Online sales continue to surge, but have retailers cracked the code when it comes to consumers’ Online Moment of Truth? While many interesting mysteries remain in the area of online shopping behavior, some online retailers may be closer to cracking that code than others… which brings us to the (surprisingly) large impact of product category pages. In a large-scale e-commerce study, EyeSee found that when online shoppers land on category list, they buy on average 32% more products on Amazon compared to Target and Walmart. However, shoppers evaluated the shopping experience at Walmart and Target 16% better than their experience with Amazon.
300 online shoppers were recruited online via panel partner GMI Lightspeed. They were instructed to go through four category pages of their preferred online grocery store and click on the products they want to buy while their eye movements were tracked. Afterwards, they filled in a survey. You can read more about how our e-commerce testing process works here.
We selected the top grocery stores – Amazon, Walmart and Target and chose four popular categories – cereals, detergent, tooth paste and beverages. Each respondent was exposed to all four categories of one online retailer.
Category pages & retailers
We selected three of the biggest online retailers – Amazon, Walmart and Target. It is interesting to notice that their category pages are different in terms of variations in the number of columns, size of image, and amount of description:
- Columns: the advantage of using more columns is that online shoppers can see more products on one screen and will potentially notice more products. This is because per row going down, the visibility of products significantly drops.
- Image size: There is a significant shift from in-store sales to online sales, but consumers still make purchase decisions using subconscious and spontaneous processes, and strongly base their decision on the product image.
- Advantage of a big image: it is more clear and resembles the in-store product.
- Disadvantage: with a bigger image, less columns and products can be shown on the screen. It also means a bigger jump from one row to the next, resulting in a possible drop in product visibility.
- Description: Using larger descriptions, shoppers can be better informed and retailers can present more purchase triggers. Still, it is questionable how much people read of the description. Probably, once convinced by the product image, shoppers glance quickly through the text to confirm their choice.
32% more products bought on Amazon
On average, online shoppers bought 1.19 products from Amazon, 0.85 products from Walmart and 0.95 products from Target. Amazon’s higher purchase level of purchases is consistent over the different categories. The biggest gap for Target is in the beverage and detergent category, while Walmart only approaches Amazon in the cereal category.
Location matters much more than you think
Some on-screen locations are more important than others in terms. 58% of all the products sold were shown in the first row. At Walmart, 73% of the products sold were in the first row, while at Target 51% were in the first row. The higher the number of products in a given row, the greater the decrease in purchase intent in the following row. The average number of products sold in the first row per 100 online shoppers is 57. In the second row, that number is only 16. This denotes a decrease in purchase intent between rows 1 and 2 of 72%!
Although more than 30% of the products were bought in the first row for all categories, the number varies by category. The least impacted by location is detergent, with 32% of products bought in the first row. Followed by beverage (56%), cereal (62%), and tooth paste (63%).
28% more products are seen on Amazon
One of the reasons for the better performance of Amazon, is that online shoppers see more products. On average, they see 13.3 products on Amazon, 10.1 products on Walmart and 10.6 on Target. It could have been expected that online shoppers see more products on Walmart as the products are packed closer together, however, the drop-off per row is much higher.
The advantage of the lower drop off is that the products on lower rows get a fairer chance to be seen. Of all the products that are seen, 26% are on the first row while of all the products that were bought, 58% was on the first row. This provides CPG the opportunity to disrupt the online path to purchase in lower rows. Although they should communicate clearly the product’s benefits, as the time spent looking at a product decreases significantly per row (this can explain the higher share of sales of the first row).
…but shopping experience rated 16% less positive
Although Amazon reaches higher sales volumes, only 61% of their shoppers evaluated the experience as positive, while 71% of the shoppers evaluated Walmart as positive and 73% of Target shoppers. As many studies have shown; liking is not the same as buying. We found the same paradox in another case study.
So CPG, how can you convince the retailer to put your products on the first row?
As indicated above, although the products at the top are seen more and longer, the products on lower rows are still seen. However, communication needs to be very clear as you get only a split second to communicate the product’s benefits. In previous eye tracking studies, we found that modifying your in-store package design for online shops significantly:
- Increases visibility by 30% compared to using the in-store package
- Increases consideration by 50%
- Increases findability by 16%
Also, advertising at the top of the product page might help in some cases. In previous studies EyeSee conducted, the effect of advertising varied greatly from retailer to retailer (or layout to layout).
So retailers, what can you do?
The image size, number of columns, and description of the product has a significant impact on the category sales. Further experimentation with category page layouts can significantly boost the category sales.
Results may vary per category, so a few small differences in the category page might help.
Other questions that are still open and can have a significant impact on sales:
- Featured/promoted products in the category page to push the gaze downward
- What is the impact of changing the location of the products?
- How should the online planogram look? Brand blocking? Flavor? Size?
- How much and which info do you need to provide on the category page?
Other interesting research questions
- Are there differences between categories?
- Does it make sense to advertise on the category page page?
- What is the impact of promotion at the top?
- What is the impact of promotion in the category page? Which type of promotions?
- What is the impact of offered products?
- Which brands should be advertised on the first page of the category
- What is the optimal information on the description e.g volume is quite difficult to get from a pic and there are categories where that is important