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IBM Predicts Record Online Sales This Holiday, But Research Shows Consumers Still Face Obstacles

Search marketers craft paid-search ads and optimize organic listings that provide consumers with the answer to questions they seek, but they must take the complete purchase funnel into consideration. While IBM predicts a record year for online and mobile commerce, a study from Visual Website Optimizer finds some obstacles along this path.

IBM predicts a record-breaking year for both mobile and online shopping, with online sales increasing 15% during the five-day period between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. The biggest increase in online sales is expected on Cyber Monday -- up 15.8% -- closely followed by Thanksgiving, forecast to be up 15.6%. Black Friday online sales are expected to rise 13% as consumers find the best deals.   

Mobile browsing is expected to account for 48.2% of all online traffic during the five-day period, up 23% compared with 2013, per IBM. Mobile sales should account for 24.4% of all online sales, up 9.5% compared with the same period last year, but frustration with Web sites and mobile technology could keep consumers from buying online.

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Visual Website Optimizer (VWO) surveyed more than 1,000 online shoppers ages 18 to 55 in October 2014, analyzing what catches their attention, what frustrates them, and what makes them buy.

Some of the biggest reasons for abandoning an online shopping cart involve unpleasant surprises at checkout. Some 28% of the survey participants said they abandoned a shopping cart due to unexpected shipping costs. About 23% cited the need to create a new user account as the second-biggest reason for cart abandonment.

When done correctly, retargeting could prove lucrative for brands and retailers. Some 54% shoppers say they will purchase products they left in their cart if offered again at a discounted price or through special promotions and coupons, and 72% of consumers ages 25 through 34 are open to retargeting via discounts.

As consumers become more comfortable with digital coupons, IBM expects shoppers to cash in this holiday season. Consumers will spend on average $123.28 per online order over the five-day holiday period, down 2.9% compared with 2013.  At the same time, however, shoppers will buy an average of 4.4 items per online order, up 17% year-over-year.   

The VWO study finds 55% shoppers say reviews are important to them to make a buying decision, 24% are willing to spend extra and buy more to qualify for free shipping, 55% are indifferent to personalized offers, and 39% online shoppers have a shopping app installed on their mobile and/or tablets.

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