The Behavioral Next Generation of E-Commerce UI/UX – PRS IN VIVO – A BVA GROUP COMPANY

The Behavioral Next Generation of E-Commerce UI/UX

Recently, a major online retailer changed its filtering interface. Previously, shoppers could exclude products from their shopping page by brand, size, or other category specific attributes by clicking on a drop-down menu. The menu worked effectively and helped winnow down the search process.

But consumers weren’t using it.
Independent research suggests filters were being used only 1% of the time.

So why weren’t consumers using filters that could enhance the shopping experience?
The filters were placed in the upper left-hand corner of the shopping page, far from the typical viewing pattern of shoppers. In fact, the research indicated only 10% of shoppers noticed the filter option.

The major online retailer has since moved its filtering interface to the left-hand side, parallel to the product images on the screen.

The recipe for traditional UI/UX is pretty standard: Design wireframes, bring them to life, mix in some A/B testing, and do a couple of potential-users interviews for flavor. When done right, the results are predictable: a well-blended, smooth product with no surprises that everyone can consume. But is that really the best direction?

This method of research is heavily based on what behavioral scientists call System 2 – rational thinking. While this method is tried and true, it has its limitations. Consumers are asked what they like and don’t like, or even more simply, which they like better. That typically doesn’t leave room for the question of why.

The designers of the major online retailer filter interface likely asked all of the right questions during the design process. Does it work? Does it pipe the correct things? Do consumers like it? Perhaps consumers were even asked if they could see it.

But there is a better way based on observing how consumers actually behave.  What wasn’t considered in this instance and what is rarely considered in any UX/UI scenario is the System 1 approach – the behavioral aspect. Rarely is the observed behavior (What did the consumer actually do on the site?) blended with other research so we know the actual behavior versus what consumers say about the behavior.  Websites are designed with considerable thought and focus, but hours of love and care on the backend do not necessarily translate into the site being used the way it was intended. Questions surrounding consumer behavior include:

  • What are consumers actually seeing as they shop?
  • How are they navigating the site? What are they clicking on?
  • Do shoppers buy one item or more than one? Do they make impulse purchases?
  • What elements of the product expressed through the manifestation of the package influenced the shopping decision?
  • How long does it take them to shop?

Observing behavior and then probing for answers to these questions in implicit rather than explicit ways can help improve a site, enhance shopping efficiency, and ultimately result in higher dollars spent. The technology and expertise is out there to answer these questions, to the benefit of all involved, if you start with a behavioral perspective.

Optimizing the expression of the product and enhancing the shopper experience in e-commerce retail environments are just some of the services we are proud to provide our clients at PRS IN VIVO.  If winning in the physical and well as digital shopping worlds is critical to your brand, talk to us today and e-mail us at


Jeff Parrotte is a Project Analyst at PRS IN VIVO. In his four years in the industry, he has executed a variety of qualitative and quantitative research. Since joining PRS IN VIVO, he has developed an expertise in System 1 research and is leading efforts in studying eCommerce behavior.