Reporting & Analytics

What happens with online shopping when it rains? Linking online shopping to weather and exploring drivers of noise in sales data

Countless factors affect online shopping, many of which aren’t well known, classified, or understood. Much like the climate system, online sales vary across different time periods–year, month, week, day, hour–with smaller levels of variability often dismissed as so much ‘noise’. Ipads might be trending one day, and blenders the next, but over a month long period, maybe it’s towels that are the top seller. Yet what if we could really examine this ‘noise’? Isolate it? Explain it?

In the dark ages before I came to Rich Relevance, I studied climate change–no joke–and while I gained many insights from my research (global warming = not a hoax), the greatest was a general appreciation for how the environment feeds back onto itself, and how humanity is intrinsically linked to that environment. Thus I set forth with eagerness in this blog post to revisit my old friend ‘weather’ and determine if our environment affects online shopping.

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The true meaning of mobile matters

In the last week, RichRelevance introduced the US and UK versions of our Shopping Insights™ Q1 Mobile Study to the market with some fascinating findings around the rapid adoption and usage of mobile devices in e-commerce:

In the US, for instance, mobile purchases as a percentage of overall e-commerce have doubled in the last year from 1.9% in April 2011 to 4.6% in March 2012. Interestingly, the iPad is driving nearly all shopping, browsing and purchasing in this emerging channel and iPad shoppers here in the US, in March 2012, actually spent more than desktop users—five dollars more per order than the AOV of desktop users of $153.

By comparison, UK shoppers are blazing the trail for mobile shopping. UK mobile shopping is double that of their American counterparts, with mobile shopping representing just over nine percent of all e-commerce sales. The bulk of that mobile e-commerce revenue (more than 80%) is from purchases made on the iPad. Interestingly, the highest average order values, in March 2012, originated from the iPhone—$24 more than iPad shoppers and nearly $28 more than desktop shoppers.

These numbers are not just interesting, but they are telling a story about the ways in which consumers are embracing the freedom that mobile devices provide them in the ability to shop anytime, anywhere. Our Shopping Insights team believes that the difference between the mobile shoppers in the US and the UK has a lot to do with how we “live” in these two countries.

In the US, we are a car-and-couch culture; the majority of us drive to work, so using our mobile devices to and from the office or school is not an option. But when we do get a chance to shop, it’s often a relaxing event often taking place in front of the TV or even later at night in bed (iPad evening usage, from 8pm to 11pm, account for 26% of all iPad shopping sessions). This is also suggested by products iPad users frequently purchase in the US: fitness equipment, home furnishings and outdoor supplies. These are “aspirational” purchases, no doubt influenced by what is being seen on TV and the ability to relax with the device.

In the UK, it’s a different situation; while the iPad is squarely driving the majority of e-commerce sales, the fact that, in March, the iPhone is where the highest AOV occurs is very telling of the culture that is even more mobile than the US (a recent Times article revealed that there are more mobile phones in the UK than there are residents—62.5M, to be exact). Britons order everything online, from groceries to electronics and (according to our study) that includes large-ticket items purchased on a smartphone.

What does this mean for online retailers? It’s rather simple—or complex—depending on how you look at it. Simple from the standpoint that we must recognize our customers are engaging with us in the channel that best suits their needs at that moment. So as we have always said, put the customer at the center of your thinking and the business strategies become ultra-clear. The more complex initiative is the mandate to maintain different versions of your ecommerce site for each platform that a shopper wishes to use. Shopping on a smartphone is vastly different than shopping from a desktop. It’s incumbent on retailers to think about screen size, the form factor, ease of use—all aspects of the customer experience. That’s equally the case with the iPad, but there is also an opportunity to more directly engage with customers via catalog-style presentation of retail goods and services.

As we approach mass adoption, retailers must adapt their strategies to build specific interfaces to meet the needs of this emerging segment and the capabilities of the technology. You know, Steve Jobs did a remarkable job in building a mobile platform that consumers have embraced—the more retailers take advantage of this opportunity, the more relevant and lasting their brand will be to today’s shopper.

Tracking the Online Customer’s Path to Purchase: Key Findings and Takeaways

The RichRelevance Analytics group recently conducted a series of studies for several of our larger, premium retail clients to explore customer behaviors and identify the greatest opportunities for optimization. The results of one such study*—which I am sharing here today, revealed some pretty astounding insights for this particular customer’s online shoppers.

Home page “schmome page.”
The home page is for all intents and purposes the premier online brand presence for a merchant. It gets rendered more than any other distinct URL within the merchant domain and is often the gateway for the most loyal customers. Yet with only 4% of inbound sessions and 1% of total page views, you now know why that home page promotion didn’t do so well. These numbers paled in comparison to the search page, which was the landing page for almost 40% of all sessions followed by the category page at 26%, which narrowly edged out the item page at 25%. The lesson here? A simple UI or merchandising enhancement of virtually any dynamic page template will always be a more efficient allocation of resources than investment in the home page.

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