Survey: Online retailers stress efficiency, promotions

Chicago -- Shoppers seek out time-saving tools where both technology and innovation are embraced to better serve the consumer. According to the 16th annual Mystery Shopping Study from The E-tailing Group, efficiency most often accompanies search where retailers almost universally (89%) have in place navigational dropdowns for a quick read of the assortment, while 90% of those retailers embellish these locations with favorite products or pre-defined offers.

The keyword search box, heavily used by online shoppers, finds 70% of retailers incorporating type ahead features though unfortunately only 29% employ visual search to further aid shoppers. Once results are delivered, 45% optimize search results with badging that can include labeling such as "new," "free shipping" or "sale" to capture the shopper’s attention. As many shoppers like to scan for an overview, one-in-two retailers allow for the ability to view all products and 60% make a quick view available to gather essential details about a product.

Online retailers also stress efficiency. Shoppers took advantage of a promotion 74% of the time. Adoption of the successful flash sale mentality can be seen in the growth of limited-hour specials now found on 53% of the sites up from 47% in 2012. Given its mass appeal, free shipping saw interesting shifts in 2013 where retailers simplified their strategies starting with the 20% of retailers who offered free shipping on all products. Of the remaining 80% of retailers unable to extend that benefit, 71% offered conditional shipping up from 57% in 2012, while only 35% funded free shipping on certain products.

Other notable findings include:

• Video is embraced by 89% of retailers with product page level integration at 72%, though unexpectedly down from 79% in 2012.

• Reviews are a standard and present on 89% of the retail sites.

• General links to social networks are consistent though the composition now finds growth from Pinterest (70% versus 52%), YouTube (69% versus 62%) and Google+ (47% versus 22%).

The study, conducted during the fourth quarter of 2013, benchmarks 335 metrics on 100 e-commerce websites across 13 consumer product categories.