Recent research shows that although there is an increased demand for online back-to-school shopping, the actual experience leaves something to be desired.
According to 2014 statistics from the National Retail Foundation, back-to-school shopping is starting earlier than ever, with 22.5 percent of adults purchasing supplies for their children a full two months before school begins. Another 44.5 percent of survey respondents noted that they shop for supplies three weeks to one month before the school year starts, and 25.4 percent shop the week before classes begin.
In addition to shopping earlier, these consumers have found a range of benefits in making their back-to-school purchases online, including the ability to do more comparative shopping and use more coupons. The National Retail Federation found that 44.5 percent of shoppers buy school supplies online because they’ve found there are more sales, and 21.3 percent said they spend less overall than if they were to buy at brick-and-mortar stores.
Challenges to online shopping
Although it looks like more customers turn to online platforms to do their back-to-school shopping, our most recent SOASTA Back to School Shopping Report Card found that the vast majority of consumers experienced issues when purchasing school supplies online. A staggering 84 percent of survey respondents noted that they had problems with their Web-based shopping, and 56 percent said that these issues would cause them to avoid using a smartphone or tablet for making back-to-school purchases in the future.
Although these consumers reported a range of problems when attempting to make purchases online, the top concern – as noted by 40 percent of survey participants – was slow website load times. When a Web page performs slowly, it could cause shopping cart abandonment, where customers leave the platform and their selected items before completing their transaction due to unfavorable performance.
Other issues highlighted by these less-than-satisfied customers included crashing websites (32 percent), websites not being optimized for mobile devices (30 percent) and experiencing problems during peak periods (25 percent). In addition, shoppers also noted that some websites didn’t respond to general gestures like swipes, taps or zoom (23 percent) or simply had a bad user interface (22 percent).
A preview of the holiday shopping season
The study also found that the vast majority of customers – 90 percent – expect that if they experienced problems with a certain website in the past, chances are good that the platform will demonstrate similar issues during the holiday shopping season. In this way, if retailers aren’t prepared for back-to-school consumer traffic, their poor performance could have a negative impact on their holiday sales.
SOASTA CEO Tom Lounibos noted that the results of the Back to School Shopping Report Card should serve as a wake-up call for companies that don’t currently engage in regular performance tests.
“As Americans increasingly embrace mobile to shop online, they are seeing back-to-school as an important test to see if their favorite stores are ready for the Christmas holiday shopping season,” Lounibos pointed out. “[I]t’s imperative to plan ahead and test ahead of high-anticipated volume. By properly testing their sites, stores can make sure they are able to deliver flawless mobile and Web performance under the busiest traffic conditions.”
By trusting their platforms to SOASTA’s best-in-class performance testing tools and expert engineer capabilities, retailers can be assured of their readiness, not only for back-to-school shoppers, but for the holiday season as well. Being prepared ahead of time is critical, especially as the end of the year shopping season approaches. Vendors can’t afford to lose out on profits due to a poor performing website. Don’t miss any opportunity to connect with customers – ready your website to ensure it will perform at its peak with SOASTA performance testing tools.
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