Couch Commerce

The universe of digital commerce is undergoing a huge transformation as potential customers across all age groups change the way they shop online. Of course I speak of the rise of the tablet. Digital retailers must adapt to the migration from the desk to the couch or lose out to this growing market segment.

In the first quarter of 2011, 94% of web traffic came from the desktop. By the first quarter of 2012 this had dropped to 88%. To look at it another way, mobile access grew by 348%. Hopefully, your analytics program will allow you to examine your own numbers. I would be surprised if your numbers do not reflect the overall trend, although strictly B2B sites generally lag behind.

This trend not only indicates a technology migration, it indicates a behavioral migration as well. Users are moving away from their desks for recreational web surfing. A Monetate EQ report puts numbers to this trend: of tablet shoppers 96% shop in the living room, 94% the bedroom, 75% a home office and 70% the porch.

We may infer from these locations a more leisurely, recreational shopping experience.

So how should we adapt to the tablet shopper?

Most importantly, the functionality of the site must work across all platforms: iOS, Android and Windows. Most notoriously, iOS does not support Flash. However, other drop downs and hover states don’t work across the spectrum as well. Sites need to be tested to insure consistent behavior.
Secondly, the user interface needs to be consistent with user expectations and environment. Tablet users expect to be able to use finger swiping, navigation must be slightly larger to accommodate finger tapping rather than a cursor and foreground to background contrast should be adjusted for more demanding lighting conditions. As mobile users are connected over slower connections than desktop users—either wi-fi or cell networks—page speed needs to be blazingly fast. Speed isn’t limited to image sizes and server requests, but extend to the need for content delivery networks, bandwidth requirements and database query structure.

Perhaps the most dramatic change in behavior of couch commerce is the way in which people pay. As one may imagine, customer comfortably shopping in their living room may be loath do get up to search for their credit card. In fact 67% of mobile transactions use alternate forms of payment such as. So it is critical for the digital merchant to offer these forms of payment.
There are there ways to respond to reading this trend: Smugness—You have already recognized and have implemented steps towards adaptation, Panic—you know your site is out of step with the rise in consumer behavior, or uncertainty—you really do not know what your site’s couch users are experiencing.

For the latter two groups, the Three steps are:
1. Conduct a mobile SOTS analysis
2. Run a mobile specific focus group
3. Calibrate the analytics of your site to specifically capture and report on mobile users.

It’s time to get off the couch.