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Overstock.com taps one-hand ergonomics to update checkout

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January 21, 2016

Overstock.com is racking up brownie points with mobile

Overstock.com is racking up brownie points with mobile

NEW YORK – Two Overstock.com executives at Mobile Marketer’s Mobile FirstLook: Strategy 2016 discussed how the online retailer leverages one-hand ergonomics to modernize checkout experiences with larger forms, swiping gestures and contextual keyboards.

During the “Overstock.com: Mobile First and How and Why” session, the executives detailed the brand’s tendency to A/B test all new mobile methods, especially push notifications, as consumers begin demanding more relevant content delivered to their smartphones. The omnichannel journey must also be taken into consideration for retailers seeking to revamp their current mobile offerings.

“On average, a customer uses two devices when going through the purchasing process,” said Jeremy Johnson, director of mobile at Overstock.com. “They expect the same experience across those different platforms.”

Leveraging constant data
Mr. Johnson stressed the importance of garnering valuable data centering on customer engagement to augment the process of bolstering user experience and design. IBM reported that mobile sales jumped from 28 percent to 36 percent from 2014 to 2015, highlighting the necessity of rolling out new features that help retailers adapt to the ever-evolving world of mcommerce.

Some of the brand’s data has gleaned that 73 percent of individuals are using their smartphone as shopping companions. Personal devices enable them to complete a slew of helpful tasks, including finding coupons, looking up stores’ or products’ physical locations and engaging in comparison pricing, in just a few seconds.

In-application push notifications have also been an integral part of Overstock.com’s mobile strategy. The retailer exceeded five million users on its app this month, with 76 percent categorized as loyal customers, reflecting consumers’ interest in mobile deals and discounts (see story).

The brand has experimented with sending location-based push notifications to consumers that pop into competitors’ stores, showcasing the potent role that proximity-based data will play in 2016. The push notification tactic saw an early 2014 inception, but had a slightly rocky path to success.

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Overstock.com’s Jaime Wilson presents at Mobile FirstLook: Strategy 2016

“We started testing all these hypotheses but we didn’t necessarily put it into perspective from the customers’ mindset,” Mr. Johnson said. “About three months into the implementation of it, we found we weren’t hitting any of the KPIs.”

This prompted Overstock.com to change the strategy to allow customers to select which notifications they would prefer to receive. The company has also set up different events within the app that help it better understand how users are engaging with content.

A/B testing has been a paramount strategy for Overstock.com. Mr. Johnson claims the brand tests everything related to push notifications, including time sent and message content.

Additionally, speed is of utmost importance. If a retailer cannot load its site or content within three seconds, it risks losing a large portion of its visitors.

Overstock.com sees significant amounts of traffic stem from search engine optimization and search pages, which has prompted the company to dive deeper into studying user flows and engagement, locating path to purchase patterns and anticipating users’ next moves.

Spotlighting ergonomics
Another Overstock.com executive stressed the importance of embracing a design fundamental that focuses on touch experience. Many consumers use their personal devices with one hand and one thumb, while others may switch between the two, or employ a two-hand BlackBerry approach.

Consequently, the online retail marketer decided to optimize the entire browsing and purchasing experience for one-hand and one-thumb interaction.

“This is really hard to do, especially since devices are growing larger and larger,” said Jaime Wilson, senior director of UI product management at Overstock.com.

She named Starbucks as one of the best-in-class examples of leveraging one-hand ergonomics. All purchase-related tasks are relegated to the bottom of the screen, so that consumers can easily check out.

Ride-sharing app Lyft is also going through a redesign with this concept in mind. The current app version has most-used features at the top and bottom of the screen, while the revamped version will place all decision-making tools at the bottom, making it simple for one-hand mobile users to order a taxi.

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Overstock.com’s app allows users to check out by swiping the button

Other best practices for app developers to consider are the inclusion of swiping gestures, single field forms and list views.

“If you’re not using swiping gestures in your apps, you absolutely should be, because they’re really easy for one-hand [usage],” Ms. Wilson said.

Implementing list views for category and item sorting also helped Overstock.com bump up conversion by three percent. Ms. Wilson believes this feature is successful because it offers users something they are familiar with, and it displays easily digestible content.

Combating shopping cart abandonment in apps and on mobile sites must also be a paramount concern for retailers. Brands should ensure they collapse name fields into one field, streamline forms with larger imagery and include contextual keyboards.

For example, if a customer is asked to input a phone number, the site or app should pull up a numeric keyboard once he or she clicks on the field, rather than an alphabetic one.

Overstock.com is also encouraging shoppers to adopt mobile payment platforms that help reduce friction in the checkout process. The executives revealed that Apple Pay functionality is set to arrive in approximately three weeks.

“We really want to eliminate the checkout process completely, so we’re pushing users to start using Apple Pay and Android Pay a lot more,” Ms. Wilson said.

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Alex Samuely is staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York. Reach her at alex@mobilemarketer.com.

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