How customer emotion affects the user experience

The behavioral science behind getting shoppers to purchase

WiderFunnel Marketing Optimization, headquartered in Vancouver and with an office in Los Angeles, helps companies improve the rate at which they convert website traffic into revenue. Founder and CEO Chris Goward says the company has a relentless focus on learning why one approach works and another doesn’t.

“We help retailers hit their growth targets, conversion rates and the other metrics that are important to them by understanding their customers better and coming up with approaches based on that understanding,” he says. “Then, through experimentation, we determine whether these ideas work, and how they might be improved.”

Headshot of Chris Goward, Wider Funnel
Chris Goward, founder and CEO, WiderFunnel Marketing Optimization

A better shipping offer

An early project for WiderFunnel was working with Sport Chek, the largest sporting goods chain in Canada. The company wanted to get better lift from the cart page: Now that a customer is buying, how do you get them to buy more?

At the time, Sport Chek had a big red button on the page that said, “Free shipping on orders of $25 or more.” The information, notes Goward, was just information; it didn’t incentivize anybody to do anything. With an average order value of $100, the majority of customers qualified.

Not everyone did qualify, however, and the prospect of having to pay for shipping caused some customers to abandon their carts and move on — without bothering to figure out what they’d have to spend to qualify. So Sport Chek did the math for them: “Just $17.45 more to qualify for free shipping!”

That approach, arrived at and refined through some rigorous A/B testing, resulted in a 7.3 percent lift in transactions — a significant win for a company that does thousands of transactions a week.

Testing, testing

WiderFunnel went through an even more complex testing process with, which complies and makes available information about the motor vehicle and driver’s license departments of all 50 states. Pages throughout the site feature banner ads offering an opportunity to check car insurance rates.’s business model is simple: It gets paid when somebody clicks on a banner on the site, goes to Geico or whoever, and buys insurance.

Making that happen more often and more predictably, however, is not simple. tried A/B testing with a cobbled-together technology stack, no conversion strategy and a one-person department. “They knew there were inefficiencies,” Goward says, “but they didn’t know how far off they were or what to do about it. They didn’t know if they had good findings, or how to make decisions. They all too frequently made decisions based on emotion: ‘This feels like a good idea, let’s try it.’”

Working closely with the team, WiderFunnel replaced that approach with an integrated long-term optimization strategy. It involved two phases, exploration (what can we learn about the customers) and validation (now that we think we know something, let’s test it). The result: is heading into a third straight year of doubled revenue.


Register here for more insights from Chris Goward and other speakers from companies including Dollar Shave Club, Inspire Brands and Express at NRF NXT All Access, an online event for retail’s ecommerce and digital marketing communities, July 20-22.

It’s a process

“Button colors and so on are important tactical elements, but what’s really important is to take a more behavioral science approach to understanding customer emotion and how that plays into the user experience,” Goward says. WiderFunnel worked with a wine retailer, for instance, and found its customers usually fell into two personality types: hedonists and performers, or show-offs.

“The wording they were using on the website, however, was more appealing to a balanced, risk-averse personality,” he says. “Changing the headline and subhead on the homepage increased revenue per visitor by over 10 percent — just because the words better matched the people they were attracting.”

Hear more from Chris Goward at NRF NXT All Access, an online event for digital retailers, July 20-22. Register here.

Related content

Stories around retail industry insights, trends and transformation.
Read more
NRF NXT will provide free digital content for retail ecommerce and marketing leaders.
Read more