using their website. These people are deeply immersed in using the website, and aren’t being distracted by the common web annoyances that could put them off converting. Other research also indicates that website design has a big impact on the immersion a consumer feels.

So, if your website looks horrible and isn’t functional, people won’t be immersed in using it, won’t get into the flow, and won’t convert (makes sense really!)

McDowell et al found that the following things really put people off converting:

1) Provision of too many links to other site pages (clicking these waylays people)
2) Special offers (unrelated to what they’re looking for)
3) Mandatory registration (why do you need to know my mother’s maiden name just so I can buy some toothpaste?!)
4) Long download delays (no-one’s got time for that)
5) Link failure (rookie error)
6) Long forms to complete (online shopping should be convenient, not take forever)
7) Unnecessary product descriptions (that toothpaste I want to buy – please don’t write 500 words about how minty and fresh it is – I won’t read it)
8) Ambiguity about the next step in site navigation (if people get lost, they definitely won’t have flow- they also might feel silly)
9) Email address required for checkout (ask for it, but don’t make it a requirement if it isn’t)

These flow impediments are all things that we look at when conducting conversion rate optimisation.  Conversion rate optimisation is the process of finding out where the problems are with your website and then fixing them to create a better user experience and get more people converting. It can uncover problems that you didn’t even know were there, and we think that if more people invested in it, then that 96% of website visits ending without a conversion would shrink considerably.