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GLOBAL FINDINGS: Fast Search and Free Shipping Win Popular Vote for Online Shopping Must-Haves this Holiday Season

Episerver releases holiday report with 26 best practices for digital commerce as told by its worldwide consumer survey results

Consumers make split-second decisions about whether to stay on a website or leave. Finding out that shipping was too expensive or not finding exactly what they were looking for are the top two reasons they’ll abandon a brand’s site or mobile app without making a purchase according to a study from Episerver, the company transforming digital experiences.

Retailers banking on the next two months to meet annual revenue goals can count on the most highly rated website features to encourage holiday shoppers to stay and shop according to a survey of 4,000 online shoppers in four global markets: (1) free shipping and (2) easy-to-use product search functions.

What this online shopping behavior data from “Episerver’s A-Z Seasonal Rules” report suggests is that first and foremost consumers demand free shipping and will abandon their purchases if it is not available. Secondly, holiday shoppers want easy access to the products they are looking for via fast and relevant search options and, once again, will leave if they are frustrated by a product’s findability.

“Fifty percent of online shoppers look at the product they came to the site for before anything else when using ecommerce websites,” said Ed Kennedy, Sr. Direct of Commerce at Episerver. “Retailers and brands need to tune their search and navigation to help consumers get to the specific product category they have in mind. Retailers should streamline the process with on-site search optimization, simplifying their navigation structure and presenting popular categories across the website.

“While some retailers avoid free shipping to not cut into their bottom lines, the takeaway here is that there is no bottom line without meeting customer expectations first. There are a number of ways to improve experience in order to increase conversions, and this report lays out 26 examples of doing so as told by consumers themselves with their survey responses.”

Online shoppers will not only look for shipping and search options to help them find the perfect gift but will also be looking for more information to trust the site they are on and gauge whether the product is a good choice for themselves or a loved one. This is particularly true for new website visitors, as there is no context in which to trust the company, so any element of a web page, from top to bottom, that seems “off” will send them packing. Inaccurate or incomplete content, for example, often dissuades half (46 percent) of shoppers from completing online purchases. It is insights and advice like these that make up the holiday rulebook with real-world examples throughout. Other takeaways from the report include:

  • Deck the Pages with Content within Commerce: Nine percent of consumers visit a brand’s website for the first time to find inspiration. With evidence suggesting that holiday shoppers buy as much for themselves as they do others (CNBC, 2017), retailers can quickly develop guides that both complement gift giving and self-giving. The “guides” can be in the form of product pairings on a product page, a navigation option on a website that leads to product search results and/or an email campaign with selected items.
  • Send Customers Jingling all the Way with Images: Regardless of device, 67 percent of consumers count images (products in use and products not in use) as the most important type of content when purchasing a product on a brand’s website or mobile app. Providing multiple image types (lifestyle, still) and views is a surefire way to increase conversions and reduce returns since expectations are more likely to be met.
  • Don’t be Naughty, be Nice. Customers May Not Come Back Twice: Twenty-five percent of consumers are more likely to purchase again from brands that do more to personalize their digital experience than those that do not. Brands that have a history with customers need to leverage that information to personalize marketing efforts.
  • Dash Through the Snow: Forty-eight percent of consumers think a fast website is a must-have feature for ecommerce sites (the third most popular choice after free shipping and easy-to-use search functions). A site that requires visitors to wait while it loads doesn’t invoke a lot of trust for holiday shoppers, and retailers should look for ways to speed up their web pages.

“Episerver A-Z Seasonal Rules” report is based on a survey of over 4,000 consumers ages 18 and older who have shopped online within the last year. Respondents are equally distributed among the U.S., U.K., Germany and the Nordics.

About Optimizely (Episerver)

At Optimizely (Episerver), we're on a mission to help people unlock their digital potential. With our leading digital experience platform (DXP), we equip teams with the tools and insights they need to create and optimize in new and novel ways. Now, companies can operate with data-driven confidence to create hyper-personalized experiences. Building sophisticated solutions has never been simpler. Optimizely’s 900+ partners and 1100+ employees in offices around the globe are proud to help more than 9,000 brands, including Toyota, Santander, eBay, KLM and Mazda, enrich their customer lifetime value, increase revenue and grow their brands. Learn more at

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Media Contacts:

Rachel Teitt Gill
Director of Corporate Communications, Optimizely
+1 740-815-1588

Lucas Strombeck
Sr. Public Relations Manager, Walker Sands
+1 312-561-2485