Rethinking the Relationship Between Browser Extensions and E-Commerce
In the past few years, browser extensions have transformed the online shopping experience. These online shopping aids offer great value and convenience, allowing savvy consumers to find the best bargains, block ads, and rapidly access product information.
Despite their growing popularity, some browser extensions are still met with lukewarm responses from e-commerce professionals, who fear that these tools will drive traffic away from their sites, negatively impact the user experience, or impede marketing efforts.
However, this article will explain how your e-commerce business can in fact benefit from the widespread use of browser extension shopping tools, particularly as we stand on the cusp of a new era of third-party data regulation.
Frustrating Traditional Online Marketing Methods
From driving users away from websites to impeding data collection and causing unforeseen tech issues, browser extensions can unbalance tried-and-tested e-commerce formulas, reshaping how customers interact with e-commerce websites and leaving marketers longing for the days of a simpler online shopping experience.
However, nostalgia won’t drive website traffic or improve data insights and given their popularity among consumers, browser extensions aren’t going away any time soon. While it’s difficult to calculate the proportion of consumers using these tools, Aberdeen estimated in 2021 that 13 percent to 20 percent of online shoppers were using browser extensions and predicted a considerable growth in user adoption going forward. Moreover, 42.7 percent of internet users worldwide report using an ad blocker extension.
Stats like these shouldn’t be ignored and e-commerce marketers would be wise to capitalize on this growing trend. But where do the opportunities lie for online businesses?
Opportunities for Data Insights
Apart from the obvious benefits for user experience, consumer convenience, and from price comparison websites driving ready-to-buy traffic, data gleaned from consumers’ browser extension habits can be utilized by e-commerce marketers to provide valuable market insights.
Understanding Your Users' Insights in the Age of AI
With Google and Microsoft both introducing artificial intelligence-powered search engines, and users increasingly querying ChatGPT and other language models for product-related information, tactics that relied on grabbing the last click in a search query might lose their effectiveness. In the wake of this uncertainty, any and all data points are helpful when it comes to understanding user behavior.
This is especially true as third-party data becomes harder to collect and access due to recent changes to online behavior patterns and tougher data regulations such as GDPR and CCPA. Ensuring robust and comprehensive data collection within the bounds of your own website has never been so important. The presence of browser extensions is an important behavioral signal that can help you segment your audience (e.g., by identifying extensions that indicate more tech-savvy shoppers or more price-conscious ones, as we detail below), in lieu of the types of signals you could previously glean from their search query or referring website.
Improving Customer Experience and Personalization
Browser extensions tell you how visitors want to use your website. If you take efforts to collect anonymous data about which extensions are being used by your visitors, this data can be leveraged to improve and personalize the user experience.
For instance, if users are frequently using AI assistant extensions to ask questions about products on your website, this is a sure sign that you need to provide better and clearer product descriptions. If you detect a price comparison extension, you might want to make sure you're surfacing your own best offers. Browser extensions can provide data which can lead to improved website design and customization.
An Accurate Picture of Your Customer Base
Moreover, consumers who choose to install certain browser extensions are covertly revealing information about their preferences and values, which in turn offers valuable insights for personalization. Take for example price comparison or coupon extensions, such as Pricescout or Honey. A consumer who uses such extensions is likely more cost-conscious than your average consumer. Meanwhile, a consumer with developer tool extensions installed might be more tech savvy.
By collecting this data across large groups of visitors, you can build a more accurate picture of the type of people who visit your website (without invasive tracking or "fingerprinting" on an individual user level) and respond accordingly.
For instance, if visitors of a website are frequently using eco- or climate-focused browser extensions such as DoneGood, this business might want to increase its focus on green marketing and climate transparency. On the other hand, if users of a website are particularly cost-conscious, marketers can focus on sale advertising, lower cost products, and the development of reward programs.
Indeed, Wildfire reports that 43 percent of online shoppers who use a browser extension for cashback or coupons are more likely to shop at a retailer offering cashback promotions. This demonstrates the clear benefit of analyzing the extension habits of your customers and ensuring that your business adapts to their priorities.
If You Can’t Beat Them, Learn From Them …
With data regulation growing stronger and the demise of the "Wild West" era that characterized the early days of online marketing, you can get ahead of the game by harnessing the power of data gleaned from browser extensions, building on these insights for personalization, and ensuring responsiveness to the wants and needs of your customers.
At the end of the day, you can’t control the way that users interact with your website or what extensions they install on their browsers. However, you can learn from their behavior on your site and use this information to your advantage.
Elena Librich is senior product manager at Namogoo, pioneer of the world’s first digital journey continuity platform.
With my 13 years of tech experience, I lead B2B SaaS products from inception to successful launch using my entrepreneurial mindset, dev expertise and UI/UX background.
I am passionate about solving complex business problems by creating products people love. I especially enjoy startup vibes of impact, ownership and growth.
I co-founded Becoming Product Managers community on Facebook to help 17K+ tech professionals navigate career dilemmas in the product world.