E-Commerce is exciting but extremely competitive. To thrive and grow in this world, every merchant like yourself needs sustained effort and carefully crafted strategies to help him reach his goals. 


There is a need to periodically assess every aspect of the company – to tweak processes and modify or adopt new ones in an attempt to do whatever is needed to win over that customer and grow the business. 

Research is the key to finding out what can be done to improve sales and increase conversions at your e-commerce site. In this data driven age, you are probably already leveraging some of the Quantitative Analytics data available that provides you with many insights to increase your productivity and grow the business. 



There is also a second kind of research, Qualitative Research; which is more exploratory and tries to understand the behaviour of the visitors to your website and your customers. Such research can sometimes reveal many insights that do not necessarily show up in the above mentioned quantitative data. 


Read on to understand more about Qualitative Research, how to conduct it and how it can be impactful and help you achieve your goals.



What is Qualitative Research?



Broadly speaking, qualitative research involves collecting and analyzing non-numerical data to understand concepts, opinions or experiences of customers. This helps in understanding their behaviour with the objective of gathering insights into their thoughts and motivation for such behaviour. 


Qualitative research data provides insights on how the visitor is interacting at the different points of your website, where they are facing obstacles and how you could make changes to remove such roadblocks. 


Qualitative research can help the merchant in understanding the target audience better. Not only will this reduce people dropping off without closing the transaction and therefore improve conversion rates, also the inferences from the qualitative research when incorporated into your website can go a long way in improving the customer’s experience at the store. 


How to do Qualitative Research?



The more popular and cost effective and efficient ways of doing qualitative research are-

On-site Surveys



Surveying customers while they browse the website or even asking them to answer a few questions as they exit the site is a good time to catch their attention.  


The Questions can pop up through chat boxes at predetermined spots of your website but it is important to limit them to a few. At this stage, open ended questions requiring answers that explain a situation can work better than the more convenient MCQ (Multiple Choice Questions) format.

It is reasonable to ask the visitor questions like – What was the purpose of the visit to the website? Were you successful in completing your intended task? If not, why not? Did you face any obstacles? How can we help you overcome them?


Such valuable feedback and insights can help you locate exact locations of bottlenecks where visitors are probably dropping off and why they are doing so. This will also enable you to work towards removing those obstacles that the visitors are facing. 


Customer Surveys



The most popular way of conducting Qualitative Research is through Customer surveys. This is a process where you send out a full survey form to a customer after he has completed a purchase. Such a survey could contain a mix of MCQs and open ended questions and would of course be more comprehensive than the on-site customer surveys mentioned earlier. 


The questions here can range from knowing more about the customer and how he came to your website to what he is using the product for and what he likes about the product he just bought. You could also ask him about other alternatives that he had considered and what made him choose your brand over the others. Asking them what you could do better could also help you understand and serve them better in future. 

Answers collected from such surveys (and hopefully they are honest answers!) are again extremely insightful as they tell you more about why your product is valuable to the customer (if he is happy with it) or why it is failing to impress (if he has given it a pass). The merchant can then work towards removing the hurdles faced by the customer and do whatever else is needed to optimize the website and maximize customer experience and satisfaction. 


Customer Interviews



Another way of gathering qualitative feedback is through Customer Interviews over the phone or email. Though done with a specific purpose, the trick is to keep the interview unstructured and conversational so that they can open up and reveal emotions that underlie their behaviour. 


Choose the interview candidates cleverly as everyone might not be willing to give you the time required for this exercise. The choice of questions would basically depend on the problem that you are trying to address and hence understanding the customer’s problems is of utmost importance here. Again, it is best to go with short, open ended questions that will allow the interviewee to explain his point of view or even provide anecdotes to support his answers. 

Insights collected by asking the right questions would reveal the gaps that could be closed to enhance their experience at your website. Apart from this, you could also ask for feedback regarding the efficacy of your website and your product.

A recent or repeat customer could provide honest feedback on what made him choose your product while a customer who has abandoned his cart could give you more insights on what hurdles he faced when trying to complete the transaction. 


Psst.. make sure you have permission from your customer to call them beforehand. Keep the call conveniently timed and brief as well.  

User Testing



While it is helpful to interview and receive feedback from customers and visitors, it is still not easy to spot one’s own weaknesses. The way to overcome this challenge is to get others to perform tasks on your website and watch them or ask them to share their thoughts about their experiences. This process is called User Testing, another way of conducting qualitative research. 


User Testing is one of the best ways to understand how user-friendly your website is, discover problems and spot navigational or other bottlenecks. It also enables you to empathize with your users’ concerns and implement modifications based on their recommendations. 


A Few Pointers In Closing



  • Research and knowledge about your target audience, efficacy of your website and relevance of your product must be ongoing as you work towards your goal of increasing conversions, growing sales and revenues, developing a credible and recognizable brand and providing a stellar customer experience.


  • There is a huge amount of Quantitative data and analytics available, but apart from that there is a need to collect Qualitative Data through Customer Surveys, Interviews etc. 


  • Insights and inferences derived from the combination of both the approaches can be used effectively to deliver impactful results and provide you with some of the solutions that you have been looking for. 


  • Qualitative research is relevant for both B2B and B2C companies and can go a long way in improving their sales and conversion rates as they strive to compete and grow in the ecommerce marketplace.


  • While the information provided by customers undertaking surveys or interviews is very useful for the merchant, it should be mentioned that they may or may not be entirely reliable as there is no way to hold them accountable for their feedback.

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