As E-retailers continue to take market share from bricks-and-mortar competitors, they have good reason to feel confident about their position in the retail world.  But online shoppers are more confident, too, meaning merchants need to deliver better deals and service, as well as master the in’s and out’s of social media.  Retailers are working hard to tailor shopping for a variety of web-enabled devices—devices that increasingly blur the boundaries between physical stores and the web.  Above all, retailers must deal with a consumer who has access to all kinds of information that enables them to find the best deal.

According to industry analysts, people in every income group are shopping around for the best prices despite the uptick in the economy.  One way e-retailers responded to those recession-hardened, smarter consumers is with free shipping offers: 52% of online transactions in the fourth quarter of 2011 charged nothing for shipping, compared with 49% for the same period in 2010, the previous record, according to comScore.

ONLINE SHOPPERS ARE SAVVY SHOPPERS

Free shipping, though, tells only part of the story of how discount-hungry consumers are shopping online armed with more information.  Nearly a third of online shoppers, or 31%, check out deal-of-the-day or group-buying sites such as Groupon, LivingSocial or their scores of imitators while shipping online, says e-commerce research firm Compete. And 27% visit shopping comparison sites to ensure they find the best prices.

Other data also suggest that consumers are almost always shopping with a future discount or deal in mind.  After analyzing its monthly sales and checkout stats, AccessoryGeeks.com realized that its customers were more likely to complete a purchase when an offer was spiced up. Responding to a shift in consumer behavior, the e-retailer made changes in its customer service procedures and now responds to e-mails around the clock in order to serve the all-the-time shopper.  AccessoryGeeks.com also offers responses by text, as more than 15% of consumers who shop the retailer do so via mobile devices.  The company’s initiatives illustrate how one e-retailer is keeping up with the changing patterns of the online shopper.

SMART PHONES AND MOBILE DEVICES

The spread of web-enabled smartphones and other mobile devices promises to make deal-hunting even easier for consumers. 41% of consumers who owned such devices had used them to check prices within the past three months, according to the Compete survey, which was conducted just prior to the 2011 holiday shopping season. And 39% of those consumers had downloaded bar code scanning apps that make it easy to check prices, usually inside stores; 20%, meanwhile, had downloaded comparison shopping apps.

The proliferation of mobile devices and shopping apps has big implications for the ongoing shift of consumer spending from physical stores to the web. ”It used to be that when bricks-and-mortar retailers had people inside stores, they had a really good chance of converting them into a buyer,” Lipsman says. “But now that consumers have smartphones, that is changing.”

[Source: Reuter, Thad.  “The Confident, Connected Consumer.”  Internet Retailer.  21 Feb. 2012.  Web.  24 Feb. 2012.]