Three e-Commerce Paradoxes Revealed - Instart Logic Retail Survey

Corinna Krueger

As the web “goes mobile,” online retailers struggle to achieve the promise of m-commerce. Instart Logic conducted its 2014 Q1 e-Commerce Survey recently to explore this challenge. Responses revealed three paradoxes, highlighting sizable gaps between what etailers know works, and what they’re doing today.

Note: Statistics quoted below are from the Instart Logic Q1 2014 E-commerce Survey, unless another source is shown.

More, bigger, better pictures increase conversions

Bigger, higher-quality product images and more images of items for sale push up traffic, loyalty and conversions. Pictures stir emotion and action.

Instart Logic’s Q1 E-commerce Survey found that etailers know this:

  • 84% believe that more images per product will increase conversions.
  • 61% say that higher-resolution images (1 MB instead of 200KB) of products will increase conversions.

Despite this strong conviction, etailers have not rushed to carry out image upgrades and engage more visually with visitors to their sites.

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1st paradox: Better pictures boost business, but etailers are slow to upgrade the visual experience

Etailers ranked improving visual content only fourth among their website investments this year. Just 20% expected to carry out a serious effort to upgrade site imagery in 2014. Only 6% had gone “ultra visual” and readied their sites for the era of ultra-sharp Retina-class displays. These are replacing traditional screens, and make 250k photos look amateurish and uninviting.

The survey found that many online retailers have actually gone the other direction, particularly with their mobile websites, where 30% use lower-resolution images to achieve faster page loading; 42% have not changed the number, size, or resolution of the website images they use to sell products and services.

2nd paradox: Etailers know speed makes money, but have not “put the pedal to the metal”

For years, studies have reported that consumers penalize slow websites by bouncing away. According to a Walmart Labs presentation, every 100-millisecond improvement in page load time brought a 1% increase in revenue.

Online retailers know speed matters — 55% said fast page loading is the most important factor in boosting conversions, so you’d expect online retailers to insist on maximum performance from their sites. Not so; 98% admit they haven’t squeezed all possible speed from their websites.

Many sites didn’t merely fall short of their potential performance; they slowed down. On Alexa tests of the leading 500 retail sites in 2013, the median page load took 9.3 seconds. This unwelcome slowdown from a median time of 7.7 seconds one year earlier could be blamed on increased page size, which is 31% larger than a year earlier, according to the HTTP Archive.

3rd paradox: Mobile users demand snappy page loads, but speed on mobile is not yet a priority

The slowdown of major retail sites has even greater potential cost among impatient mobile users. 82% of etailers believe their mobile customer will wait three seconds before peeling out; 8% say their mobile customer will wait just one second before bouncing away from the site.

90% of Internet retailers view mobile as an important growth channel, reinforcing studies like Internet Retailer’s 2014 Mobile 500, which shows m-commerce in the U.S. grew 63% to $34.2 billion at the end of 2013, up from $21 billion in 2012. Mobile accounted for nearly 13% of U.S. e-commerce sales, up from just over 9% in 2012.

The recently-released U.S. e-Commerce Forecast from Forrester Research says increased shopping by consumers on mobile phones and tablets will continue to propel this growth.

Instart Logic found that for most online retail companies, mobile comprises 10 to 50% of their traffic today. 4% said mobile already brings over half their traffic.

E-tailers strive to put the right user experience on each device—a huge task considering all the devices with varied computing power and screen resolution. They take different approaches to cater to mobile users:

  • 27% have both a primary site and a separate
  • 10% provide separate websites for desktop, smartphone and tablet users
  • 34% online retailers already have a responsive website

However, 61% of online retailers say their focus is on improving user experiences on their traditional website, not their mobile site, despite the growth of mobile purchasing.

They are aware of the potential to boost mobile traffic, conversions, and revenue by accelerating delivery over wireless connections, and switching to bigger, more compelling visuals—which communicate better than text to in-a-rush mobile users. However, etailers have not rushed to take these steps.

That is surprising, because now is a pivotal time for etailers to address their growing population of mobile users — both actual and potential — by evaluating new technology to accelerate page load times over wireless connections. Greater speed, in turn, makes “ultra visual” engagement practical.

When it comes to online retailers applying new application delivery services that enable faster performance with upgraded imagery, there are already compelling success models. It won’t be long before other retailers decide to grab hold of the opportunity; it’s a “first-mover advantage” situation.