Users And Devices: The New Ecommerce

Here’s more proof that ecommerce transactions no longer take place on a single device. Almost a third involve two or more, according to a new study by Criteo. And conversion rates are 1.4 times higher for multi-device engagements that ones conducted on a lone apparatus. Still, retailers will have trouble if they can’t accurately attribute them

For example, they may record as a single-visit purchase those that are seen on another device, Criteo warns. The buyer journey can be 41% longer than partial-view models show: The average single-device transaction takes 2.9 visits, vs. 4.1 on multiple devices.

On the one hand, inaccurate cross-device measurement can lead retailers to “misunderstand, undervalue and ultimately underinvest in users,” Criteo writes. This leads to a partial and distorted view, it adds. But accurate measurement allows firms to “identify where bottlenecks lie and optimize consumer experience and marketing spend accordingly.” They can also tweak their offers.



Criteo says it analyzed transaction data from over 3,300 online businesses throughout the globe. It studied 1.7 billion transactions, representing $720 billion in annual sales. The objective? To document cross-device habits globally, said Jaysen Gillespie, vice president, analytics, insights and data science for Criteo, in an email.

“Now more than ever, it’s critical that retail marketers maximize spend on the right channels, with a true understanding of their customer’s shopping journey across multiple devices,” Gillespie added. “As noted in the report, nearly one in three transactions is misattributed without cross-device measurement. This can lead to miscalculating key ROI metrics — misattributing transactions, overspending and underinvesting in the wrong channels.”

The report shows that tablets, while supposedly declining, remain the top channel for ecommerce transactions, at least marginally. They produced 36% of the ecommerce transactions in Q4 2016, compared with 31% for desktop and 28% for smartphones.

But smartphones are key because almost one out of three purchases starts on one. Still, consumers no longer browse only on their phones and buy on their desktops. The reverse is true in 35% of the smartphone transactions — the process starts on the desktop. 

In general, “Smartphones now account for a quarter of all online retail sales in the U.S., showing a year-over-year increase of 41%, while tablets continue to decline,” Criteo adds.

Despite that, tablets are almost matching desktops in the average ecommerce transaction value — $98 vs. $100 for the desktop. And the average is $79 via the smartphone.

In addition, the average add-to-basket and conversion rates grew by 15% in the period studied, compared to slower growth for tablets (11% for add-to-basket and 14% for conversion) and desktop (3% for add-to-basket and 2% for conversion).  

Browsing patterns vary throughout the day. Desktop purchases peak during work hours, then migrate to mobile, which hits its high on weekends. 

How people shop also depends on the industry vertical. Mass merchants conduct 38% of their online transactions by mobile, compared with 31% for fashion sellers. Home products snare 29% by mobile, and sporting goods 24%. But the fashion and luxury sub-vertical pulls the biggest share, and sports goods was second, showing 30% growth from Q4 2015 to the same period in 2016.

Then there’s the split by country. The UK has moved in front, pulling the highest mobile share of transactions — 52% — compared with 51% for Japan and 45% for Australia. The United States generates only 36% via mobile. And Japan and the UK exceed the U.S. with their mobile conversion rates. Germany is No. 3. The study adds the unsurprising detail that mobile commerce transactions correlate strongly with smartphone ownership in most markets.”

Granted, multi-channel transactions still account for only 31% overall, although that’s growing. Criteo advises retailers to deliver “a seamless and personalized user across devices.” In another finding, the study reports “committed retailers capture more transactions on apps than on mobile browsers.”

Criteo concludes with what may be the real key: “The common identifier that enables cross-device tracking is also the link necessary to merge online and offline customer data — the next frontier for retailers.” 

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