Retailers today know one thing for certain: the future of ecommerce is mobile. By the end of 2017, mobile retail sales in the U.S. will reach $31B, up from $8B this year, according to Forrester Research. Retailers are racing to invest in mobile commerce, with a particular focus on reaching high value tablet shoppers. With an annual growth rate over 50%, tablets are projected to reach one-third of Americans by 2015, and more than half of tablet owners use their tablets more to shop than their smartphones, according to Forrester.
Research shows that tablets are rapidly emerging as consumers’ preferred mobile shopping devices. This is not a surprise given the tablet’s form factor, which is uniquely suited to online shopping. However, while consumers love to shop on their tablets, the experience still falls short of their expectations.
According to real-time customer feedback gathered by OpinionLab from 43,000 shoppers during the 2012 holiday season, 62% of tablet shoppers used their tablets to browse and research products, and most were highly satisfied with the experience. Shoppers ranked the tablet browsing experience 3.64 out of 5, compared to just 2.94 out of 5 for browsing on desktops. But while consumers enjoy browsing on their tablets, they remain frustrated with the purchasing experience. Only 34% of tablet shoppers made a purchase on their devices, compared to 42% of smartphone shoppers – and tablet shoppers reported the lowest satisfaction scores, compared to smartphone and desktop, when it came to completing a purchase.
Retailers that act now to improve the tablet shopping experience – enhancing browsing and making purchasing easier – can jump ahead of the competition. Here are four strategies retailers can use to nail their tablet shopping strategies.
Start with responsive design.
When it comes to creating mobile websites optimized for tablets, retailers should take a responsive design approach. Consumers want to browse, shop, and transact on tablets, but many mobile sites fall short of delivering a positive shopping experience. Use responsive design techniques to build your mobile-optimized shopping website with the tablet form factor in mind. OpinionLab research shows that mobile commerce sites built on responsive design principles deliver smoother shopping and purchase experiences scores, while those that require shoppers to pinch, swipe, stretch, zoom post much lower results from a customer experience perspective.
Listen to your customers.
To find out whether their tablet commerce investments are paying off, most retailers measure sales volume and conversion rates. These metrics matter, because they show bottom-line ROI for tablet shopping initiatives, but they don’t reveal the whole picture – far from it. When retailers only measure conversion, they don’t find out why non-buyers leave without purchasing. (These non-buyers usually leave because they grew frustrated with the browsing or purchase experience.) They also don’t find out which facets of their tablet commerce initiatives are working to turn shoppers into buyers; they don’t see the ‘why behind the buy’.
Getting to the bottom of what’s working and what’s not requires listening to your customers. Present your tablet shoppers with ample opportunity to leave feedback about their shopping experience. Place small reminders throughout your tablet website or app to ‘leave a comment’, ‘give us your opinion’, or ‘let us know how we’re doing’. Invite customers to share all questions, comments, or concerns via simple feedback boxes that feature one or two ‘choice’ questions and room for open-ended comments. But never get in the way of their tablet shopping experience by placing pop-up survey boxes in their purchase path – that will just annoy them.
Once you’ve collected a sizeable volume of feedback, analyze question responses and unstructured comments to get insights to improve your tablet shopping initiatives. You may be surprised at the small design or customer experience flaws that are holding back sales and alienating your customers.
Create a rich browsing experience.
Tablets were made for e-commerce. Their large, touch-centric screens, invite people to ‘lean back’ on the sofa and engage in a rich shopping experience. Get creative with interactive elements for your tablet shopping website or app to keep customers engaged. Add audio, video, and game-like elements. Invite shoppers to rotate and zoom in on items with the swipe of a finger, or tap products inside videos to buy them.
For example, a clothing retailer could let shoppers change the color of a shirt, or add pants, shoes, accessories, and a jacket to create different outfits. A furniture retailer could let customers drag sofas, lamps, chairs, and rugs into a virtual room to see how they look together, as well as change wall paint colors or fabric choices on the fly. Of course, make sure to gather feedback, as noted in step one, to find out which tablet shopping features your customers appreciate, and which leave them cold.
Make it easy to purchase.
As noted above, most tablet shoppers love the browsing experience – it’s rich, interactive, and fun – but they don’t like the purchase experience. For retailers, this is a great opportunity to improve the checkout process. Make it easy to ‘tap and buy’ or ‘tap to add to your cart’, and once shoppers have added items to their cart, make it easy to pay with just a few taps. Don’t place pop-ups in their way that ask whether they’d like to add corresponding items; that might work on desktops where shoppers are more purchase-driven to begin with, but on tablets, it just interrupts an otherwise pleasant browsing experience.
Once you’ve made simple changes to the checkout process, take it to the next level and ask your customers which features would make purchasing even easier. Ask for their opinions via online or in-app feedback loops, and then use their responses to improve the purchase process.
Tablets are the future of e-commerce, but hurdles remain to widespread adoption of tablet commerce. Namely, consumers want to move seamlessly from browsing to buying. Retailers that make it easy for tablet shoppers to make purchases will come out ahead in the mobile commerce race.