Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Digital Media Strategists: How Shopper Behavior Insights Can Optimize UX Design

As a digital media strategist, your job description today, let's face it, is no longer confined to the world of digital. As platforms converge, disciplines like consumer insight and shopper behavior are being added to the already exhaustive list of subjects in which digital strategists must be well-versed. As marketing graduate student at Northwestern University studying to become a digital strategist, I've uncovered numerous applications of shopper marketing on enhancing digital interfaces. I summarize tenets from the radically consumer-centric shopper marketing primer "Inside the Mind of the Shopper" by Herb Sorenson--and apply them to optimize online grocery retailer Peapod.com. 

1)    80% of shopper time is spend in search of items in the store, not actually shopping. If retailers can reduce the time shoppers spend looking for items (thereby increasing the ratio seconds per dollars), then the shopper will spend more money.

2)    The three retail moments of truth: reach, stopping, and close. Shortening time and decision-making between each of these stops is crucial. Visual elements are extremely important as each moment is dictated by shoppers’ ability to discern desired products among others.

3)     The three currencies of shopping: money, time, and angst. In retail environments, shoppers will make trade-offs between all three in their decision-making. Retailers, however, largely ignore the last two. Reducing the amount of selection and open space can decrease time and angst spent and subsequently boost sales.

4)     Shoppers will not generally change their habits and preferences in navigation. Therefore, retailers must practice active retailing and place products in front of shopper paths and accommodate their established patterns of behavior. 

Optimizing Peapod.com

*Disclaimer: Peapod.com is a great service with surprisingly fresh produce. I'm just nit-picking the website because it's my future job. And tip their drivers.

"Browsing the Aisles" at Peapod.com

While aware of that the properties of a physical space cannot be exactly transferrable to one online, I do have several suggestions for the Peapod.com that will reduce the amount of time and angst spent searching for items, cut down the amount of time between each retail moment of truth, and reflect already established online shopper behavior that have been ingrained in consumers by common online retailer sites like Amazon.com and those that shoppers exhibit in a physical grocery store.


1)    Label items with how shoppers mentally categorize the products, especially when shoppers traditionally rely on visuals. Because the shopper is accustomed to a very visual experience while shopping, the online grocery shopping experience should also reflect consumer expectation of spacious visual design. Colorful and graphic navigation bars would be a better alternative to purely text.

2)    Order items intuitively, with most commonly accessed categories on top. The site could better utilize consumer insight by arranging the most popular produce categories on top instead of alphabetically.

3)    Accommodate handedness for tasks requiring frequent click activity. As a right-handed user, I would highly prefer it to be on the right side of the page in order to reduce the amount of mouse-dragging across the screen with each selection. In my ideal arrangement, the navigation bar would be on the right and the purchase totals on the left. 


Have a long and spacious search bar located in the center or top of the page. Google and Amazon.com have trained us to expect intuitive search bars that have been designed for ease of access and use. 

The "Apples" sub-label under "Fresh Fruit"

User Interface        


1)    The physical, visual retail environment should be mirrored as closely as possible online. Peapod's current shopping environment resembles the back-end of a manufacturer’s stock order sheet. The actual picture of the product is very small on the page while most of the white space is spent on item description and pricing. Visuals should dominate.  

2)    Give the online shopper what they're used to. Trained from retail and Amazon along with physical grocery vendors, users are accustomed to horizontal product layouts with product pricing on the bottom and large, hover-over product images. Such a layout also resembles product stacking in physical grocery stores. 

3)    Avoid the need for excessive precision clicking. The quantity boxes and its green arrows are not very user-friendly, adding additional time and effort in the buying process. Shoppers should be able to click on the product image and enter a number for quantity desired for purchase for fast and intuitive shopping. 
Beryl Zhao is currently pursuing a M.S. degree in Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University with a concentration in marketing analytics. She aims to become a digital media strategist at a digital agency where she hopes to use both her creative and analytic skill sets in designing and optimizing seamless customer experiences in the digital and mobile sphere. Find her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter.

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