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Mobile Window Shopping Climbs, But Sites Are Still Failing Users

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This Diwali we saw mobile usage increase 24% over 2018, at the expense of desktop and tablet devices, as mobile shoppers continued to research before buying, even while in a store. At the same time, bounce rates increased, which means shoppers were likely dissatisfied with their experience and searching for a site that offers a better CX.

The Diwali Holiday

The Indian Diwali celebration, referring to the Hindu festival of lights, marks the beginning of the fiscal year in India. As a shopping holiday, Diwali really starts during Dussehra, another important Indian holiday that celebrates the victory of good over evil. Because of this, we analyzed traffic trends for both holidays. We tabulated and analyzed aggregate statistics from global online retail traffic that touched nearly 100 retail websites and mobile retail apps, providing Akamai with more than 5 billion daily data points. For our baseline, we used the month of September 2019, 10/1 to 10/8 for Dussehra and 10/20 to 10/27 for Diwali, and we also compared Diwali 2018 to this year.

Conducting Research on Mobile Continues to Grow

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Mobile usage in 2019 increased by nearly 24% from Diwali 2018 at the expense of desktop and especially, tablet usage. We believe that this is due to the increasing use of mobile devices by shoppers for research, both on-the-go or in a physical store. In fact, according to one source, 40% of consumers say they use their mobile device to conduct "window shopping" research prior to making a purchase.

More broadly, "62% of consumers watch product review videos before making a purchase" and "67% of consumers say that the quality of a product image is very important in selecting and purchasing the product". This underscores the fact that consumers consider images and videos crucial to their research; as a result, leading retailers are increasing their usage of them to appeal to today's shoppers.

We observed that bounce rates increased for both platforms and mobile OSes compared to last year. To us, this means that sites are failing to meet their customer's needs and are providing a poor customer experience (CX), across all devices. A bad CX clearly results in increased bounce rates as Google research shows that "73% of consumers will switch from a poorly designed mobile site to one that makes purchasing easier".

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A significant contributing factor to poor CX is content that is not optimized for the device, browser and connection speed. What can and should retailers do to address this issue to ensure mobile users stay on their site while researching and ultimately purchase?

Non-optimized images and videos are the first places to look as these can dramatically slow down a page's load speed and make viewing problematic, especially on mobile devices. A 5MB 2048x2048 product image that looks great on a desktop and downloads quickly at home, will look inferior on a mobile device. That image needs to be significantly smaller so as to download quickly on a slower connection speed and should be a different type of picture in order to better present the merchandise visually to the shopper on a mobile screen.

In order to distinguish themselves from their competitors, we are seeing retailers add 360-degree images and videos, and even AR to their sites in order to distinguish themselves from their competition. These 'heavier' formats can lead to increased shopper frustration if they are not properly formatted and optimized for the various mobile devices and browsers as well, and take too long to download.

For a large retail site, it's common to have thousands of images and videos, and most retailers do not have the in-house staff and systems to optimize every individual image and video for all the required variances. Instead, many resort to using a 'lowest common denominator' approach of a single image or video that is used for all three devices and optimized for none. The majority of retailers are unable to dedicate resources to create and manage thousands of separate, optimized images and videos; an automated system should be employed instead. Using such a system will help provide a favorable CX to mobile shoppers, lower site bounce rates, and should ultimately lead to a purchase.

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Conclusion

It is clear that shoppers are increasing their use of mobile devices, and research is the primary driver of this growth. An integral part of their research now includes product images and videos, which must be individually optimized for a wide variety of devices, browsers, and connection speeds. Failure to do this directly translates into a poor CX and mobile users are quick to abandon a site that does not provide a favorable viewing experience, and this in turn means no sale occurs.

Managing and optimizing thousands of images and videos is a daunting task for any retailer and an automated system can help tremendously. By making this investment, retailers can offer shoppers a more favorable CX, helping to keep them on their site while they conduct their research and ultimately, purchase the goods they are seeking.

A positive CX will typically turn that visitor to a repeat customer, which is a desirable outcome due to the lower acquisition costs and goodwill they will spread in their online reviews and with their peers/family, ultimately helping to boost revenue.

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