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Why Free Shipping is the Top Holiday Promotion for Black Friday and Cyber Monday Written by:
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It’s official: Free shipping is the shoppers’ top retail promotion of choice, driving the majority of customers to buy and to spend more than with any other promotion. This holiday season, customers will be even more price-sensitive, looking not only for the best prices, but free shipping and returns as well.

As we have written about before, customers have become trained to wait for holiday offers prior to making purchases. A tighter economy suggests that this holiday season should see good growth for ecommerce sites as consumers look online for the best prices. However, there is evidence that the 2012 consumer is also moving online to save money across a spectrum of goods, including luxury items.

New research by the e-tailing group shows that 73% of consumers rate unconditional free shipping as a

critical feature when making an online purchase.

The October 2011 study, “The Connected Consumer,” also shows that free returns are a critical feature for 70% of consumers, followed by discounts, coupons and rebates.

We shouldn’t be surprised that free shipping is so important. After all, the number one reason why consumers say they abandon shopping carts is the cost of shipping and handling.

Many customers don’t understand why they should pay shipping charges at all. They don’t see the hidden costs for distribution built into the product in-store, and they consider an online purchase to be an alternative to going to the mall when they can afford to wait for delivery. The inconvenience of waiting is offset against the inconvenience of driving to the mall.

The e-tailing group’s research also shows that price is the most critical factor when considering a purchase, whether online or in-store (79%). The convenience of having a home delivery is number two (63%), but this is offset by impatience to get the product quickly (55%) or the ability to purchase from a local store (45%). (…)

Online Checkout User Experience – In Real Life Written by:
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For many website visitors, the Online checkout user experience is far from intuitive. I just came across this great viral video from the Google Analytics marketing team on the online buying process. Taking the simple idea of what it would be like to have to go through an online shopping process in a physical store, there are many painful home truths exposed here in an amusing way.

The video follows a man trying to buy a loaf of bread in a British supermarket, but being forced to go through an online checkout process. What fun – it  should resonate well with all ecommerce teams and user experience experts alike. It’ll also make you chuckle and cringe as well. What’s amazing is that it takes him so long before he abandons his shopping cart.
Enjoy!

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Not Doing Website Usability Testing? Are You Nuts? Written by:
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“Not doing usability testing? Are you nuts?” said web usability expert Steve Krug at the Conversion Conference in New York last week. According to Krug, “All sites have serious usability problems. Tuning a website without fixing the problems is like painting over potholes.”

Krug is arguably the man who put website usability testing on the map with his seminal book ‘Don’t Make Me Think.’ If you haven’t read it, this is the one book on website design that everyone that has anything to do with websites should read.

Krug is an incredibly likable character. He has a self-depreciating style and dry humor that makes him an engaging and entertaining speaker. As a usability consultant for 20 years, he is naturally an advocate for testing. “My solution for everything is usability testing. Admittedly, I’m a guy with a hammer…” he says, but he is the first to acknowledge that website usability testing is not hard. His mission is to teach the skills to all ecommerce teams, because usability testing should be a continuous process, and “Who can afford to hire a usability consultant all the time?” he asks.

Usability Testing Defined

Krug defines a usability test as “watching people try to use what you create, while thinking out loud. You’re really trying to get the person to verbalize what’s going through their head.”

He’s at pains to point out that usability testing is not a focus group. Focus groups solicit opinions. Usability is about watching people try to do things. The insights come thick and fast in a usability test, when visitors struggle to complete the simplest and seemingly obvious (to the designer) website tasks.

The advantages of usability testing are that you can make a real difference in the way that visitors are able to interact with your website:

  • Moves you away from designing by personal biases
  • Creates a shared experience for the team, which helps build consensus
  • Gives you an ‘ah ha’ moment when the designers realize that their users are ‘not like us’

A/B tests give you different insights from usability tests, because A/B tests are quantifying differences. (…)

eBay’s X.commerce – What It Means for Merchants Written by:
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To a crowd of more than 3,000 merchants, developers and entrepreneurs, eBay launched X.commerce last week in San Francisco. In this blog we’ll look specifically at what X.commerce means for ecommerce merchants.

John Donahoe, president and CEO of eBay, describes X.commerce as ‘the world’s first open commerce ecosystem. It’s a full stack of tools for developers and merchants to make the new commerce a reality.’

The new commerce that Donahoe is referring to is a world where online, mobile, local and offline are merging at blistering pace. ‘We will see more change in the next 3 years in the way consumers shop and pay than we’ve seen in the previous 15 years. Offline retail hasn’t changed that much in the last 15 years. Ecommerce has been fairly distinct from the offline experience. Smartphones are blurring the lines between offline and online faster than anyone could have imagined.’

Donahoe refers to the new world as ‘not ecommerce – just commerce’ referring to the increasing proportion of sales that are web-influenced or online – currently more than 50% of all sales.

While you may still think of eBay as an auction site, their intent to become a leader in ecommerce platforms has been clear for a while. Through a sequence of acquisitions, eBay has assembled a powerful collection of ecommerce tools. Yes, eBay is a software company now, as well as a payments company, and a marketplace.

What Exactly is X.commerce?

X.commerce is an integrated ecommerce platform which combines eBay, PayPal, Magento, Milo, Where, RedLaser and soon GSI into a single set of Application Programming Interfaces (API’s). It’s not one ecommerce platform, but a pre-packaged integration layer that means that all of the components are pre- integrated. So often software acquisitions are not followed through with the required integration to deliver against the promise. (…)

What the iPhone 4S Means for Mobile Commerce Written by:
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Many people have been waiting for the new iPhone 5, (including myself, stuck with a Jurassic era 3GS), so you may be disappointed with the more minor upgrade announced yesterday in the form of the new iPhone 4S. Disappointed or not, the iPhone 4S looks likely to sell by the truckload. After all, people said the iPhone 4 was disappointing, yet it sold an astonishing 1.7 million handsets in just three days after its June 2010 release.

But what does the iPhone 4S mean for mobile commerce? A raft of new features have upgraded the old 4, and while you might think these are just nice-to-haves, there are two new features, which in combination, have the potential to make mobile commerce significantly easier than before.

First, the three main problems with trying to make an online purchase with an existing smart phone can be summarized as follows:

  1. Small Screen – The physical size of a smartphone screen makes entering personal data, such as delivery details, a major chore, sufficient to deter many purchasers.
  2. Download speeds – downloading product category pages with 30 or more images can be so painful that many mobile visitors will bail. This problem is gradually being addressed as merchants roll out mobile optimized sites, but it is a still a very real issue.
  3. Payments – Payment methods have not yet caught up with developments in handsets. Entering payment data onto a smartphone is possible, but a long way from easy. While all the major payment companies and a host of new ones are working on mobile payments, they’re not quite there yet.

So how does the iPhone 4S help address these issues?

  • A5 Processor & faster download speeds

Apple claims that the 4S has up to two times more processor speed and up to seven times faster graphics due to its dual core A5 chip. (…)