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Are Your Customers More Interested in Detail, Experience, or Authority? Testing Can Help You Find Out


What is more compelling to shoppers?

  • A comparison of features across products and brands or the popularity of a brand
  • The ability to trial the product
  • The validation of an expert

Depending on your brand or industry this may seem obvious. Shoppers, research has found, have a tendency to focus on one type of evaluation. The problem, however, is that the mode of evaluation promoted by the brand may be different from the one shoppers actually use. The Search, Experience, Credence—or SEC—framework describes this categorical tendency toward specific modes of evaluation. Tweet_this

Search products, are those which consumers focus on product attributes that can be evaluated prior to purchase either through existing knowledge, comparison, research, or inspection.

Experience attributes are those that can only be accurately evaluated after the consumer has tried a product either through a trial or after purchase.

Credence products are those that are difficult to evaluate even after purchase, typically due to technical complexity or lack of information or experience. As a result, consumers in this last category look to verified and trusted experts for confirmation.

Matching the messaging, design, and organization of a site to fit these mentalities is critical for building trust in a brand and encouraging purchase. And testing, of course, is the best way to understand exactly which mentality is relevant—and how you can best position your brand and products to appeal to these consumers.

For shoppers looking for products they think of as search products, providing a depth of information is critical. Detailed descriptions, lists of features and specifications, reviews, multiple photos and videos, and direct comparisons across your own and competing brands will appeal to such consumers. Try testing detailed feature-focused copy, product comparison grids, and the promotion of positive reviews to refine your strategy for this group.

For experience-focused shoppers, a free trial is the best way to satisfy their needs. This is especially true for complex products like software-as-a-service or general service offerings. For general ecommerce retailers, however, it’s still possible to appeal to shoppers in need of an experience-based evaluation. Promoting a generous return policy, for example—or messaging like “try before you buy”—helps emphasize any risk-free evaluation options that may be available.

Finally, credence products—especially those dealing with health, security, and very technical services—may benefit from expert endorsements. Trust seals are probably the most basic form of such an approach but awards, certifications, and testimonials can also be valuable. It’s important to understand, as well, that credence evaluation is not limited to industries like healthcare or computer security. Shoppers at a fashion retailer, for example, may be concerned the new products they are considering are no longer on trend—or may never find footing as a trend. Endorsement by prominent fashion bloggers, in this case, would strengthen the appeal of what is, in this case, a credence product.

Read more: Using testing to match messaging to customer needs, on every device

Determining which of the three approaches best suits your customers can be accomplished through testing as well. Comparing the performance of a feature-focused message, a free and easy returns promotion, and an expert endorsement on product pages, for example, may reveal which is most compelling to shoppers. Adjusting the approach based on behavioral and other characteristics, too, is a clear opportunity for personalization that may prove profitable.


Brooks Bell helps top brands profit from A/B testing, through end-to-end testing, personalization, and optimization services. We work with clients to effectively leverage data, creating a better understanding of customer segments and leading to more relevant digital customer experiences while maximizing ROI for optimization programs. Find out more about our services.