E-Commerce Buying Signals: Understanding an E-Commerce Essential

Exactly how huge is the global e-commerce marketplace?  The answer – so huge it’s impossible to put even a remotely accurate figure to it.  But what we do know is that according to some studies, there are now around 2.7 billion online shoppers worldwide.

Or to put it another way, one in every three people on Earth.

All of which amounts to one insanely competitive arena in which to do business, but also one that’s packed with potential for turning profits.  At least, for those who know how to read between the lines, where consumer audience behaviour is concerned.

In this instance, we’re talking buying signals – a routinely overlooked yet incredibly valuable piece of the e-commerce puzzle.

What Are Buying Signals?

Self explanatory to a degree, a ‘buying’ signal’ is an indication that a lead is likely to make a purchase, or is considering doing so.  Such signals can be of huge practical value to e-commerce businesses and marketers, helping you target your most valuable leads and drive more conversions.

It’s basically a case of picking up on customer intent, in order to then present them with an offer they can’t refuse.  Or at least, pique their interests a little further to push them over the edge.

Of course, there’s also a degree of timing involved.  More often than not, you’ve strictly limited time to convert an interested or semi-interested prospect into a paying customer.  Hence, the importance of keeping on top of buying signals in real-time, and acting on them as quickly as possible.

4 Common Examples of Buying Signals

As with most things, some buying signals are subtler or more obvious than others.  Plus, the fact that different consumers behave in completely different ways can add further complexities to the whole thing.

Even so, there are several common examples of buying signals all online businesses should be on the lookout for.  These include:

  1. Social Media Engagement

Where a prospect takes the time to interact and engage with your content on social media, it shows you’ve reached and influenced them in some way. They’ve signalled their intent to build a connection with your brand, meaning they must have a vested interest in at least something you do.

        2. Free Trials and Samples


Sure, some people sign up for free trials and bag samples simply for the sake of it.  But even when they do so on a whim, it’s pretty much guaranteed that whatever’s on offer is something they’re interested in.  After all, nobody claims freebies or signs up for free trials when what’s up for grabs is of no value or practical use to them.

       3. Form Completions

This could be anything – your email list, opting in for special offers, newsletter subscriptions and so on. Now more than ever, consumers go out of their way to avoid being bombarded with torrents of commercial communications.  Which in turn means that if they’ve proactively made the effort to connect with your brand this way, they could be on the verge of converting.

      4. Queries of Any Kind

Last up, it’s remarkable how routinely online business owners write-off everyday generic queries.  Each time you receive a question or query have any kind, it should be treated as an indication of intent to convert. Pricing and payment options, warranties and guarantees, delivery policies, terms and conditions, simple queries on what your products/services do – all solid-gold leads to build on.

How these are buying signals can (and should) incorporated into your conversion optimisation strategy.


Remember – you’ve strictly limited time to engage and convert leads.  Responding promptly is vital, and becomes much simpler when buying signals become an integral part of your e-commerce business model.

A few simple ways to put things into action:

  1. Refine Your Email Strategy

Appropriate segmentation is an absolute must for successful e-mail marketing, but taking a step closer to true personalisation can be even more effective. It’s the classic case of letting them know you’ve taken their interest seriously, understand their needs, and have just the right solution for them.

       2. Engage on Social Media

Similarly, paying close attention to what your target audience is saying on social media is crucial.  Prompt, personal responses not only make leads feel valued and encourage them to take action, but also demonstrate your professionalism and responsiveness to the platform’s full audience.

       3. Individualise Offers

If it’s something you can realistically do, there’s always the option of tailoring unique offers to each prospect’s interests.  You could reach out to them with a “Hey, we say you were interested in XX, and we’d like to offer you a one-time-only 20% if you’re still interested”, or something along those lines. Again, it’s a case of making them feel individually valued and understood.

       4. Use Retargeting Ads and Dynamic Product Ads

On a more technical level, retargeting campaigns can be great to hook those who’ve checked out your products onlinea but haven’t completed purchases. Such ads are automatically generated on the basis of each visitor’s actions and behaviours, reminding them of products they were interested in, or suggesting special offers on similar products, for example.

       5.Track Behavioural Data

On a broader level, it’s important to track and take action on the less obvious buying signals that collect behind the scenes.  For example, visitor interactions on your website can be visualised using heatmap tools, giving you a good idea of what drives the most engagement and interaction. This can also help you determine which parts of your website or not having the desired effect, in order to make the changes needed to keep them interested long enough to convert.

     6.Leverage Social Proof

Importantly, never underestimate the power of social proof. Where anyone has come even remotely close to converting but hasn’t yet pulled the trigger, social proof can make all the difference.  User generated content, case studies, reviews, star ratings, impressive facts and figures – anything that goes beyond your own sales pitch to add ‘proof’ to the appeal of your offer.  From emails to social media to personalised communications to your own product pages, endorsements of any kind from fellow customers can be the most powerful conversion optimisation tool in your entire arsenal.