For a better retail experience, discounts may not be a deal-breaker

Customer Management

Merchants are always looking for ways to improve the retail experience and encourage customers to make more purchases. Discounts are often one of the first provisions they turn to, offering customers free shipping, dollars off their orders or buy one-get one free promotions to encourage sales.

Rethink Your Customers Needs

But how important are these discounts to shoppers? Consulting firm Inmar found that coupon usage has declined significantly in recent years, with a 2013 report from the company suggesting coupon redemption has dropped roughly 14 percent. Coupons can be effective tools for getting people to shop, but they aren’t necessarily critical for delivering an appealing retail experience or building brand loyalty.

CVS found this out first hand, Internet Retailer reported. CVS’s mobile site featured a carousel of rotating images promoting various products and also a coupon for 20 percent off all online purchases.

However, the retailer was having trouble with loading speeds on the mobile site, with the page taking 13 seconds to appear. The rule of thumb for retail sites is to aim for 4.5 seconds average loading time between 3G and 4G mobile connections – CVS’s mobile page was nearly three times longer than this suggested target, which significantly detracted from the overall retail experience, not to mention lost sales. Citing data from a report from Aberdeen Group, Internet Retailer added that a 1-second delay can translate into a 7 percent loss in conversion rates, which could be a significant amount of money for CVS considering how slow the mobile site was.

Ditch The Discount And Focus On Usability

CVS’s plan of action was simple – the retailer eliminated the image promoting the 20 percent off coupon from the carousel. One would think that would damage┬áthe retail experience, as discounts are often considered an effective way to encourage people to make purchases. However, as CVS discovered, eliminating the banner from the mobile site improved loading time by four seconds – a change that may have increased sales in the long run, according to Internet Retailer.

“We’ve seen this before, where big promotions have a substantial effect on load times, especially in the mobile environment,” Venkatesh Giri, mobile performance expert at Keynote, told Internet Retailer. “Retailers really need to pay attention to the best performance-optimization techniques when running promotions to minimize the impact on home page load times.”

Considering the fact that so many people shop through their smartphones, a significant lift in loading speed may make the browsing experience that much better for potential shoppers. A slow website may lead to people ditching CVS and going to another merchant, and that may be less of an issue now.

For retailers, the take away here is that discounts aren’t necessarily pivotal to increasing sales or improving the overall retail experience, especially with mobile sites. Website features, responsive design, omnichannel functionality, quicker order fulfillment – all of these elements play an important role in establishing an enjoyable retail experience that will keep customers coming back. Retailers must craft a seamless, enjoyable shopping journey across channels so customers will make purchases, regardless of incentives.

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