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Gilt, Sears experience higher mobile conversions in build up to holidays


Retailers such as Sears and Gilt are reporting an increase in mobile conversion rates thanks to enhanced user experiences that are faster, more personalized and require fewer steps to check out.

Following a significant jump in mobile traffic during last year’s holiday shopping season, many retailers are focused on improving the mobile user experience with an eye toward doing a better job of converting this year’s holiday traffic into sales. However, while conversion rates are growing, they still remain comparatively low, pointing to mcommerce challenges such as small screen size, price sensitivity and device fragmentation.

“We have seen improvements in visits, conversions, average order value and especially our Shop Your Way member engagements,” said Imran Jooma, executive vice president and president, online, marketing, pricing and financial services at Sears Holdings Corp., Hoffman Estates, IL.

“We attribute the improvements to the new mobile experiences we rolled out over the last few months, which provide a fast, cleaner and easier-to-navigate mobile shopping experience,” he said. “These include better mweb and app experiences for Shop Your Way, Sears and Kmart.”

Tailored experiences
Flash sales site Gilt is also seeing an improvement in mobile conversions, driven by greater personalization, device-specific examples and exclusive content.

As Gilt heads into the holiday shopping season, it will be ramping up the cadence of mobile-exclusive sales to drive excitement for mobile shoppers.

One recent enhancement meant to drive mobile conversions is a new feature called “Your Personal Sale,” which generates a new sale for each Gilt member every day that is tailored just for them.

The merchant also offers a magazine-like shopping experience on the iPad to take advantage of its large retina display.

“Mobile conversion has improved since last year, as we continue to create relevant, fast and fun experiences for our members,” said Jason John, vice president of online, mobile and social marketing at Gilt, New York.

“Personalization is a key pillar of our strategy as we continue to work on showing our members the most exciting and relevant items for them every day,” he said. “This is even more important on mobile given the smaller screens and shorter sessions.

“We focus on creating great shopping experiences that are tailored to each device and how our members interact with that device.”

Mobile shopping grows
While mobile is quickly growing, mobile conversion and sales rates are still relatively low compared to other channels. This is in part because mobile is such a new and different way of engaging with consumers and retailers are still trying to figure out what works and what does not.

However, it is clear that mobile users will be actively using their devices for a number of shopping-related activities this holiday season, such as researching products, finding coupons and offers or locating a nearby store.

A new survey from MarketLive shows that 74 percent of shoppers plan to research gifts from their smartphones and 50 percent from tablets.

When it comes to buying, 53 percent plan to do so from a smartphone and 46 percent from a tablet.

Shopping cart abandonment
One of the biggest challenges retailers face is the small screen size of smartphones. This can make it frustrating for users when they have to key into a lot of information, such as to complete a purchase.

As a result, shopping cart abandonment rates tend to be high on mobile. A report from Jumio from earlier this year found that problems during the payment process have forced 66 percent to abandon their mobile commerce transactions.

With this in mind, retailers and vendors have put a lot of focus on streamlining the checkout process on mobile in the past year.

For example, retailers are incorporating new payment options into their mobile checkout process such as PayPal Express or MasterPass. For users who have these accounts, they can easily checkout without having to reenter their personal information.

“The biggest challenge retailers face is making it as easy as possible for people to get what they want,” said Joey Rahimi, cofounder/chief information officer of Branding Brand, Pittsburgh, PA.

“Mobile visits, along with customer urgency and intent to buy, will skyrocket during the holiday season,” he said.

“A focus on fast, simple checkouts will have the biggest impact on conversion.”

Price sensitivity
Branding Brand, which develops mobile Web sites and apps for many of the leading retailers, reports that mobile conversions are inching up as user experiences improve.

Besides streamlining the checkout process, some of the other ways Branding Brand’s customers are driving mobile conversions includes slide-menu navigation, type-ahead search and caching for speed.

“Last holiday, retailer mobile conversion rates hovered around .77 percent,” Mr. Rahimi said. “As of July, this number is already at .85 percent.

“Mobile devices are getting better, and consumers are getting used to using them for shopping,” he said. “In addition, the more clients nurture their mobile site, the more conversion increases.”

Another challenge retailers face driving mobile conversions is renewed concerns about the economy in light of the ongoing federal government shutdown and impending debt ceiling crisis.

As a result, shoppers will once again be very focused on finding the best deals during the holiday season.

“The biggest challenge is probably price sensitivity and losing sales to Amazon based on price,” said Paige Mazzoni, vice president of marketing at MarketLive, Petaluma, CA.

“Our suggestions are to make the mobile experience so quick and easy they don’t take the time to check, and to make up for price with customer service, shipping guarantees and discounts, and other promotional opportunities,” she said.

The shift to tablets
Retailers are also struggling with creating tablet-optimized shopping experiences, with many simply porting over their desktop experience and failing to take advantage of the unique touch capabilities found on tablets.

As the number of table owners continues to increase – and PC ownership wanes – retailers need to be putting a bigger emphasis on creating strong tablet shopping experiences.

“If companies like IDC are right, and sales of traditional PCs will fall as sales of tablets continue to rise, retailers will be fully expected to have Web sites that maximize the user form factor and screen real estate,” said Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at RSR Research, Miami.

“It’s all well and good to say, ‘We won’t support flash’ as long as you support pop-ups of some sort that allow the consumer to zoom into products, do 360-degree views,” she said. “It’s all in the visuals.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York