User engagement: What it means and why it is becoming increasingly important in e-commerce

Many shop operators spend a lot of money in order to generate traffic on their online shop. Too often, however, this does not lead to the desired goal of increasing sales. The customer visit usually remains short and does not result in a purchase. One reason for this is the lack of user engagement. This term has been circulating in the media for quite some time. But what exactly does it mean?


User engagement stands for the experience that a user has with an application on a website, often referred to as the user experience. This creates interaction and a motivation to get more involved with the website and not just briefly interact with it. Therefore, user engagement refers to the fact that a user not only scrolls a website for a short time, but also uses it, deals with it and thus invests time and attention (*1). But why does it matter so much that customers are willing to intensively engage with an online shop?


Nowadays there is a multitude of shopping possibilities in e-commerce. Attracting customers’ attention is not easy, after all, customers often have the opportunity to buy the product they want in a dozen online shops. The variety of options has also weakened customer loyalty. That’s why it’s important to encourage user engagement, because customers who experience a positive buying experience and remember it are more likely to come back. Also, these customers are the ones who make valuable recommendations to other potential buyers.


The way in which user engagement is achieved depends on the website. This means that user engagement on a news site will be different than on a gaming site or blog. User engagement can occur and be measured in many forms and ways, for example by the number of comments, click rates or the conversion rate.


There are various and simple ways for online stores to promote user engagement. According to a study by Wilson Lee and Izak Benbasat of the University of British Columbia, high-resolution images and a dynamic website with moving parts lead to more attention compared to low-resolution images and a static website (*2). The integration of social media elements such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube can also further promote user engagement. They provide information about the buying behaviour of friends, acquaintances or even “stars” and “starlets” that you feel connected to. Editorial content also offers the opportunity to generate added value. The most recent example is the Asos online shop, which started an online fashion magazine under its own name to give its buyers the opportunity to find out more about trends right on its own website. This means that they no longer have to search elsewhere, but instead get the incentive to buy and new ideas for outfits presented “on the spot” on a silver platter.


Experience in e-commerce also shows that a similar sales experience to that of stationary retail is an advantage in online retailing, as the former is still perceived by customers as more appealing. For example, this feeling can be achieved by addressing customers individually. As soon as a user enters the online shop, he receives product recommendations or a special discount voucher based on his purchase history. This also prevents “discount hunters” from leaving the site and perhaps not returning. A further solution would be the setting of emotional incentives. By showing the stock levels and the number of other customers “keeping an eye” on the product on the website, the customer can draw several positive conclusions: on the one hand the product appears desirable, on the other it contributes to the effect of the social proof, the online portal is perceived as safe. However, shop operators should bear in mind that a permanent small number of items does not convey credibility and that even inaccurate information such as “few items in stock” do not have the desired effect as they offer too much room for interpretation (*3).


There is no magic formula necessary to promote user engagement in your own online shop. Many simple and easy steps lead to the goal.



(*1) “Models of User Engagement” by Janette Lehmann, 

(*2) “Designing an electronic commerce interface: attention and product memory as elicited by web design” by Lee Wilson and Izak Benbasat, 

(*3) “Shortage as a sales-enhancing measure in e-commerce” by Marcel Licht

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