CEO Sharon Price John says Build-A-Bear’s old e-commerce system is a big reason for disappointing online sales in December.
Mobile, for sure, says an e-commerce design expert in a Q&A. Many retailers still fall short in that realm. Fast delivery? Depends on the product. Convenient delivery? Absolutely.
Q. What's your standout digital shopping trend for 2014?
It's a bit mundane, but after so many years being heralded as the 'year of mobile,' most mobile shopping experiences are still really awful. 2014 won't be the year that fixes them all, but the heat is definitely on and it’s being driven by consumers’ expectations.
It's important to remember that e-mail is still huge. Maybe not for my 12-year-old daughter, who is all about text, Instagram, Snapchat and Oovoo (who knew?) but for people like me with very limited time—and credit cards—e-mail offers still get my attention. An 80% discount from Theory? I'm definitely going to open it on my mobile phone. The experiences that follow, however, are inevitably disappointing—lacking in content and imagery and hard to navigate. I end up not buying, even when I really want to.
Q. Who is doing mobile well right now?
It’s the pure-plays that get my money every time. From Gilt to FreshDirect, I get to what I want—and get out—fast. Gilt in particular gives me a little of that browsing fun too; it fills those few idle minutes waiting for a train, or for the kettle to boil. A mobile site that can fulfill on an engaging content-rich experience and an intuitive navigation—as well as a fast checkout—is where retailers are going to win.
Q. What should clients be asking when it comes to mobile?
Consumers expect the same content-rich experience on every device whether it’s desktop, tablet, mobile or in-store. Brands that aren’t including mobile as an essential element of their ecosystem will lose the race. The same goes for agencies; any agency that doesn’t address mobile strategy as part of its core services is not going to be able to help its clients win.
Q. Talk a bit about what you're seeing when it comes to Responsive Web Design (RWD).
We have a lot of clients coming to us convinced that they want a “responsive” site. Once we align on definitions, it often turns out that RWD is the right solution for them, but they haven't thought through the implications for their day-to-day operations. Working in a responsive framework requires cross-functional teams and a new perspective on how content is managed internally. There's a lot to think about, but we will certainly be seeing a lot more RWD shopping experiences in 2014. We're being asked to include in-store kiosks as an additional inflection point now too.
Q. Given your schedule, how important are delivery times to you?
Groceries, same day/next day, for sure. For clothes and household goods, I can wait. Knowing when something will arrive is as important as it being quick. I recently tried to order a loft bed online and the delivery window was an entire day! I can't organize around that. I'd rather wait longer to receive something if it means being able to plan around a specific time. FreshDirect's time-slot reservations have set a high bar for me.
Q. What specific advice do you have for clients in 2014?
If there is one single area where brands need to focus, it’s on the customer. At Fluid, we’re big believers in observing customers where they actually engage with a brand, as opposed to just in research facilities. Whether they’re on the train or in a store, watch them and see how they browse, research and compare. You’ll be amazed by how much information shoppers today can consume across devices. Just be sure that your content and products are the ones that grab them.
Fluid specializes in designing e-commerce sites. The company has offices in San Francisco and New York.