Paco Underhill has spent the last 20 years observing shoppers. Can his insights in Why We Buy - The Science of Shopping help make websites that sell?
When shoppers enter a store they are walking at street pace. They need to slow down before they start browsing properly. Don’t try to sell your most profitable items in this transition zone. For the same reason you shouldn’t put lots of text on your home page. Users need to slow down before they are going to read absorb anything substantial.
Don’t evaluate shop signs sitting in a boardroom. Evaluate them as a shopper would, at an angle, hurrying past, maybe in fading light. This is exactly the same with website design. Genuine users rush past your site at a 70mph blur, only pausing long enough to find the next thing to click on. Over familiarity is the problem when trying to evaluate a site you are involved in producing, so testing it in the dark on a motorway won’t help. Testing on sample users is the solution.
Shopping is a sensual activity. Good stores perform “retail judo” – taking unconscious desires and fulfilling them with a purchase. Most ecommerce is like “a warehouse club on the web”. Some sites are getting better at generating an atmosphere. In my opinion American Apparel does a great job. British e-tailer Figleaves.com aims at a premium market but feels as muchTK Maxx as Selfridges.
Paco sees plenty of scope for boutique e-tailers targeting specialist niches. For instance, he imagines an shop for tall girls who like travelling. It’s too much of a niche for the real world but would make sense online.
The butt brush
Once a couple of people have brushed past your bottom, you’ll probably leave the shop. This phenomenon probably has no online equivalent.