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How to help Humans purchase? - PART II

By Pedro Cerqueira
Pedro Cerqueira
Husband, father, former water polo athlete, now an obstacle course runner with Nikes. Passionate about data and product development.
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How to help Humans purchase? - PART II

The (human) purchase levers

Purchasing is an important and impactful decision from the customer perspective. The act of purchasing is one of the main ways to get the one thing desired/needed, but, at the same time, directly impacts our human need for security and safety (e.g. financial security) as represented in the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs.

From an e-commerce customer experience perspective, the checkout is usually the place where purchase expectations are ultimately managed by the manipulation of different levers. These levers are especially important because not only do they directly impact the immediate satisfaction of purchasing the desired item by all customers on checkout (conversion metrics), but also play a critical role in setting-up the expectations of getting the expected item at the expected cost, time and place, which will affect the longer-term customer satisfaction (loyalty and retention metrics). 

In a way, one can say that the pre-purchase experience is responsible for setting up the post-purchase experience for success, ultimately contributing to initiating a new and hopefully long-lasting relationship between the customer and FARFETCH. 

In the customer’s mind, the information shown pre-purchase is a promise of fulfillment made by FARFETCH with certain terms & conditions which should ultimately be reflected and met during their post-purchase experience. 

If those pre-purchase expectations meet or surpass reality, then it’s highly probable the customer will be satisfied, possibly resulting in repeat purchases and positive word-of-mouth in a never-ending virtuous cycle. If those expectations are not at least met, then FARFETCH might potentially be losing, not only that customer, but also others that are somewhat influenced by them, giving birth to a vicious cycle (especially in this ever connected digital social world).

Here are some examples of the levers that affect our customers the most during this final stage of the purchase journey. Customers want to:
  • know how much and what they are going to pay for (e.g. item price, sales discounts, promotions, credits, shipping cost, duties, taxes, VAT, currency, exchange rate, payment fees).
  • know when they will get the item (e.g. estimated delivery date).
  • know how and where they will get the item (e.g. shipping, delivery and collection).
  • know how they can pay (e.g. payment alternatives).
  • be reassured about relevant info about their order just before placing an order (e.g. returns, cancellations, refunds, site and item legitimacy, stock availability, real delivery date).
  • feel secure (e.g. personal and financial data security and privacy).
Over the years, FARFETCH has been very successful at pulling and pushing those levers to balance the experience, while removing pain and purchase friction to grow the business by reducing checkout abandonment, increasing our customers’ funnel conversion and repeat purchases.

The importance of balancing information

We always strive to support our customers when completing the necessary tasks to purchase as they look to get the right information in the right fashion and amount, at the right time. We try to do this in a way that’s consistent and balanced with their perception of the journey experienced so far and the one still to come.

Information relevancy and placement

If we show them irrelevant or unclear information, the customer might become confused while making their life harder when trying to find the relevant details. Also, this might trigger distraction (e.g. FOMO on promotions the customer is not eligible for) or fear about unnecessary details that could raise irrelevant concerns and actions that can steer the customer away from the purchase or even scare them into abandonment at the moment when all they really seek is reassurance (e.g. "Is the site really secure?”).

If we show them the right information, but in the wrong places (e.g. "Why is the estimated delivery date below the fold?”), in the wrong logical order (e.g. "I don’t want to go all the way to the end to know if you support my bank payment) or inconsistently with their previous experience and habits (e.g. "I always go to the last step to see everything that I’m going to pay for.”), the customer might simply not see it, as if it was not there at all, because of inattentional blindness (e.g. "I couldn’t find out if you actually support my bank payment on your homepage.”).

Another reason for the customer to miss information is because they quit before getting there (e.g. "I’m not giving you my card details without knowing the exact shipping costs.”).

Information consistency

If we show them inconsistent information across the journey, the customer might have their expectations unmet and lose trust (e.g. "Why am I seeing different prices on the product page and checkout?”).

Information volume

If we show them too much information or too many choices, the customer might become overwhelmed (e.g. "So many payment choices, what’s the one with the best payment terms for me?”) and unable to perform critical tasks and make critical decisions (e.g. analysis paralysis). If we show them too little information, the customer might feel like they are not being given enough information to complete their purchase (e.g. "Who’s the carrier? If it was DHL I know I don’t need to be home to get the package as they leave it at my front door.”).

Information timing

If we show them the information too late, they might abandon the purchase earlier than expected. A customer in this scenario might say something along the lines of: "Where’s the final cost? I’m not going through all those steps just to see the final price.”, "You offer instalments and you’re only telling me that now? If only I had the information sooner on your site, I would already have purchased it with you a few months ago!”. If we show them the information too soon, we might risk having them leave because their purchase investment and commitment wasn’t fully there yet or their perception of value is lessened (e.g. "The promotion value is not sufficient.”).

The importance of balancing effort and skill

While customers are looking to get the information they find relevant, FARFETCH also needs to find ways to get the necessary information (e.g. shipping and payment data) to allow the customer to complete the purchase and fulfil the order. Since we haven’t yet reached our Vision of a "checkout-less” purchase, we still need to have our customers fulfil a minimum amount of somewhat cognitive intense tasks to be able to purchase.

To achieve that, we always strive to support our customers by giving them the right feeling of control and allowing them to think just enough while performing the right minimum set of tasks at the right level of difficulty, leniency and speed, so that FARFETCH has the necessary data to guarantee an anxiety-free purchase experience that’s profitable and keeps the business running.

Task relevancy and volume

If we give them too many or unnecessary tasks, the customers’ cognitive load might increase up to the point where the customer is distracted or no longer willing to continue performing them and leaves (e.g. "Do I really need to fill my company’s phone number?”). If we give them too few tasks, customers might feel their checkout is being rushed or too quick to the point of sometimes unintentionally purchasing before expected (e.g. "Checkout was too fast. I didn’t even notice I'd purchased it.”).

Task perception

If we give them an early perception of having to conclude too many tasks, customers might not even bother to start performing them (e.g. "Six steps just to purchase? Am I buying a house or what?”).

Task difficulty

If we give them hard tasks, we might lose customers that are not able to do them or we risk making them feel incapable so they abandon the purchase (e.g. "How do I fit my entire address on this small form field?”).

Task support & leniency

If we do not help them when they struggle to complete a task, we risk direct customer abandonment by lack of ability to purchase (e.g. "Where’s the customer service number when I need it?”). If we help them too much, some customers might be made to feel stupid or that we’re being too paternalistic (e.g. "I don’t know how to work with computers. Let me call my daughter so she can purchase this dress.”).

Task feedback & performance

If we do not provide tasks with well-timed feedback and performance adjusted to the context the customer is in, they might lose focus on the task at hand and give up (e.g. "I only see a blank screen. Did I just pay or not? I don’t want to be charged twice.”, "I only have time to purchase on my commute, but the site is so slow I might as well just give up.”).

All of these might contribute to trigger buyers’ remorse sooner than normally expected as part of our very human need to rationalize decisions (e.g. "It’s too hard, but in all honesty I really don’t need these shoes.”).

The importance of supporting customer needs & goals

Finally, when customers purchase items on FARFETCH , they often have specific objectives in mind (e.g. buying a dress as a gift to a friend, buying shoes for a wedding, buying a hat for their own anniversaries). This means that this part of the journey needs to account for the specificities of those objectives in a way that supports our customers in achieving them.

To achieve that, we always strive to support our customers in their goals and needs by offering a purchase journey that specifically fulfills known customer needs (e.g. "How do I send these trainers as a gift to my friend?”, "How do I make sure my company is billed on this purchase?”) or that are designed in a way in which customers can appropriate the existing functionality in ways that work for them for less pressing or unknown needs to us.

All in all, we’re talking about helping humans fulfil and balance their wants (e.g. desired item) and needs (e.g. need for financial security). So it’s critical that we understand and create products that consider all of these levers and details that affect our customers’ cognitive load. Sometimes the most inconspicuous experience detail results in purchase abandonment and that’s why we really need to consider customer needs and goals first when designing and creating products users love.
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