February 8, 2011, 3:51 PM

Retailers create better designs on their web sites and beyond

Compelling web content complements moves to social media and mobile commerce, new study says.

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Along with aggressive moves into social media and mobile commerce, retailers are streamlining their web content and making it more compelling to shoppers, the E-Tailing Group Inc. says in its 13th Annual Mystery Shopping Study.

“Merchants are reducing the clutter, raising the bar, embracing technology, and reaching beyond their web sites to deliver a more polished customer experience,” says Lauren Freedman, president of The E-tailing Group. The study of 100 online merchants was conducted in the fourth quarter.

The study notes that 44% of the retailers have mobile commerce sites, up from 13% a year ago, and that more mobile sites are steadily launching. In addition, 29% of retailers are using mobile alerts to communicate with customers, up from 21% a year ago.

83% of the retailers studied provide links from their web sites to social media sites, up from 60% a year ago, with Facebook garnering the largest number, or 96%, followed by Twitter, 87% and YouTube, 43%.

The Facebook Like button was deployed by 36% of retailers in the study. That was not measured in the prior year study as Facebook only made available in April 2010 the Like button link between e-retail sites and the social network.

The study also notes that retailers are making their home pages richer and more relevant, while also reducing clutter. 57% present home page slide shows to present images of several products and promotions. 70% of merchants in the study employ drop-down menus, and 69% of these menus are merchandised with sales and promotions.

In other findings, the study listed the following web site features with the percentages of retailers using them in the current study and the year-earlier study:

● Video content, 73%, up from 55%

● Ratings and reviews, 87%, up from 74%

● Alternate views, 80%, up from 76%

● Merchandising in shopping carts, 87%, up from 81%

● Pre-population customer information in the checkout process, 96%, up from 89%

● Including a picture of the purchased product in the shopping cart, 91%, up from 82%

● HTML e-mail confirmations of orders, which support better branding and merchandising than in text-only e-mail, 89%, up from 79%

● Conditional free shipping on all products, 52%, up from 40%

● Unconditional free shipping, 7%, up from 4%

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