A glimpse into online shopping behaviours with Nathalie Nahai

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The Science Behind Ecommerce is under a month away and intrigue around the Keynote speaker is sparking conversation.

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Web psychologist Nathalie Hahai

We speak to leading Web Psychologist, Nathalie Nahai ahead of the event for insight into her work, the main characteristics and differences in the way in which people shop online and how different behaviours influence technology, to gather a taster of what we can expect during her Keynote session at The Science Behind Ecommerce on June 14th.

Can you give our readers a bit of insight into your specialism?

My work explores the psychological principles that underpin the decisions we make online, and I'm interested in how we can use these insights to both understand and shape people's behaviours for more engaging and mutually beneficial interactions.

We are delighted you are opening our conference, The Science behind E-Commerce on the 14th June. How would you identify the main characteristics and differences in the way in which people shop online versus in store?

Thank you, it's a real pleasure to be taking part! One of the most salient differences between online and in-store shopping, is that online environments can generally be personalised in a more granular and controlled way, yielding results that can then be used to build highly individualised profiles and customer experiences.

There are a number of nuances in how people use the internet, what are the key differences between how we use social media versus how we might shop for products online?

How we behave online can depend on a whole host of factors, from one's personality (people high in openness will tend to change their profile picture more frequently on Facebook) and gender (women are generally more conscious of their privacy settings), to the culture to which we belong (people high in uncertainty avoidance prefer a clear path through e-commerce websites). Although people may engage in social media or a spot of online shopping for fun, in general, our motivations for using social media tend to be centred around our need to belong, to discover information, and to feel validated, whereas our shopping behaviours tend to be more hedonic (for pleasure) or utilitarian (for a specific purpose). 

A big part of online shopping is brand loyalty, are their distinctive differences in behaviour when purchasing something for efficiency, like washing powder versus a product from a brand we love and trust. 

Yes - we tend to get a greater sense of pleasure (and can be willing to pay more and buy more often) when making a purchase from a brand we love and trust. We'll also generally be more willing to give up more sensitive personal information (such as your address, phone number and birthday). For more utilitarian, functional products, we are often more price-sensitive.

Your research talks about how different behaviours influence technology, what kind of human behaviours might impact e-commerce?

With people increasingly using their mobile devices to make online purchases, one of the biggest challenges brands face is finding a way to lower users' cognitive load (mental effort) required to complete particular tasks. Some of the best and easiest ways to reduce this kind of effort includes simplifying the mobile layout of a webpage or app, reducing the number of calls to action, using fewer visual elements (for instance using one large image instead of various smaller ones), and using simple payment systems at checkout.

Ethical use of technology is a common discussion at the moment, how we as marketers balance leveraging technology to influence the decision of people with ethical guidance? 

This is a very important, and very tricky question to address. In my experience, very few people set out with the aim of duping customers into taking actions that don't serve them, however it can be easy to slip into manipulative practices when you're under tight deadlines and struggling to hit targets on customer acquisition. When designing to persuade, I find it useful to think about where your actions sit along a continuum from facilitation (win-win, a fun and engaging interaction that serves your customers' goals) to coercion (lose-lose, in which the business may make short-term gains at the expense of customer experience, satisfaction and loyalty). You can get a sense for where you are on the scale by a) gauging the type and quantity of customer complaints you may be receiving, and b) by asking your customers whether they are satisfied with their experience.

The rise of technology has fundamentally changed the way we communicate, and therefore the way we develop marketing strategies, what do you see as key concerns for the future. 

I think the biggest concerns for the future will revolve around privacy and customer trust.

What are key cultural differences in human behaviour when it comes to technology? 

There are so many differences that can shape our behaviours both on- and offline, but six of the most well-researched (by Prof. Geert Hofstede) include our tolerance for uncertainty, how indulgent or restrained we might be, whether we tend towards fixed or fluid gender roles, our attitudes around inequality and power distribution, how individualist or collectivist we are, and whether we're oriented around short- or long-term gains.

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