Thematic analysis of the impact of website characteristics on online shopping behavior

By Ashni walia & Priya Chetty on December 18, 2019

Online shopping behavior of consumers is influenced by a number of factors, and website characteristics are one of them. So far in this study, the influence of product characteristics and personal traits of online shopping behavior of millennials and generation Z consumers was examined empirically.

This article discusses thematic analysis to establish the impact of website characteristics such as:

  • visual appeal (quality of content, pictures or videos),
  • perceived risk,
  • trust,
  • convenience,
  • social presence,
  • after-sales service,
  • customer support,
  • delivery options, and
  • payment options.

Interviews of marketing representatives from 7 ecommerce companies based in India were carried out. The questions primarily pertained to their opinion about the influence of website characteristics on purchasing decisions of their target segment.

Privacy conditions

For millennials, the process of online buying is not only about materialistic possession but the excitement of the shopping experience. An aspect of great importance to millennials is privacy.

In the online environment, it is harder to maintain privacy. It is one of the perceived risks of online shopping and they want to avoid missteps. They fear the risk of hackers attaining sensitive information, sale of data by the e-commerce company to third parties, lack of privacy terms, behavior tracking without permission, and spam mails.

Interviewee E6

A favorable perception of the website’s privacy policies leads to the building of trust.

Security and privacy play a crucial role in creating trust during an online transaction.

Interviewee E2

They read all the certifications and other information regarding the security issues more carefully than Gen Z who is always in a hurry.

Interviewee E5

They further elaborated that if an additional or unexpected cost appears in the latter phase of the purchase transaction, it is very likely that these people will never visit the online store again.

Credibility and visual appeal

Millennials also determine the credibility of a website by consulting peers, family, and online reviewers.

Our marketing spend involves not only in designing the website but also in ensuring that the reviews reflect our offerings positively through superior customer service, as millennials are particularly sensitive to them.

Interviewee E5

Millennials react negatively to pop-up publicity, good graphics and visuals attract their attention. They tend to repeatedly return to a website because of attractive images of the products. Millennial buyers appreciate when they get the chance of visualizing the product as if they can zoom in or rotate the product photo. Along with this augmentation programs like the kitchen design programs are also highly appreciated among them. In such programs, the customer gets the chance to visualize and virtually experience the product to a certain extent.

This, coupled with discounted prices ensure us repeated sales from millennials. They always prefer to shop from the online stores they are familiar with.

Interviewee E5

Navigation and content

In the case of gen Z, the four critical website characteristics are content, structure, interaction, and presentation. Interviewee E3 focused on the friendly design of the website.

Our audience appreciates our clear and easy to navigate website design.

Interviewee E3

He further said that gen Z consumers mainly focus on this aspect as they want the information. They are tempted to what is recommended to them and are quickly available without their effort of searching. But they spend a considerable amount of time finding the best discount offers and deals. This applies to millennials too. In addition to ease of navigation, they seek a larger product variety. According to E4, it plays to their psychological state.

Comparing products brings a change in their routine and relives them from boredom. It also makes them perceive the website as less risky. It yields instant gratification.

Interviewee E4

Millennial consumers will spend more time browsing through the website if it offers customization of products and ease in navigation. Sometimes while they are only seeking information from the website, they end up purchasing it.

Payment options

Further talking about the impact of payment options, discounts, and offers, E4 said that;

Generation Z buyers are emotional buyers and finding the best and cheapest option with a return policy is what they look for.

Interviewee E4

The generation Z shoppers are relatively active, but they still are very careful when it comes to discounts, offers, and payment options. The consumer’s willingness to visit online stores and make a purchase is directly related to their confidence in providing their personal and financial details. As seen above millennials are much more careful while shopping online and affects their online purchase decision.

Delivery period

E2 also discussed factors such as the short delivery period offered by their website and its impact on consumers’ online purchase decisions. He specified that this factor is much more crucial for the generation Z.

They are usually the among the first ones to test the new things out with a high level of curiosity. They need the product as soon as they place the order. Shipping is the direct link in the supply chain that triggers the customer satisfaction level. Especially in online shopping among the gen Z.

Interviewee E2

Timely product delivery is very important to gain customer trust and encourage them to repeat purchases. E1 highlighted the fact that it not just only about the time but also about how well the product is packed. Moreover, gen Z shoppers prefer free delivery and short shipping time. This strategy of free shipping and short delivery time helps many e-commerce businesses to maintain good relationships with their customers.

Ease in returns and refunds

Along with short delivery periods, millennials and gen Z also prefer ease in returning products in case of dissatisfactory products. Sometimes when the product delivered does not matches the description provided, first-time users panic. They also want quick and reliable processing of refunds.

It is important for us to understand that consumers wants to return the product in a simple and the convenient manner.

Interviewee E7

This factor is important for both generation Z and millennial shoppers.

We have to make sure that the returns and refunds process is fast and smooth. One bad experience in this term will push the shoppers to the competitors.

Interviewee E3

Case study of H&M

H&M (Hennes and Mauritz) is one of the largest retailers known for offering fast-fashion and good quality at affordable prices. It operates in more than 62 countries with over 4500 offline stores. A shift in strategy took place in 2018 globally as H&M understood that people are increasingly resorting to online shopping. Therefore in 2018, H&M unveiled a new e-commerce website and mobile application for its customers. It included many new features such as:

  • visual search,
  • online payment,
  • scan and find,
  • rate and review,
  • free returns to the stores,
  • live chat,
  • new shipping options, and
  • an updated #HMxME gallery for style inspirations from around the globe.

Addressing the shortcomings of its earlier website, it also incorporated the feature of “find in store”, thus helping the customer to locate the item in the nearest H&M store. The transformation of the website and making it more user-friendly has contributed to the gradual improvement in sales with the increased market share for H&M.

The website characteristics that can be attributed to H&M’s online success
The website characteristics that can be attributed to H&M’s online success

For instance, in India, H&M’s market share increased by 39% in Q2 of 2019, beating competitions such as Zara and Forever 21 (Malviya, 2019). It also reported an 11% rise in its sales up to May 2019 globally (Caruso, 2019).


  • Caruso, D. (2019, June). H&M shares rise as summer sales begin brightly. UK Investor.
  • Malviya, S. (2019, June 27). H&M India sales increase 39% in second quarter. Economic Times.

Priya is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Project Guru, a research and analytics firm based in Gurgaon. She is responsible for the human resource planning and operations functions. Her expertise in analytics has been used in a number of service-based industries like education and financial services.

Her foundational educational is from St. Xaviers High School (Mumbai). She also holds MBA degree in Marketing and Finance from the Indian Institute of Planning and Management, Delhi (2008).

Some of the notable projects she has worked on include:

  • Using systems thinking to improve sustainability in operations: A study carried out in Malaysia in partnership with Universiti Kuala Lumpur.
  • Assessing customer satisfaction with in-house doctors of Jiva Ayurveda (a project executed for the company)
  • Predicting the potential impact of green hydrogen microgirds (A project executed for the Government of South Africa)

She is a key contributor to the in-house research platform Knowledge Tank.

She currently holds over 300 citations from her contributions to the platform.

She has also been a guest speaker at various institutes such as JIMS (Delhi), BPIT (Delhi), and SVU (Tirupati).


I am a master's in Economics from Amity university. Besides my keen interest in Economics i have been an active member of the team Enactus. Apart from the academics i love reading fictions.