CEO Sharon Price John says Build-A-Bear’s old e-commerce system is a big reason for disappointing online sales in December.
Instant messaging technology on considered purchases could reduce shopping cart abandonment by as much as 25% by approximating stores’ social environment online, says researchers Basex.
E-retailers could boost online sales by as much as $20 billion annually by building in technology that gives online shoppers the opportunity to interact with other shoppers as they might in an offline store, according to a new report from Basex, a New York-based research and consulting firm.
So-called presence technology addresses most of the reasons online shoppers cite for ditching carts, and could significantly reduce the current rate of shopping cart abandonment, say Basex analysts. Presence technology that lets online visitors to a site interact in real time is today most often deployed as instant messaging on community sites but it represents an untapped opportunity for e-commerce sites as well.
“Shopping online is not yet a social experience, yet the direct and indirect social aspects of offline shopping are among the key reasons why people shop,” says Jonathan Spira, chief analyst at Basex. Integrating instant messaging into the shopping experience gets at three top reasons shoppers fail to complete online transactions or shopping is limited in scope, he adds. Among them is the lack of surprise online as opposed to in the store: the offline shoppers may see and buy items not on their lists, while online shoppers are more likely to search for and buy only what they had in mind. The lack of shopper-to-shopper interaction online is another reason for abandoned carts; in stores, shoppers can be influenced by the observed purchases of others. Carts are also abandoned when shoppers get bored. “Seeing crowds in a store shows how popular the store is, and what sections are more frequented than others,” says Spira. “This phenomenon is not observable online.”
Online conversations in real time could make a difference in these barriers to online shopping, Basex contends, providing the online shoppers with the element of surprise, by giving the opportunity for interaction, and by creating a warmer shopping experience that resembles what shoppers feel in the social environment of an offline stores.
But in integrating shopper-to-shopper interaction, retailers should proceed with caution. Random shoppers will have little to chat bout online and will likely regard the other`s presence in their shopping experience as intrusive. Connecting shoppers is more likely to be effective when two shoppers are considering the same or similar items, or when a shopper considering a product gets input from another shopper who has experience with the product. Even so, connecting these shoppers must be on an opt-in basis to protect preferences and privacy, Basex advises.
Spira provides no estimates of the cost of presence technology, but says vendors already offer tools that put it within the reach of most e-retailers. “The cost of implementing presence online is minimal in comparison to the lost revenue from abandoned carts and lost spontaneous sales,” he adds.