Artificial intelligence (AI) enhances an online retailer’s ability to engage with customers, says Peter Thomas. The technology that is now redefining retail enables algorithms to make the same complex decisions a human could, sifting through the data, but much faster and at volume. It means the customer experience (CX) becomes more tailored and personalised; the customer journey more comfortable. When used well, the tech helps both retailer and consumer.
The goal of any brand is to maximise transactions, and so we design strategies that achieve this. Conversions become a pivotal KPI in this process and they’re coming from all sorts of different sources. It should come as no surprise that we live in an increasingly technology-driven society. Remember when it was so revolutionary to track conversions and transactions from your website only? Soon we added search, then mobile devices and tablets and now social.
The value of these analytics cannot be understated. Inaccurate measurements can cause huge deltas in how retailers and brands understand their customers. Let’s take a look at some trends and takeaways:
Multi-device customer journeys
It’s not even as simple as defining what device comes in first for conversions and transactions, because today’s consumer is no longer just limited to one device. Multi-device journeys have increasingly become the norm, almost a third of transactions include two or more devices. Research by Citreo showed that the journey of your customer can be 41% longer than partial-view models show: on a single-device, a transaction takes 2.9 visits. Meanwhile, it takes 4.1 on multiple devices. Conversion rates are 1.4 times higher on multiple devices than they are on single devices. Tablets were the least popular device to start searches, with only 10% of transactions using them at the onset. One-third of customers relied on smartphones (31%) as initial touch points, while the vast majority started out their purchasing journey on a desktop (59%).
Conversions and device use – where in the world are they coming from?
A report from Smart Insights showed the UK pulling in front, as of January 2018. Their mobile shares were 52%, compared with 45% for Australia and 51% for Japan. While a similar report from Monetate also compares conversion for countries in EMEA versus the US. A key factor is that other European countries may have varying conversion rates based on the presence of Amazon and different levels of competition in the economy. Rates of smartphone adoption in these same countries will also affect the average.
How do different industries stack up?
Mass merchants conduct 38% of their online transactions by mobile, while fashion sellers come in at 31%. Home products bring in 29% by mobile and sporting goods bring in 24%. If we’re looking at sub-verticals, fashion and luxury bring in the lion’s share, and sports goods come in second. While e-commerce is the focus of today’s article, it’s useful to take a look at conversion rates in other sectors. The same general rules and takeaways apply, but Marketing Sherpa put together a helpful, albeit now slightly outdated (2012) overview of who is ruling the pack when it comes to average conversion rates. Professional or financial services and media or publishing both saw 10%. Education or healthcare saw 8%, followed by software/SaaS, technology equipment or hardware, manufacturing or packed goods, travel or hospitality. Perhaps unsurprisingly, non-profit came in at the bottom of the list with only 2%.
Most popular devices
Now, let’s get to the meat of it. Even though most consumers leverage multiple devices, research has shown that they play varying roles in the purchasing process. The popularity of tablets has peaked, but was the most popular channel for transactions in e-commerce as recently as Q4 2016, with 36%. Desktop brought in 31% and smartphones brought in 28%. That still means that smartphones brought in almost 1 in every 3 purchase conversions. In the US specifically, smartphones brought in 41% of retail transactions. Yet, tablets come close to matching desktops in the average e-commerce transaction value. Very close – $98 compared to $100 spent via desktop. The average spent on smartphones was $79. Improvements in mobile experiences over the past years haven’t impacted this figure, showing that smartphone is more popular as a device for browsing products while desktop is preferred more for transacting. Devices see different browsing patterns dependent on time of day and day of week. Desktop purchases spike during work hours, 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. Mobile sees the most conversions and transactions on Saturdays and Sundays, according to data from Marketing Charts.
What’s stopping conversions on smart phones?
Year over year, there are new and innovative solutions offered on today’s smartphones. So, why aren’t these conversion higher? There are still barriers that cause today’s customers to be less likely to complete transactions on smartphones. Some of these are obvious. While companies are getting smarter, so are hackers. Customers are concerned about the security of the mobile experience and are less likely to put personal information in mobile forms. Even if they are amenable to inputting personal information, navigation can be complex and difficult. Screens are also smaller and require a different user experience, so sometimes product information offers fewer details. Desktop also allows customers to browse multiple screens, empowering our increasing need for choice, which smartphones don’t support as well.
Referrers – platforms, search and social
If we dig even deeper, consumer behaviours vary even further than on what device they purchase. Namely, the growing importance of referrers- platform, search and social. Let’s take a look at Black Friday this past year: 4.29% of conversions came from email. 3.04% came from search; 2.93% came from direct and only 1.81% came from social, according to Smart Insights Of note, since more than 80% of social media browsing takes place on customer’s smartphones, this impacts conversions and transactions. Macintosh and Chrome OS showed the highest conversion rates by platform across all four quarters in the last fiscal year. Linux, Android and Windows Phone trailed behind. When examining web and social referrers, search came in on top. Google won big (4.48%). Bing brought in 3.03%, Yahoo at 2.80% and 2.56% were caused by no referrer at all. Facebook led the social pack at only 1.08%, followed by Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn.
As you can see, this is a diverse and ever-changing realm and we’re excited to see where the consumer journey is headed next.
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