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Ecommerce marketing should target browsing shoppers

Jun 2, 2021


  • There is a clear difference between people who are browsing and buying online
  • Online shoppers are much more likely to browse before buying
  • Retailers should market to both people looking around and those ready to buy

Video 09 - Browsers vs. buyers - LinkedIn

Digital marketing is too focused on advertising to people who know what to buy. Retailers target shoppers searching for specific products. Competing to rank high on Google or pay for premium advertising space. Offering the lowest price and fast delivery. But what about the shoppers who are browsing? You need a different approach to reach them.

In this post, I’ll describe the difference between the two different behaviors of browsing and buying online. I’ll then present three ways retailers can improve their ecommerce marketing to target browsing shoppers.

What is browsing?

Let’s start with some definitions. Techopedia defines browsing as: “The act of looking through a set of information without a specific sense of purpose”. While Cambridge Dictionary states browsing is “to walk around a shop looking at several things without intending to buy any of them”.

Browsing shoppers are visiting an online store without intending to buy, or don’t know what to buy. They’re looking around.

A study by the National Retailers Federation in the US shows that a huge 46 percent of the visitors to online stores are browsing. Another study showed that only 17 percent of shoppers state their primary purpose when visiting a store for the first time was to make a purchase.

Browsing may not even be shopping at all. Imagine you are in town and have some time to spare. You may wander down the street until something interesting catches your eye in a shop window. In the online world, this is the same. Wandering online means hanging out on social media, browsing the news, or checking out the latest offers.

How do you reach browsing shoppers with product marketing? Specific product advertisements will be ineffective. You need another approach.

Browsing shoppers post

What is buying?

Shoppers looking to buy behave differently than when browsing. They’re more determined and searching for a specific product to solve a challenge. They’re more open to product marketing. Comparing products across multiple stores, and receptive to lower prices and faster delivery.

For shoppers who know what to buy, 50 percent of their ecommerce experiences start at an online store. While 62 percent of browsing shoppers prefer to start out with a search engine for inspiration.

Retailers targeting buyers focus on conversion optimization. But it’s important to note that only 50 percent of buyers visiting an online store go to a product page. Nineteen percent of buyers also browse for items on sale. So retailers are losing business by focusing on selling single products.

Three strategies to target browsing shoppers

If retailers want to drive demand to their online stores they must engage shoppers who are browsing and buying. Below are three key strategies to do this.

  • Focus on inspiration
  • Present themes, not products
  • Sell your brands' story

Focus on inspiration

Retailers need to inspire browsers before they’re willing to make a purchase. Engage shoppers on social media channels such as Pinterest and Instagram. Show inspiring content not product advertisements. Retailers should pay particular attention to the Pinterest model. Pinterest claims 90 percent of weekly active pinners say it helps them decide what to purchase and 70 percent use the site to find new products.

IKEA recently transitioned their printed catalog to a digital only version. Much of the catalog has now been integrated into Pinterest. The catalog is shoppable and can be personalized through questionnaires. Presenting inspiring solutions for browsing shoppers.

Browsing shoppers IKEA

Present themes not, products

Ecommerce websites usually consist of a homepage, search functionality, product pages and checkout. Shoppers scroll through a continuous grid of products displayed on a white background. The grid doesn’t present products in context for the shopper. There is no sense of the retailers' opinion of the product, its importance, or why it’s ranked the way it is in the results.

Make sure your homepage focuses on inspiration and not just products. Present themes, trends and styles. Shoppers make their first impressions of an online store within the first 2-3 seconds. The homepage of an online store should be eye-catching and inspiring. Otherwise, shoppers will bounce and retailers will lose their business. Encourage shoppers to explore and discover new products.

Sell your brands' story

Retailers should connect with browsing shoppers by focusing their engagement on brand communication. For shoppers, many of the products they choose to buy reflect their personalities. Products define their interests, values and desires. These shoppers need to feel an emotional connection with the brand before buying.

Some brands define themselves based on maximizing value. Stressing that shoppers can get more for their money by offering fewer and cheaper products. While other brands emphasize quality and exclusivity. Whatever your brand stands for, you should state it in all your promotions. Make sure when shoppers think of your brand, they know what experience to expect. That way they can explore and feel inspired by the products you promote.

BoConcept, a leading Danish furniture company is a designer brand. They sell a type of lifestyle, not the lowest price. Their online store is dedicated to inspiring browsing shoppers. Educating them about their brand and showcase their range of products.

The BoConcept lookbook catalog focuses on inspiration. Their brand identity uses striking visuals to showcase their products in context. Shoppers can visualize the products in their homes. And if browsing shoppers are inspired to buy, the lookbook has shoppable links so they can buy products within the catalog itself.



Matt Whitby

Matt Whitby