Inside the Mind of an Amazon Shopper: Five Lessons Learned

This post is by Karon Thackston from copywriting agency Marketing Words.

I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a voyeur. I love to watch as people shop online to see what they click on, how they react and what their end results will be. That’s why I regularly ask people to take virtual shopping trips… so I can understand how internet users make decisions, and adjust my communications to deliver what they need to choose my products.

Today, I’ve asked a woman we’ll refer to as “D” to stroll over to and find something she’s having a hard time buying.

“D” will walk us through every click and every thought as she tries to find the perfect facial moisturizer. However, this is not really about the specific product she is shopping for. It’s all about the process.

How will “D” interact with the Amazon site? How does each Amazon listing she clicks on try to deliver what customers want? Are some sellers’ listings unintentionally turning shoppers away?

Let’s follow “D’s” journey and we’ll find out…

Inside the mind of “D” as she shops on Amazon

Hello, I’m “D”. Like most older women (I’m in my 60s), I’m dealing with dry, aging skin. Particularly right around my eyes. And especially in winter, when the raw, cold weather chaps, chafes, and roughens that delicate under-eye skin.

This winter it was worse than usual. I tried all the regular drugstore moisturizers. But these common name-brand emollients all contain cetyl alcohol, which invariably stings and burns the skin around my eyes.

I wanted a moisturizer that would heal, soothe, cool, and calm without stinging or burning.

So, I turned to Amazon.

First, I searched for “natural moisturizer,” because I wanted something totally free of harsh chemicals like cetyl alcohol.

The first page of search results was frankly overwhelming because there were all sorts of products with everything from “natural” to “organic” ingredients to neither. Plus, each seemed to have its own magic-bullet ingredient that solved every problem you could think of. And we all know that’s not possible.

Coconut oil, jojoba oil, grape-seed extract, shea butter, manuka honey, green tea, hyaluronic acid, retinol, and on and on and on… it’s really overwhelming and threw me into analysis-paralysis. Unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, you could spend days sorting through all these Amazon listings.

Search for natural moisturizer

However, I did find at least one promising listing, so I clicked on it:

Christina Moss

The bullet points and description did a great job of informing me about all the product specifics. I liked the fact that this moisturizer was “totally free of harmful, toxic petrochemicals” (per the product description). But was it healing, cooling, etc.?

Well, according to the ingredient list, the first (and therefore most plentiful) ingredient is organic aloe vera, which the product copy claims “soothes and calms the skin”. I’ve tried aloe vera before, and I have found it very soothing, so this was a big plus.

Then I turned to the reviews. There are 4,557 reviews. A whopping 68% are 5-star, and another 14% are 4-star. That was a big plus, too.

What’s more, the top 5-star review noted that this product is “gentle and soothing”. That was exactly what I was looking for. The more soothing the better.

However, I didn’t want to be hasty. So, I went on to another search term.

This time I thought I would improve my search by adding more qualifiers. So, I tried “soothing natural moisturizer for winter skin”.

Ha! The search results were just as overwhelming with a little bit of everything under the sun:

Search for soothing natural moisturizer for winter skin

Undaunted, however, I clicked on the Amazon listing whose name / title actually contained the word “soothing”:

Conqueror soothing balm

Bingo! This was no mere moisturizer. It was a “balm” – a powerful term that usually means there is some sort of pain relief. Again, the bullets and description were extremely helpful, especially when I saw that the product listing emphasized “healing,” “soothing” “cooling,” and “calming” – all the benefits I was looking for. Plus, the copy assured me that the formula contained “all-natural ingredients with no harsh preservatives”. Could this be the perfect product for my very specific needs?

Maybe. Maybe not. The product description explained that this “soothing dry skin balm” was expressly created for eczema sufferers, who apparently seek relief from constant, annoying itching. But I don’t have eczema, and my skin doesn’t itch; it hurts.

There were only 20 reviews, and most of them focused on eczema – not relevant to my needs. Moreover, the top negative review really gave me pause. “My skin turned bright red and was very irritated by this product,” it read. Yikes! That was the last thing I needed!

Finally, I figured I had been searching too broadly. Perhaps I should specifically look for an eye cream, not just an all-purpose moisturizer? So, I searched for “soothing natural eye cream”. Again, the results were a very mixed bag, and most of them focused more on “anti-aging” than on “healing, soothing, cooling, calming”:

Search for soothing eye cream

It was like everybody was trying to make their products applicable to anyone and everyone. In my case, however, that made me dislike the product because it didn’t fit my needs. It might be time for some of these sellers to improve their Amazon listings.

Some of them really focus on one main ingredient that their product contains. If they are only gearing up to attract people who specifically want that ingredient, they could be losing a lot of sales from people who are searching to solve a problem, not find a product with a particular key ingredient.

One Amazon listing indicated (in the title) that the cream in question was specially formulated for “delicate skin”. I figured this must mean it’s soothing, so I clicked on it:

TruSkin eye cream

I especially liked the third bullet: ” NATURE’S MOST EFFECTIVE HEALING & SOOTHING INGREDIENTS…”

“Healing and soothing” – those all-important benefits!

However, the negative reviews were alarming, especially one that advised: “I tried this after reading countless reviews for sensitive skin eye creams, and this clearly isn’t one… it made my under-eye skin red and tender”. Other reviewers made similar comments.

Well, so much for that! Frustrated, I decided to go a different route.

How about pure aloe vera? As I mentioned earlier, I’ve tried this in the past and liked it. So, I searched for “100% pure aloe vera”.

This was more like it – much more focused; less confusing and overwhelming:

Search for 100% pure aloe vera

These listings made more sense to me. All the results looked promising, but one had 2,885 reviews – mostly positive – so I clicked on that Amazon listing:

Organic aloe vera gel

Well, the Amazon listing was very persuasive – even though it never specifically mentioned the under-eye area – and the reviews were even more so. “Pure HEAVEN!” one reviewer wrote. “It is so wonderful,” exclaimed another.

Yet there were also some scary negative reviews. And even the product copy itself warned of possible allergic reactions (because pure aloe vera is apparently very strong).


What’s a thoroughly confused customer to do?

In desperation, I went back to square one: the first Amazon listing I had clicked on, for Christina Moss Naturals Moisturizer. On balance, it looked like the best bet after all, with plenty of aloe vera but not in a too-strong concentration. Plus, it had so many rave reviews! Besides, I had to try something… my face hurts!

So, I decided to order it. After all, what could I lose – except $25.99?

What can we learn from “D’s” experience?

There is a lot we can learn by looking over the shoulder of a real Amazon customer as they shop. It’s not about the specific product they are buying, but the overall experience from the search results and listings that they see.

Here are some things we can take away from “D’s” shopping session on Amazon:

  1. Keep the buying process in mind. When shoppers begin their journey, they typically start out with only a broad idea of what they want. Don’t ignore broader search terms as those might bring you additional sales.
  2. Remember that not every customer searches in the same way. If your product offers a particular ingredient or feature, and you center your copywriting and optimization only on one keyword that describes your product, you risk losing sales from people who used other words. Synonyms are huge!
  3. Customers are getting smarter by the day. Most understand that one product can’t solve all their problems. If your copy comes across as hype-filled or too good to be true, you are likely to turn shoppers away.
  4. Segment your audience when you write your Amazon listing copy. “D” stated that one listing she was interested in only addressed eczema sufferers. If that listing had also mentioned that this extreme moisturizer worked for other needs, they might have picked up more sales.
  5. Read your reviews, respond to them and adjust your copy accordingly. Several times “D” stated that what she read in the reviews made her nervous. Some of that anxiety could have been overcome if the sellers took time to address issues in the bullets and description.

I hope you have found this walkthrough with “D” useful. Let me know in the comments!

Karon Thackston can be contacted at Marketing Words, a copywriting agency that offers ebooks and video courses to help Amazon sellers create their own conversion-worthy product listings that rank higher and sell better. You’ll also find Amazon copywriting services and many other types of online copywriting.


Jake Pool

Jake Pool

A content writer in the SaaS, FinTech, and eCommerce spaces, Jake Pool has written hundreds of articles and reviews for dozens of corporate blogs and online publications. With four years under his wing, readers can expect many more informative articles in the future.

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