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
  • 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?