Information Overload and the Online Shopper: PreEmptive Episode #9

In this episode , we talk about Information Overload and the Online Shopper.

Everyday we are all bombarded with information. We all experience it, and with each year it piles on and it only seems to get worse. In this podcast we discuss information overload and how it impacts our lives. 

First we spend a little time talking about how much we are all saturated by information, Jon pointed out a few startling statistics,  For example: “We process about 74 GB in information a day (equivalent of 16 movies).”  

Dave pointed out that we forget 50-80% of it after one day!

Studies show we tend to recall mostly the very good things we are presented or the very bad, and we all tend to forget the average stuff in the middle. 

What impact does all this information have on shopping and our attention span when shopping? We discussed the difference between online and in-store shopping and how they differ when it comes to attention spans and how we shop.

Most people have longer attention spans while shopping in a physical store, as they are less likely to be distracted while doing so and it can be fun to meander around a store. Compared to online where not only are we all distracted by other text messages, emails, alerts, and pop ups, but we all have a hard time finding things, and comparing things, understanding the size of things, which all lead to shopping and decision fatigue.

Another direct result of too much information shown on online shopping is a feeling of pressure to make a decision. Shopping at physical locations has a different psychology around it, then shopping online.

When in a store we’re less likely to be distracted, compared to shopping online where there are many alerts and distractions competing for your attention.

Studies have shown that people feel pressure and anxiety about making decisions about products online that they can’t touch, hold or examine. The larger the product, the more complicated the product, the harder it is for a shopper to make a decision.

Due to the increased amount of information we all face, more of us are becoming short on time. Some shoppers experience this time pressure differently, which creates a sense of urgency. These customers look for products and answers fast. This is an important fact often overlooked by merchants as people have less time but online shopping has not changed to adapt to this fact.

Old tactics such as “keep the shopper in the store longer and have them browse longer” have started to backfire as shoppers are pressed for time and want to get in, get what they need, and get out. Online shoppers have switched tactics to save time, they view less products, select less feature sets to focus on, and go more with known brand names.

When faced with information overload the tendency is to avoid things and therefore spend only as much time on decisions, tasks and activities as they are worth it. What can an online retailer do to reduce this overload?  

In this episode we cover 5 thing online retailers should keep top of mind:

  • Create content that adds value
  • Reduce choice overload (Less is more) 
  • Make an Easier Checkout Process
  • Keep it short and simple
  • Leveraging Social Proofs Effectively

We discuss how online retailers should also be careful when incentivizing the customer to decide quickly. While time-limiting techniques such as timers and coupons or discount codes that expire after a period of time may work for some, this may not always be true for customers who do not have any knowledge about the products being offered. If adding a timer or counter make sure to arm the customers with the tools to make a quick decision.

We also discussed how it is best to avoid asking customers to choose between highly differentiated products as it can make it hard for them to decide. Another reason for choice overload is in the number of minute differences between different products. Try to provide them a way to easily compare the differences between two or three similar products by using simple charts.

Another common trick we recommend in the Podcast is to add filters. They will help to eliminate choice overload by featuring a specific group of items. For example, your site may present the top selling items first, or it may choose to feature a collection while the rest of the products that your brand offers can be accessed elsewhere should the customer choose.

The goal is to allow for customers to look at your items based on their preferences by enabling filters in your online site.What about AI and Machine Learning? Can this help with customer overload? In the last half of the podcast we discuss how Machine learning and automation can help reduce information overload and increase online sales.

For starters we discuss the basic areas AI can have an impact in helping customers pick the right products with less effort. 

AI can help:

  • Find trends, patterns, and associations
  • Discover inefficiencies
  • Execute plans
  • Learn and become better
  • Predict future outcomes based on historical trends
  • Inform fact-based decisions

We then discuss how there are a multitude of touch points and influences for consumers that generate purchases. Each touch point can be improved by using AI. 

We discuss some signals of change that are starting to crop up and show us where things are heading. 

  • Virtual Personal Shoppers
  • Product Recommendations or correlations
  • Creating a Single “Personalized Customer experience
  • Automated Payments via AI Chatbots
  • Identifying and removing Fake Reviews
  • Combating counterfeit products
  • Localize the customer experience
  • Improve dialogue systems – Skimming Pages for features
  • Wearable technology IoT

We cover many of these items in this episode and provide a few specific examples where retailers are using these new AI driven techniques.  Some of these uses we have mentioned before, however they continue to gain ground as more and more retailers and brands use these techniques and technology in specific campaigns. 

We also talk about ‘big data” and how there is no longer a need for larger and larger amounts of data for AI to work well.  Dave feels that instead retailers can use more targeted and smaller sets of data to get the same results. We both agree the key for retailers is to add these forward thinking concepts to their marketing plans and start by discussing what problems they face and how AI can help solve those problems now. 

In conclusion, we discuss how forward thinking eCommerce retailers need to  build new partnerships with AI technology to stay in touch with their growing information overloaded customer base to stay ahead of their competition.  

Interested in implementing a custom shopping or e-commerce experience? We’re excited to hear about it!

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