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Like Johnny Depp was once quoted as saying, I’m fascinated by human behaviour, by what’s underneath the surface, by the words inside people.

By spending considerable time with people using different websites in both their natural and controlled research environments, I’m able to cater for this satisfaction.

As a follow up to my nine women x nine hours = nine usability insights article, I am sharing some of the most prevalent behavioural traits of men when shopping online.

There will always be some differences and many of these have been observed with female consumers, but this list is very much up-to-date and representative of the male population.

If men are part of your target audience, which of the behaviours traits are you triggering or avoiding to persuade them to buy from you?

1) Men tend to have a low patience threshold

One of the common behaviours we see are males having a much lower patience and tolerance level when compared to women. Their patience is most often tested when fundamental usability barriers are presented to them during the online shopping journey, such as:

  • Being forced to register to checkout (see HMV example below).
  • Being asked for much more personal information than they feel is necessary.
  • Being presented with error messages or technical issues on the site.
  • Not being able to find relevant products quickly and efficiently with little effort.


Quick tips

  • Whether through following best practice guidelines, doing some user testing, doing live screen recordings, speaking to customer services team or providing on-site survey tool, find out what  the current usability barriers and conversion killers that will test users patience are. 
  • Once the (oh go on then I’ll use a lovable catch-phrase) 'low hanging fruit' have been identified, aim to rectify as many of them as possible, particularly those in the early part of the customer journey to allow users to build up momentum rather than getting frustrated.

2) Changing conventions doesn’t go down well amongst most men

Compared to women, men are generally more averse when a retail website changes conventions during the customer journey.

Whether this be from the way the search facility works, what filters they have available to them to find relevant products, or what steps they have to go through in order to checkout, men want an easy life that fits in with their expectations from other online shopping experiences.

We often see men quite quickly turn from being engaged and willing to purchase to confused and frustrated, particularly during key processes like checkout.

Quick tips

  • If males are a high portion of your target audience, don’t aim to differentiate yourselves too much from your competitors by ‘doing things differently’. Why re-invent the online shopping wheel when sites like ASOS and John Lewis provide some of the most intuitive, best-practice driven online shopping experiences available.
  • Take extra care of what you are asking visitors to enter within your checkout and the order of the experience. It should more or less match their expectations from other retail sites.

3) A lack of transparency is a major issue for men (and women)

One of the most important aspects for retailers to do well is to create a sense of confidence, trust and build momentum is provide a transparent shopping experience for both men and women.

In my training sessions I often use a woman wearing a swimsuit in a glass canoe as a visual reference point for transparency, any excuse for a spot of titillation!

Quick tips of where retailers should provide transparency include:

  • Clear information on delivery costs, expected timescales and supporting information on product pages. Under a delivery & returns tab is absolutely fine, as in the example below from Simplyhike. 
  • Clarity of delivery costs, expected timescales and a link to more information on the shopping basket.
  • Show which payment options are available on the shopping basket
  • A clear returns policy on the product page, shopping basket and within checkout. Enclosed checkouts are also they way to go here.
  • The total cost of the order should be made clear on the shopping basket page

We often see men quite quickly turn from being engaged and willing to purchase to confused and frustrated, particularly during key processes like checkout.

4) Men are less concerned with the delivery costs & returns proposition

Although having easy access to delivery and returns information is important for both men and women, men are generally less concerned and influenced by the delivery costs than women.

As I mentioned in this other article “Nine valuable techniques to persuade visitors to buy in 2012” having a free delivery proposition, whether that is on all orders or when spending a realistic amount, both men and women are influenced delivery options and costs.

The main difference is when there are costs for express or next day delivery, men are more realistic about the probable cost of these and in turn are less likely to be turned off – unless next day delivery costs are over 20% of the order value.

Quick tips

  • For the benefit of both male and female shoppers, follow tips in point three above to provide clarity of your delivery and returns proposition.
  • If you mainly sell to men you can consider testing an increase in delivery costs for express, next day or named day delivery options as men are less likely to be put off by perhaps slightly inflated delivery costs.

5) More likely to user filters to narrow down to specific products

For retailers with a considerable product database, especially when there are more than 10 types of specific products, providing intelligent filters is an essential navigation tool for all users.

When we compare male versus female behaviour when viewing a large set of products, men more instinctively want to use filters to start narrowing down the choices available to them.

Women typically spend longer scrolling up and down the page to get a sense of the products available – they nearly all look for a ‘view all’ link too.

For the benefit of both male and female shoppers, if you have a large product set provide filters to allow visitors to quickly narrow down selections – it’s the future I kid you not!

Quick tips when providing filtered navigation:

  • Use analytics search and usage data and user research insights to determine what filters will be the most relevant for your target audience.
  • Use this same data to determine & test the order in which filters are presented.
  • Automatically expose the most important and used filters. Additional, optional filters can be auto-hidden until users choose to interact with them.
  • Show the number of products available for each individual attribute filter to manage expectation.
  • Allow users to multi-select attributes from the same filter i.e. colour, style, size.
  • Provide a price range slider as well as text entry boxes if users prefer this option.
  • If you have rating and reviews provide a filter based on user sentiment of the products on display.
  • When you have more than 5-10 attributes per filter i.e. 12 different colours, use a scrollable window for that filter so that it doesn’t take over too much of the filter area.
  • For fashion sites in particular with multiple brands, allow users to filter out brands they don’t like within the main product area – a certain brand beginning with A does a superb job of this.

6) Quicker to make a purchase decision if the price & description meets their expectations

As a general behavioural trait of men more, they are far more likely to make quicker purchase decisions than women.

Although women can often exhibit impulse buying behaviour, we do find that across all our research men are much more task orientated and want to get through the shopping process with less interaction and consideration.

They do tend to be drawn to reading about the product in the description where women are typically more visually led. This was touched upon in the last section regarding differences in behaviour on lister pages.

Quick tips:

  • Particularly for products which aren’t easy to describe in a few words or have a range of features and benefits, pay close attention to the product details and description you provide.
  • For both men and women, try and inject some of your brand's personality into the product descriptions. People do read them and intelligent use of copy is a generally under-used persuasive technique that retailers can use.
  • If you have ratings and reviews, ensure that the summary of the customer star ratings is presented right under or next to the product title. You want to ensure visitors factor in the views of others in their purchase decision.

7) They become more concerned when being asked for unnecessary personal information

One of the main form best practice techniques that we apply with our retail clients is to not ask for un-necessary personal information during the sign-up or checkout process.

It’s an engrained marketing tactic to ask people to provide various personal details and preferences on marketing communications, but our message is always the same: sites should allow visitors to move as quickly and intuitively through checkout without slowing momentum by asking for information which the user doesn’t feel is relevant or necessary to make their purchase.

In this example, ASOS asks customers for their date of birth. It doesn't explain why, and this is a conplusory field. 

Men in particular exhibit concern and anxiety when in this position, and in reference to point number one, with their low patience threshold retailers need to be very careful not to tip men over the edge.

Quick tips

  • Provide a valid reason as to why you are requesting certain information in checkout.
  • Look at each of your fields in checkout and ask yourself “how are we actually using this information, if at all?”
  • Ask yourself “do we need this information for the visitor to buy from us?”
  • If you are a multichannel retailer you could also ask yourself “do we ask customers in our store for this information?”
  • Re-think your marketing communication request for opting in so that new customers aren’t having to consider a one size fits all option during checkout, but instead they are encouraged to create an account at the end of checkout which will then allow them to make more specific marketing preference choices within their account area.

8) They are more likely to pick up the phone to speak to customer services

This final point is in part a combination of some of the other behaviour traits of men.

Let’s recap on some of these points:

  • They have lower patience thresholds.
  • Their general desire is to find what they want quickly.
  • They are less concerned with some of the additional costs.
  • They are concerned when being asked for unnecessary (to them at least) personal information.
  • They don’t like it when what they expect to happens doesn’t happen.

With these in mind we tend to find that men are more likely to want to speak to someone when something goes wrong based on these types of points.

Quick tips

  • Follow the tips for the other key points to cater for males' typical behaviour.
  • Provide clear visibility of your customer service contact details in checkout.
  • Provide easy access to your contact details page through your site experience.
  • When providing your phone number in checkout, provide details on the cost of calls and the opening times of your customer service team.
  • Consider providing a live chat facility particularly if your products and/or your ordering process are quite complex.

Useful links on persuasion for retailers

If you are interested in reading more about persuading visitors to buy online, the following articles will be of use:

  •     ASOS and their persuasive checkout experience - view article
  •     Lings Cars and the art of persuading visitors to buy - view article
  •     Booking.com: improving conversion with best practice persuasive design - view article
  •     Nine valuable techniques to persuade visitors to buy in 2012 - view article

Over to you

  •     If you’re a guy, can you relate to these different behavioural traits?
  •     If you’re a lady, how strongly do you feel these traits are part of your make-up?
  •     If you are selling online to men, which other behavioural traits that I’ve not covered here do you try and tap in to with your online experience?
Paul Rouke

Published 19 November, 2012 by Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke is Founder & CEO at PRWD, author and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up with him on LinkedIn.

35 more posts from this author

Comments (21)

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Lee Duddell

Fascinating post Paul and seemingly supported by taking a look at the average test length across 100,000+ user videos on WhatUsersDo. Females take an average of just over 19 minutes to complete tests and males just over 16 minutes.

almost 4 years ago

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Bob H

" In my training sessions I often use a woman wearing a swimsuit in a glass canoe as a visual reference point for transparency, any excuse for a spot of titillation!"

Classy...

almost 4 years ago

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Phil Reed

It's pretty straightforward. Most men hate shopping. Full stop. Doesn't matter if it is online, in a shopping centre, on the high street or wherever. So anything that makes the experience more complicated/time-consuming/stressful isn't going to go down well. If you want to drive more male shoppers to your website, you just need to think like a man.

almost 4 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Lee - thanks for feedback and the top level stats on the difference between test lengths of males & females. You can't really argue that with that number of videos!

@Bob - did you know this type of content can be more engaging & memorable?!

@Phil - thanks for your comments. I like yur ability to get straight to the point! I think I'll quote some of that if you don't mind :-)

almost 4 years ago

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Steve

8/8 !

I thought it was only me. Great article with some useful tips

almost 4 years ago

Steve Morgan

Steve Morgan, Freelance SEO Consultant at Morgan Online Marketing

Hah, wow, it's like reading about myself...! ;-)

almost 4 years ago

Marie Page

Marie Page, Director at Musicademy

I'm clearly a bloke then.

almost 4 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Steve - thanks for reading and commenting. Top of the class marks there!

@Steve Morgan - hopefully it wasn't too big brother esque..

@Marie - excellent, join the club!

almost 4 years ago

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Renate

Brilliant! The best blog I've read in ages- tons of useful insights and tips!

Thank you for keeping good blogs alive :)

almost 4 years ago

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Tim Holmes

A great and genuine look into the minds of men. Some great tips and truths about how most, not all men shop. I can see a few new research tasks being implements to see how we can further improve out checkout funnels for both genders. Great post.

almost 4 years ago

Tom Howlett

Tom Howlett, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

Interesting post. I definitely can relate to online patience threshold. Retailers should make it really easy for first and consecutive purchases.

almost 4 years ago

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Facetious generalisations

What a load of glib over-generalisation.

Essentially your article boils down to good UX - but then you choose to dress this for "men" in order to give it a "fresh angle".

Horsesh1t! Good UX is of UNIVERSAL importance.

almost 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Facetious generalisations Paul spends a lot of time user testing, and this article is based on what he has seen during these sessions.

True, a lot does boil down to good UX, but there are differences in behaviour which, if you are appealing to a male audience, you need to be aware of.

almost 4 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

As Tom said - a very interesting post & interesting to think about each of the different areas in terms of gender - and thanks to Paul for taking the time to post.

I tend to think that men & women are pretty similar, but I am quite an effeminate man, and my girlfriend used to play county cricket, so perhaps that explains that.

One interesting thing around this is "site specificity". Here's an example:

MEN: I have one retailer where if someone filters in the "mens" categories there is a 4.29% chance they will go on to buy.
WOMEN: If someone filters in the "womens" categories there is a 3.05% chance. (that's across several million visits, so a decent enough pool)

I have another retailer - a totally different brand - where exactly the reverse is true: 7.28% of "mens category filters" result in a sale vs just 3.60% of "womens category filters" result in a sale.

ie, the behaviour is totally reversed.

In those two cases, it's somewhat down to the product mix, and somewhat due to which categories they push harder with acquisition marketing. (the more you push, the lower conversion drops).

dan

ps. On Lee Duddell's point - that's really interesting. To be both sexist & anti-sexist at the same time: I wonder how much of that is swayed by factors outside of gender? Eg, the testers' jobs, amount of free time, amount of time at home, etc.

ps2. The article makes great reading if you read it through this too - I wonder how many women would recognise themselves in this: http://bit.ly/femtraits :)

almost 4 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

(ps3. awful stat typo in the middle there - should say 7.28% of women vs 3.60% of men!)

almost 4 years ago

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Luis de la Orden Morais

Very interesting article.

If I could suggest something to make the 2013 version of it even more interesting, if it is possible please do keep track of age and social characteristics (employment, education, how much they earn, UK-born vs. foreign, etc...).

Thanks for sharing!

almost 4 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Facetious generalisations thank you so much for dropping by. Feel free to comment on some of my other articles I linked to in my post.

@Graham - thanks for your comments!

@Dan - "I am quite an effeminate man, and my girlfriend used to play county cricket" - a match made in heaven surely?!

Thanks for your comments and insights and for doing the changever view. If you're at Conversion Conference over the next few days I'll see you there.

almost 4 years ago

Jeff McCarthy

Jeff McCarthy, Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School

Excellent post Paul! Saw myself in a number of these :) Really fascinating insights.

almost 4 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Jeff - thanks for reading the post and glad you could relate to some of the points.

over 3 years ago

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Dan Porat

Excellent post.
We are striving always towards better UX in deopla.com.
We try gather as much data on our users as possible just for those exact reasons.

Thanks!

over 3 years ago

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CaravanMike

A great and genuine look into the minds of men. Some great tips and truths about how most, not all men shop. I can see a few new research tasks being implements to see how we can further improve out checkout funnels for both genders. Great post.

over 3 years ago

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