The Art of relationship building on eCommerce (Chapter 3)

Knowing what your customers need is a big part of customer acquisition. It helps to understand your online store as a solution to a problem your customer might have. For example, someone:


1.Has a desire to buy a specific product. For example, they see a nice TV in a magazine ad, and they suddenly feel a need to get a new flat screen.

2.Searches for a solution to this problem. For example, they might search the Internet for the specific TV they saw in the ad.

3.Selects from a set of choices. For example, they look at all the TVs and click on the one they are interested in.

4.Indicates their intent to purchase. If they really like it, they add the product to the cart.

5.Makes the actual purchase. They pass through checkout and order the product.

6.Evaluates their decision after the purchase. They might ask themselves, was the TV worth it? Maybe they should have looked for a better price someplace else?

7.Makes a positive evaluation of their decision. When someone evaluates their decision positively, there is a better chance they will shop at your store again.


This process can occur in a matter of seconds, a customer stops searching immediately after finding and falling in love with an item. This is known as impulse buying. On the other hand, it can also take someone months to decide, especially when the decision involves a major purchase.

It’s worth mentioning here that people arriving at your online store may be at entirely different steps in their own process. One person may only be at the step where a desire arises, while another may already be searching for the solution to their problem, and still another may arrive with the specific intent to buy a particular item.

This means that some of your visitors are determined to make a purchase at once, and are easy to acquire as customers. Others may still be in an earlier stage of their decision making process. It’s often difficult to acquire these customers on their first visit, often it’s better to capture their contact information and add them to our email list.

Let’s look at these three different types of visitors, or three different visitor segments, based on their stage in their purchase process.

3.1. Determined visitors

These are your ideal customers for acquisition, people who are searching for a specific model, type, or item number. These people may have seen advertisements on TV or in a newspaper, or they’ve been browsing the Internet and comparing, and they’ve made their decision. All you have to do is help them find the product, give them a good offer, and dispel any doubts or suspicions that might easily prevent the purchase.

If your store has good usability and your products are competitively priced, you can acquire a good number of these customers. One note of caution, even determined visitors change their mind. Only 30% of visitors who are intending to make a purchase actually do, so there are plenty of opportunities to optimize your site for these visitors too.

3.2. Solution-seeking visitors

These are visitors who want a problem solved. Their head hurts, the grass is too high in the front yard, or maybe they don’t feel attractive enough. These problems bother them enough that they to want to find a solution. At the same time, they don’t know the best painkiller, lawn mower, or skin lotion to choose.

Your job is to help these visitors find a good solution and to induce a desire for this solution. These customers can be yours if you know their needs and can emphasize the advantages of your product in solving their problems.

Solution-seeking visitors often already know which range of products will solve their problem. For instance, they know they need a new microwave oven or cashmere sweater. However, they don’t know which particular product will suit their needs, and they need help in making a decision. Often, they may not even know that much — they may only know they need to purchase a Christmas present for their mother or that they want to lose weight, and they are looking for the best possible solution. The two groups may seem similar, but they require remarkably different communication solutions.

3.3 Browsing visitors

These shoppers have a problem and are usually aware of what the problem is but the desire is not strong enough for them to desire an immediate solution. Your goal for these visitors is to induce enough desire in them for your product or product group, so that they skip the solution-seeking phase and make the purchase, i.e. – impulse buying.

However, most browsing visitors are not ready to buy on their visit, even if you struggle, and make very good offers. Does this mean these visitors are not valuable? Of course not! What can you do with them to make them your customers in the end?

One approach we’ve seen to is get these visitors to sign up to your email list, and nurture them with emails, and valuable content. When the time arrives and they are ready to buy, they will remember you, and trust you, and choose to buy from your store.

3.4. How to handle these visitor segments?

A common mistake that many online stores make, is to concentrate almost entirely on determined visitors. The first challenge here is that they are the smallest group, only 1%–2% of visitors. These stores assume the visitor knows what is being sold, why it is good for them, and exactly which one they need.

However, the reality is different: only a small percentage of shoppers know what they want, and the rest will need help to make a decision. The desire to purchase your product needs to be stimulated, and you must give help to your visitors, to make the best decision – if you do it right, you can convert most of the solution-seeking visitors too!

The main part of your visitors will be browsing visitors – here you can use some very special offer to encourage an impulse-buy, or you can offer some incentive to sign up to your newsletter list.