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Consumer Behavior

What Factors Affect Consumer Behavior Online?


Analyzing consumer behavior can be a pseudo science. I have come across advice in ecommerce journals that seems to be nothing more than a confirmation of the author's prejudice. If analysis of consumer behavior lacks rigor, it can be prejudicial.

Generalizations Across Consumer Segments May Lead to Meaningless Averages
Nine women cannot get together and give birth to a child in one month. That right there presents strong evidence of the risk of converting statistical data (i.e., one woman takes nine months to give birth to a baby) into seemingly actionable conclusions.

Consumer Behavior Can Actually Be Pretty Non-Intuitive
A study by researchers from Cornell University and University of Toronto came up with a startling revelation: the physical distance between consumers and the computer screen significantly influences decisions. Interesting, right? I do not know what to make of this conclusion. But I have no reason to disbelieve it.

If we were to try and draw conclusions based on this study, we would need to come up with methods to permit consumers to maintain their distance from the screen. But that is difficult, isn't it. Especially as the consumer will need to be sufficiently close to be able to click navigational links. But there are some ideas that could work.

Permitting Customers to View Your Website Without Having to Lean Towards the Computer Screen
  • Keep Display Elements Sufficiently Large
    Small font sizes, images, and rich media resolutions will cause customers to "lean in." Making sure that the sizes are ample will do away with the need for consumers to get really close.

  • Use Engaging Videos
    I don't know if this is your experience too, but I have noticed several people "lean back" as they prepare to watch an online video. Without meaning to sound like I am on an overdose of pop-psychology, I figure that people who are about to watch a video know that there is no imminent need to interact with the computer. Hence they make themselves comfortable by moving back.

    These recommendations are sound in general; even if you were to ignore the specific study mentioned earlier.

Ecommerce Merchants Understand the Importance of Behavioral Targeting
Telling ecommerce professionals the importance of behavioral targeting is like preaching to the choir. Monitoring, measuring, and analyzing consumer behavior is possible, as web servers log online activity.

Social Media Adds a New Dimension to Consumer Behavior
The way people respond to marketing messages on your ecommerce website is quite different from the way they respond to messages posted by their social network. If I, as the marketer, tell you to watch a movie because it is "the greatest epic drama ever," my words will probably bounce off you. But if your cousin commented on your Facebook page and told you to watch that movie, you would react differently. This is why marketers are struggling to harness the marketing potential of social media.

Monitoring and Targeting Based on Behavior Can Have Damning Consequences for Consumer Privacy
As people live more and more of their lives online, concerns relating to the potential misuse of private information get shriller. No one wants to feel like big brother is watching him or her all the time. I would go so far as to say that I do not like that advertisements alongside my email account are closely related to the content of my email. It seems like an intrusion into my private space.

Final Words
As technology progresses, we experience two simultaneous trends. On the one hand, a greater amount of consumer data is available. On the other, the misuse of this data becomes an increasing worry. Policy makers, business owners, and consumer groups wrestle with the unique challenges that the connected world throws up.
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