February 21, 2012, 12:29 PM

Retailers must cater to the time-harried shopper

A new report says merchants should help consumers quickly find items.

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Consumers are in a hurry and they don’t have time to—and won’t devote the energy to—figuring out how to find what they’re looking for. That means retailers must find ways to enable “easy in/easy out” shopping, according to a report released today from consulting firm The E-tailing Group Inc.

"If they don't, they will lose revenue to those merchants that do cater to the time-starved shopper," Kylee Magno, E-tailing Group senior analyst. "Consumers are continually looking for efficiencies in order to fit everything into their hectic lifestyles. They started shopping online to reduce time spent driving to store locations and have 24/7 availability then quickly adopted mobile commerce in order to further reduce limitations on how and where they made a purchase. Merchants who put road blocks in front of this shoppers will see the repercussions in the form of declining sales."

The report released today is based on research firm’s 14th annual Mystery Shopping Study, conducted during the fourth quarter of 2011. This study highlights the site features and functions of 100 larger e-commerce web sites across 13 consumer product categories.

The report found that merchants are increasingly focused on finding ways to help shoppers get to their desired items quickly. For instance, the percentage of sites offering advanced search increased to 39% from 21% a year earlier; the report does not define advanced search. The percentage that feature navigational drop-downs or fly-outs increased to 81% from 70% in 2010. And the percentage that leverage the real estate to creatively merchandise them in those fly-outs increased from 77% to 69%.

Shoppers also want to refine their search results, says the report, and 93% of the analyzed sites offer that feature. The report points to Walmart.com as a site offering various ways consumers can find what they’re looking for. For instance, the site allows shoppers to narrow results by whether an item is available in-store or online, by brand, price, customer rating, color, special offers or affiliated retailer. And all those options are incorporated into the visual treatment of the landing page. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is No. 6 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

With more manufacturers selling directly to consumers, merchants have to work harder to distinguish themselves from online competitors. That explains why the percentage of retailers’ featuring “brand boutiques” increased to 89% from 76% a year in 2010, the report says. Boutiques can serve multiple purposes, says the report. For instance, Macy’s KitchenAid boutique features products and helpful information for those in the market for a market for a mixer, as well as those who already own one. Macy’s is No. 17 in the Top 500 Guide.

The percentage of sites that enable shoppers to refine results by brand jumped to 79% from 64%. And the percentage that allow consumers to shop by brand increased to 84% from 75%. 

E-tailing Group president Lauren Freedman will speak at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012 in a session entitled “What shoppers want: Listening in on the consumer voice.

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