Online shopping popular, but won't save season

By Mae Anderson

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Dec. 21 2013 1:40 p.m. MST

Those types of experiences can turn off shoppers from buying online. For instance, Patrice Grell Yursik, 34, wanted to buy a warm coat for her husband when she started shopping online on Cyber Monday, but changed her mind after she ran into troubles on Macy's web site.

"Macy's had really great deals and I had an awesome Michael Kors coat in mind but when I went to try to get it in black it was sold out," said the style blogger who lives in Chicago. "The site kept freezing and locking up, but by the time I tried it again the coat was gone."

That experience drove her ultimately drove her offline.

Macy's says due to the volume of traffic and shopping on Cyber Monday, there were "rare occasions" when an item sold out almost immediately after a customer put it into their virtual shopping cart.

GETTING PEOPLE TO USE MOBILE APPS

There's evidence that Americans increasing want to shop on their smartphone and tablets this holiday season. In fact, while mobile shopping accounts for about 10 percent of online sales, but it made up half of all online traffic during Black Friday weekend, according to IBM Benchmark, which did not give dollar amounts.

But more often than not, people are shopping on their smartphones and tablets using retailers' web sites. That's a problem because having specific shopping app is important when it comes to converting window shoppers into buyers.

That's because apps are more streamlined than websites, which can be clunky and hard to navigate on smaller screens on smartphones and tables. Also most apps store shoppers' information so customers don't have to type in a lot of information each time they buy.

"One of the reasons people don't convert (to mobile shopping) is that there is a lot of friction in the process," said Andrew Lipsman, vice president of industry analysis for comScore. "If I have to enter all my information on the phone, I might not convert. But if there's an easy log in and all I have to do is one-click or a couple of easy clicks to buy, people will convert that way."

According to comScore data, Amazon and eBay are the only major retailers that have visitors spend more time on their app rather than their web site — by a wide margin. Meanwhile, only about 2 percent of time spent on Macy's and Sears online presence is via an app, according to the data.

The problem? Analysts say retailers have not marketed their shopping apps well enough to encourage shoppers to find and download them.

"Retailers should put specific incentives in front of consumers to download and use that app," Lipsman said. "Doing that now will pay dividends down the road."

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