AIAIO: Our Blog

AIAIO: Our Blog

The pulse and reviews of Alexander Interactive

Posts Tagged ‘T-Commerce’

Pew Study Highlights Growing Tablet Use

Last week BGR posted a great infographic visualizing the results of a Pew study on how tablet users are consuming their news. The findings of the research confirmed findings by Forrester, specifically that people who own tablets use them – a lot. According to the study 77% of tablet owners use their tablets daily.

The study also showed that tablet owners spend an average of 95 minutes per day on their tablets. With Apple reporting record iPad sales (over 11 million sold last quarter), these findings show that e-retailers can only expect the amount of visits from tablet-wielding consumers will continue to grow exponentially.

Some of the most interesting numbers coming out of the study centered around the use of native apps versus mobile browsers. Almost twice as many responders reported using mobile browsers as their main news source compared to apps (40% for browsers, 21% for apps), which shows the importance for having sites optimized for tablet users.

As shown in Ai’s T-Commerce Report, even the largest internet retailers are still struggling to capture this up-and-coming demographic. This report shows that while a few retail giants have capitalized on the t-commerce market with responsive designs, larger calls to action and gesture friendly interfaces (Nike is a prime example), most e-commerce giants are falling behind the curve when it comes to t-commerce. Even Amazon is showing slow adoption of t-commerce best practices in its new redesign; though their new fashion deal site, MyHabit, is highly optimized for t-commerce.

For more on how you can optimize your site for t-commerce check out Alex’s article “Make Way for T-Commerce” or download the T-Commerce Report.

Ecommerce

Ai Releases its T-Commerce Report

Ai T-Commerce Report

This morning Ai released its T-Commerce Report, a best practices guide for tablet-based UX design and t-commerce review of the ten largest retailers on the web.

We’ve written about the importance of t-commerce UX optimization before on the blog (and E-Commerce Times) and reviewed Amazon’s redesign from a t-commerce perspective. The T-Commerce Report goes into more depth on how the top-selling sites on the internet are adapting to a tablet based future and how you can do the same. Check it out here.

Gadgets

What Does the Kindle Fire Mean for T-Commerce?

The Ai office was abuzz today with the news of Amazon’s Kindle Fire. The new tablet appears to be the first competitor to steal the wind out of the iPad’s sails (and possibly iPad sales as well).

The overall sentiment around the implications of the product itself was a guarded excitement. Most of that excitement focused on the price, an appetizing $199.

It is only a matter of time before t-commerce reaches the tipping point that sends it into its boom. A sub $200 price tag could be that tipping point. If so, retailers with tablet-optimized UX will be the benefactors. With only a seven-inch screen, the Fire will put an even higher premium on the size of retail sites’ calls-to-action.

While the Amazon redesign may have overlooked many t-commerce UX fundamentals, one site that appears to be perfectly optimized for use on the Fire is the recently launched, MyHabit, Amazon’s partner in competition with Gilt Groupe. With large call-outs and a minimalistic design layout, the site appears to be tailor-made for use with the Fire (even down the the flash product videos, which will render on the Fire’s Silk browser).

After the (positive) sticker shock, the second-most exciting piece of news to come out of today’s Amazon press conference was the the Fire’s native Silk browser. Silk is a truly tablet-optimized browser that will split site rendering processing power between the tablet and Amazon’s cloud computing system. Using Amazon’s cloud as a type of “endless cache,” sites should render significantly quicker than they would using only the Fire’s dual core processor.

This type of “split browsing” (as Amazon is calling it) has huge implications for t-commerce. During this early period of tablet development, processing assistance is vital for optimizing page load times.

Ai has put a premium on designing sites for page load time optimization. Will this innovation make this optimization irrelevant? The answer is almost certainly “no” since even with the demo of the browser show some lag in load times. It could mean though that sites optimized for page load speed have comparable load times on Silk as they would on a laptop.

The one real certainty coming out of this news is that the future of t-commerce is getting closer by the minute.

Gadgets

Amazon Redesign: A Small Step Towards T-Commerce

When it comes to e-commerce there is no bigger name than Amazon.com. So when the world’s largest online retailer recently began rolling out a redesign to a small segment of its users, there was no doubt it would make waves.

A recent Wall Street Journal report speculated that the new site foreshadows the debut of a new Amazon tablet, citing the new site’s simplified feel and larger buttons. But when it comes down to it, the redesign still falls short on some t-commerce fundamentals.

Navigation

The new homepage has a much cleaner, more modern look. The new silver navigation and heavy use of white space definitely feel more up-to-date, taking cues from the Dieter Rams/Jonathon Ive school of desaturated minimalism.  This change emphasizes elements like promo images and the count of in-cart items, but raises an interesting challenge for the strength of Amazon’s brand as the formerly omnipresent blue and orange color scheme has been relegated to near nonexistence.

The majority of the redesign efforts seem concentrated in the top navigation, which has been simplified and improved with larger buttons. The biggest improvement UX-wise comes in the form of a navigational flyout that swoops out of the “Shop by Department” button. The menu’s bold black text on a white background look great on both monitors and tablets and the grey text blends in enough to not be obtrusive. The drop-down also includes the sexiest feature of the redesign with its new images hanging out of the menu itself over the page behind it.

Another nice touch on the new navigation bar is the shopping cart button that shows products (with images) in customer’s cart upon being clicked.  This is very UX and t-commerce friendly in that it lets users peek at their cart without interrupting the shopping experience.

Site Search

One of the biggest UX changes for the site as a whole is the new search bar, which takes center stage as the focal point of the improved top navigation. For a retailer with products as varied as Amazon, making the search the primary focus is in many ways ideal for a t-commerce interface. The first thing users will notice is the new drop-down that appears when clicked/tapped, displaying daily deals with accompanying images. This is a great use of an “Easter egg” to save space on the page below.

The search functionality has room for improvement in its predictive suggestions. The selectable terms on the type ahead search drop-down are still quite small, making this feature is among the least tablet friendly aspects of the new site. Not only are the search terms too small to tap (especially if you have big fingers), but there are too many of them. On an iPad the type ahead drop-down falls underneath the on-screen keyboard. A more user-friendly solution would be to give fewer options with larger clickable areas., not unlike the daily deals drop-down.

Hero Images

The redesign’s most drastic changes are immediately below the top navigation. With the former category navigation buttons on the left consolidated to the top navigation’s drop-down menu, the page takes on a two-column layout that is very thumb-friendly for tablet users.  Everything seems clearly and intuitively divided into buttons that can be easily pressed with thumb or the other.

The main hero image has been completely changed with the new look. The old Amazon has one hero image touting the latest Kindles. The new hero area has two stacked promos with slider navigations that allow for 13 total options. While one hero may not have been enough for Amazon’s merchandisers, 13 is a bit much to digest,  resulting is a sleek and navigable but unrefined hero scheme.

T-Commerce Shortcomings

When put into portrait orientation on a tablet, the new site is just as unusable as the old design. Throughout the site a vertical format yields pages too wide to be read or navigated without zooming in, resulting in minuscule pricing values, unreadable reviews, and effectively invisible calls to action. An ideal solution would be dynamically flexing this layout to pare down some of the horizontal elements when in a portrait orientation (e.g. dropping a row of five suggested products to three).

Another t-commerce question mark hanging over the new Amazon is speed. In Ai’s testing, page load time was significantly slower on the new site. This could be a real barrier to entry for some tablet users. The new promo images are undoubtedly pretty, but taking longer to load could end up hurting the bottom line.

To be truly tablet friendly, Amazon will also need improved product pages. Seemingly untouched by the redesign, the current product pages force tablet users to squint and swipe as they poke around for buttons taking them to some of their most desired links. A product page redesign (which could be just over the horizon) could solve this by corralling cluttered text into concise links and collapsing unnecessary information out of sight.

Improving T-Commerce UX

While the new design is definitely a welcome update, it definitely not a huge improvement in terms of optimizing the site for t-commerce. The minimalistic design makes for stronger visual cues in important areas of the site, but if users need to zoom in on areas they can’t see those cues can quickly end up out of view.

For true t-commerce optimization Amazon should revisit the site’s user-interface on a tablet device. Making sure that tappable areas can accommodate larger fingers by limiting the amount of options displayed.

Using CSS3 media queries to adjust the layout of the site’s product pages and increase the tappable area within faceted navigation or mega drop-downs would also vastly improve the user experience.

Complex pages also could be reworked by moving elements around the page to match Amazon’s business and merchandising requirements by, for example, move product reviews above the fold on a tablet to emphasize user-generated content.

Truly committing to tablet UX also includes a commitment to gesture-based navigation where applicable, like giving users the ability to swipe and drag hero images to cycle through them.

The new Amazon.com is slightly more tablet friendly, but it is far from an optimal solution. The redesign is definitely a move in the right direction for t-commerce, but only a half-step.

For more on Ai’s approach to t-commerce, read Alex Schmelkin’s article “Make Way for T-Commerce”  in E-Commerce Times.

Written with contributors Ed Samour and Seth Whitton

Ecommerce

The Tablets are Coming. Are You Ready?

Now that we’re firmly in the age of mobility, buying online through a computer may appear obsolete  for some consumers. With a click of a button on your smartphone (which is always on) or your tablet (which is always on standby), you can access your favorite online merchant from anywhere.

It appears though that of our mobile devices, tablets are taking a lead when it comes to e-commerce. This comes in spite of their rather recent re-introduction, marked by the iPad’s 2010 launch (previous attempts to make tablet PCs didn’t survive long enough to be remembered).

According to the results of a Forrester report published on Forbes Blog, 9% of online shoppers have a tablet device, and while they already have other mobile devices, including smartphones, their preferred method of shopping is (you guessed it) their tablet. And while the iPad ruled the tablets’ market for a while now, the debut of Android’s Honeycomb this past February brought a strong contender to the market with a stable and attractive tablet-optimized OS that is now available for all manufacturers to use on their new tablets (look out for highly anticipated devices from Amazon and Sony coming soon).

With all this kind of momentum gathering, one thing is certain… “t-commerce” is the next big thing.

Ai’s clients have witnessed the evolution of tablet visits firsthand. Between May 2010 and 2011, the iPad visits grew by 782% for one of our clients and by 433% for another, while those clients’ iPhone visits only grew by 146% and 99%, respectively. The iPhone has been out since 2005 whereas the iPad came out in 2010, but such explosive growth for the iPad makes it clear that the tablet, as a traffic and revenue source, cannot be ignored.

As Bill Siwicki of Internet Retailer put it, “If you haven’t already created an m-commerce site or a mobile shopping app, now is the time. It’s not too late.”

For more insight on how to optimize for the tablet wielding consumer, see Alex Schmelkin’s post Make Way for T-Commerce.

Gadgets

Make Way for T-Commerce

Originally published in E-Commerce Times.

Tablet commerce may be the new kid on the block when it comes to online retail, but as a recent Forrester research poll indicates, many online retailers are seeing that half of their mobile commerce transactions come from tablet devices.

Moreover, 7.6 percent of the U.S. population will be tablet users by the end of 2012, according to eMarketer estimates. So how should online retailers take advantage of tablet commerce? And should they do so right now?

It Starts With Your Existing Site

The key to implementing a successful tablet commerce (t-commerce) strategy starts with a retailer’s existing desktop site. Customers are already shopping with their tablets on traditional retail websites — but sites that were not designed for tablets may run into issues.

User interface elements that proved successful on the desktop may not work on a tablet. For example, mega-dropdowns and mouse “hover” behaviors do not translate well to a finger-based browsing experience: Users don’t generally drag their finger around the screen looking for hotspots.

Users Deserve a Tablet-Optimized Site

Tablets are different from mobile devices and should be treated accordingly. A troubling early development in t-commerce had a number of retailers redirecting tablet users to their mobile-optimized sites. This was a mistake, and is largely being replaced with retailers deploying tablet-optimized experiences.

There is a huge difference in screen real estate between tablets and mobile, and a t-commerce site should therefore have more in common with a traditional e-commerce site than an m-commerce one. The fact that many mobile sites were delivered first means that many retailers are not taking advantage of the larger screen real estate that is available on a tablet.

The t-commerce site should still maintain a sleek user interface while delivering substantially more information than an m-commerce site. As with mobile, the quality of content delivered must be commensurate with the quality of information on the company’s e-commerce site so that the user experience is consistent.

Moreover, the interface of a tablet is different than that of a desktop site. On a tablet, one doesn’t track clicks and mouse trails, but instead must focus on “smudges and swipes.” Multitouch functionality should be integrated into the site in appropriate areas, including 360-degree product photography spins and swiping through long product lists.

HTML5 Enables Rich Interactions

Technological developments have opened up possibilities that did not exist years ago. HTML5 offers site developers the ability to create superior, smooth user experiences, and it enables other must-haves for tablet sites, such as auto-suggest search bars and one-page checkouts.

At the same time, these technological advancements can pose significant challenges to retailers looking to develop a tablet initiative. For example, it is widely accepted that Apple(Nasdaq: AAPL) and its iPad are dominant in the tablet ecosystem.

As a number of retail sites still use Flash for certain interactions (which Apple does not support), the necessary migration toward the use of HTML5 technology can mean extra costs and delays.

It’s Not Just the iPad

Another factor to keep in mind for a tablet initiative is that even though the iPad is the dominant player in the industry, there are many other tablets, including the Samsung Galaxy, RIM PlayBook, Motorola (NYSE: MOT) Xoom, and others that run on Google’s (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android platform.

While they comprise a relatively small segment of the market, these other tablets certainly warrant additional cross-device testing of a retailer’s website to ensure compatibility.

Establish Goals and Watch the Analytics

As with all digital initiatives, analytics should be watched closely. Retailers must monitor the conversion success of their websites with tablet users, finding areas that under- or over-perform relative to their desktop-based shoppers.

Do your tablet users browse more then they search? Is this different behavior than desktop users? Just like on the desktop, testing is key. Retailers should experiment with multiple shopping experiences, allowing consumer usage patterns to shape the future of their tablet offerings.

It is also important to establish revenue goals for a tablet initiative. Tablets, despite the huge boom in recent popularity, may not yet be ubiquitous enough to warrant a huge initiative for all retailers.

Adoption of tablets is expected to increase 400 percent by 2012, based on eMarketer estimates, but it is important to keep in mind that this is a global statistic for a niche market.

Some may feel the need to be there first, others may want to wait and see. What is certain is that t-commerce is rapidly growing, and it must be considered an important piece of any online retailer’s digital strategy.

Happy swiping!

UX