TIL Thursday: How Micro-Moments Could Affect Your Sales

Do you know about micro-moments? Google have, seemingly, coined the term to describe a shift in user behavior towards a device (a mobile one, usually) to help them make a decision. They've even gone so far as a set up a whole microsite to them.

Having read through the page, watched their videos and read some of their research I'm not sure I'm fully on the bandwagon, but I am convinced of one thing: I recognize the behavior they describe. In other words, behind the marketing hype there may very well be something to it. The best way to learn what they mean by micro-moments, I think, is to enjoy this delightful and accessible personal anecdote.

The other day I had computer trouble. I took the fateful step that few dare to do: I flashed my BIOS. And, with an eye-roll so big it could be seen from space, I found myself in the situation that everyone who's done this before fears: my computer failed to boot. Unable to access my computer, I did the behavior Google describes: I reached for my phone, typed my problem into Google and soon found myself perusing the first page of results. Some of those sites recommended downloading a program to fix it and others were forums posts. Regardless, I was having micro-moments with various websites. They didn't 'win' any of them, but I did see plenty of adverts for things and opportunities.

The idea is that there are plenty of these times a user (customer) has found themselves at a crossroads and so reach out to their mobile to find answers. And, as this is Google, they see these users hitting Google and typing in a question or keyword that they want to know about. Then they base their decision on whatever's returned. Thus, as a brand, it's in your interests that you 'win' those moments and turn that micro-moment of indecision into a successful conversion/engagement for your site.

So what does this all mean? What is it exactly that Google expect you to do? Well, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this was all about improving your SEO and ensuring your site's on the frontpage of Google. While that's important, there's some key things worth pointing out:

  1. This is about growing towards mobile
  2. There is a strong sense of impulsiveness attached to this behavior
  3. "Expectations are high and patience is low" — people want an immediate resolution, and one that's high quality, relevant and useful
  4. If you 'win' the micro-moment then you'll be rewarded with brand loyalty

So how does this translate into the real world?

If we push aside my idiosyncratic and esoteric tale and look at Google's research, they say that 82% of smartphone users aid their decision making process with their device while instore. The younger a user is, the more likely they are to make a decision based on that information.

Imagine then, a shopper in one of your stores (or maybe even a competitor's!) and they pull out their phone to check on the product they're thinking about buying. Is there something you put on or do to your site to convince them to buy that product from you? What about when they're sitting at home and they get a brief moment of impetus to see if a particularly product is available — what can you do to be there and get them to buy it from you?

With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the things that can be used to better build engagement with your customers.


Content. 'Content'. Anyone who's ever worked with people who say they want 'content' on their site without specifying what type of content they want may roll their eyes at this. But there is legitimacy here.

Running an ecommerce site in its purest form would look like a simple site where you display your inventory, are clear on your prices and policies, and let people do their thing. However, there is a growing trend amongst brands to flesh out their site with additional content that is specifically not inventory.

For example, for fashion retail sites it's becoming important to have non-product pages offering fashion advice. Perhaps instead of just offering individual items of clothing, you take the time to curate them to create looks in 'lookbooks'. The point is that you create a reason for shoppers to visit your site other than just selling your products. And, make it good — no fluff, no content for the sake of content.

Videos are also a good example for content. One SuiteCommerce Advanced customer, Tyme, sell hair straighteners and curlers. In a market like this, it's obviously important that they differentiate themselves and give their shoppers (in that micro-moment) a reason why their brand and products are outstanding. Thus, they've cleverly dedicated a whole section of their site to videos. They range from basic how-tos and quick demos, to testimonials from customers and style advice.

In my opinion, this is a great way to engage with the shopper. In a short time they're able to see if the product is right for them, and in that micro-moment they can become a paying customer. If they already were a customer, then the page and videos are accessible on mobiles — so if they need a tutorial on how to use their product, then it's easy to find out. Furthermore, these videos are hosted on YouTube, so that means you know they're accessible by mobile users.

Mobile Functionality

With SuiteCommerce Advanced sites, we're always working with the mindset of mobile-first. This is more than just making the site accessible on mobile devices, but making it a delight to use on mobile.

For example, we recently introduced a store locator. This handy little bit of functionality makes it very easy for your shoppers to come and engage with you in person: they just type a location in, and they're able to see the nearest stores. While this works great on desktops, it's imperative that it works well on mobiles to. And it does.

Having a mobile-friendly store locator means that if a shopper is looking at your site and has that strong impulse to get that product as soon as possible, then you've enabled them by making it so easy to find a store near them.

Keep in mind, that with the release of Elbrus, we now support location-aware inventory and pick up instore. In other words, if you run the latest version of the code then your customers will be able to browse and purchase online, then come and visit you to pick it up. As I said at the time: this functionality is an excellent way of engaging with your customers as it not only means they're exposed to your web presence, but also your real-world presence.

When we build our core SCA code, we ensure that everything works the same on mobile as it does on desktop (or, at least, provide a functional equivalent). When you build and customize functionality for your site, we strongly suggest you do the same. But it's not just that that you need to think about: you also need to think about the types of interactions that your users will have with it. When your site is squeezed down to smaller resolutions, it's not enough to simply 'make things work' — it's about optimizing for what a mobile user is likely to want to do.

Third-Party Integrations

So thinking about this further, you should be inclined to take the journey yourself. Google performed in-depth user research, and if you have the time and money to do that then I'd certainly suggest you do it. You could also look at analytics data to see what search terms brought users to your site. Alternatively, you could just brainstorm ideas about the sorts of things you expect to bring people to your site: but I feel that actual user data is superior.

What all of this is leading me to talk about is third-party integrations. I want to preface this entire section by saying that I am not officially endorsing any particular service, merely pointing out that they exist and could offer solutions to niche problems.

One potential problem I anticipate, for example, would be a mobile user who is interested in buying a particular item of clothing from your site. They've arrived via a search, or perhaps social media, and they're looking at it wondering if it'll fit them.

This problem is especially pronounced with women's clothing, where — despite most retailers using the same numbering system — there is significant variation in the actual measurements of the sizes they sell. In other words, fitting into a US size 6 in one item of clothing is not a guarantee you'll fit into other items in the same size. The effect of this is that it can generate serious apprehensiveness, which can manifest in numerous ways, such as:

  1. Complete refusal to buy clothing online
  2. Ordering items in multiple sizes to ensure the best fit (and then returning the wrong sizes)
  3. Ordering something, discovering it doesn't quite fit but not returning it (and thus being dissatisfied with the purchase)

We can all agree that when shoppers order from us, we want them to be delighted with their purchase: a happy a customer is a loyal customer. But how do we ensure that the clothing they're getting is a good fit? A size guide is a good start, but some sites go further and offer an interactive size guide.

Virtusize is a company that offers this sort of service. After integrating your site with them and measuring your items' various sizes, the customer can then compare a garment's different sizes to a garment they already own.

For example, if I typically buy sweaters in medium then I can go to my wardrobe, pick out the sweater I think fits me the best, measure it, and then compare it to the medium sweater on sale. The comparison is done interactively, creating an overlay of the two items.

It's also got a view optimized for mobile too, so you know that smartphone users will be able to take advantage of this functionality too.

The downside to this functionality (apart from the cost and time associated with a third-party integration) is that it is a time-consuming process for the shopper, if it's their first time using it. While you don't have to register to use it, you still need to go and get your garment, measure it, and then enter those details. How many shoppers have a tape measure to hand? How many can be bothered to get up to do this? While it has strong appeal, it perhaps doesn't quite fit with the micro-moments philosophy.

Final Thoughts

My biggest takeaway from this is that there's growing evidence that people are (or want to) engage with websites impulsively. The solution is not to unethically take advantage of this, but rather to properly inform visitors and help them make the right buying decision. In other words: be bright and clear, not dazzling.

I've mentioned a few technologies that may aid this, such as interactive/non-product content, store locators, and size charts, but there are others that come to mind. For example: product reviews. This is included as standard in core SCA functionality. If someone is weighing up between two options: seeing helpful reviews one your products can be thing that tips them one way or the other. Of course, you shouldn't try to stuff your site with fake, overly-positive reviews: instead, focus on encouraging your customers to leave honest reviews on the products they've bought. You could also look at site testimonials.

Finally, to reiterate, all of this stems from Google's research, so I'd obviously recommend seeing what they have to say about it all. They're not all related to commerce, but you can certainly learn about them. A surprising lesson for me was that 39% of online consumers have bought something while in their kitchen. Maybe a lot of people just hang out in their kitchen or, maybe like one of their examples, people have micro-moments while doing dishes.

Whatever you think, it's certainly worth a read into it and see if it may be appropriate for you.