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From clicks to connection: humanising your digital shopping experience

The E-commerce Psychology Series

As the digital world continues to evolve and online shopping becomes evermore dominant, changing the way we buy the majority of our goods, we have slowly lost the thing it seems only an in-store experience can offer – human connection. With technology constantly growing, this gap is only going to get bigger.

Our shopping habits are changing and many people are seeking out a shopping experience that feels more personal. According to findings from a survey in 2022, a significant 70% of individuals expressed they trust human sellers more than technology – so it makes sense that the next layer of online personalisation should aim to recreate this experience. Adding a human touch and a sense of personality can bring your digital store to life, helping customers feel more confident and informed when making a purchasing decision. 

Introducing anthropomorphism

While online shopping offers great convenience, it’s not without its challenges. One major issue is that many organisations find it difficult to offer a sense of human connection. It stands to reason that shoppers respond much better to human interactions than cold algorithms devoid of personality.

There are some principles that can help humanise the online shopping experience. One we believe to be effective when humanising your digital commerce site is anthropomorphism. 

Anthropomorphism is the psychological concept of applying human characteristics to non-human objects or entities. It’s an approach that can be applied to anything, from products and brands, to user interfaces, like conversational agents with human traits. The use of anthropomorphism in marketing strategies is a long-standing practice and it has already shaped the development of brand mascots and the design of various products both in the digital and physical world.

Initial attempts at making products and marketing tools appear more human-like arose from intuition – a gut feeling that people are likely to react positively to human-like entities. To explore this, Yang, Aggarwal and McGill reviewed ten years of consumer research on anthropomorphism and, on an initial glance at the evidence, the intuition that consumers prefer human-like entities appears to be confirmed: anthropomorphised entities are perceived as warmer and more competent, making consumers interact with them differently.

Humanising with anthropomorphism

There are many benefits of using anthropomorphism, these include:

  • Enhanced personalisation

By combining your digital site with human-like features, you can create a more personal and assisted experience – generating a connection that resonates with each individual user

  • Increased customer engagement

As the research shows, anthropomorphism entities are perceived as warmer, encouraging more users to interact and increase their engagement levels

  • Increased AOV

This principle directly influences customer behaviour, and with increased engagement, the percentage of purchases is likely to increase. 

  • Improved customer journey 

Anthropomorphism isn’t just about the initial boost in sales, but the longer-term connection it creates with customers. By evoking emotions and creating a memorable customer journey, users are likely to return to your site when they want to make another purchase in the future. 

Can you ever over-humanise?

At first glance, it may seem that the best way to make online interactions more personal is to implement some form of humanisation. After all, as humans ourselves, we are experts at being human, are we not? However, it is much more complex than that.

Customers often use systems like online decision aids to make a more simplified choice, yet they’re not quite ready to completely hand themselves over to technology – they still want to take an active role in the process. Therefore, even if, from a technological perspective, humanised digital systems could take over certain tasks from consumers completely, it does not mean that they should.

Despite the potential pitfalls, it doesn’t mean we should abandon the idea of human-like interfaces altogether. In fact, when done correctly, this strategy can completely transform online customer experiences, making them more engaging and, ultimately, more successful.

Succeeding in humanisation and anthropomorphism requires real skill and a rich understanding of human psychology, and how external influences affect how people think, feel and act. At 15gifts, we’ve seen firsthand how a deeper understanding of human behaviour, combined with the integration of in-person shopping strategies into our digital approach, can lead to incredible results. Specifically, we have seen a 59% increase in clients using these principles via our engine vs alternative solutions.

To learn how a more human online experience can help your customers make more confident buying decisions and increase your AOV, book a demo with us today.

Trudi Baker
Senior Marketing Manager