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But inventory isn't the only problem that continues to plague online shopping. Retailers have come a long way toward fixing some of the problems that caused their sites to crash and freeze up in the early days of online shopping.
Crashes and slowdowns occur far less today than they did a few years ago, said Aaron Rudger, senior manager web performance of Keynote, which monitors retailers' online performance. Keynote estimates that 23 percent of retailers had web site problems during the official kickoff of the holiday shopping season, the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, compared with 71 percent 5 years ago.
But crashes still happen far more often than they should, says Rudger, who found that the Motorola web site crashed on the Monday after the four-day Thanksgiving weekend known as `Cyber Monday' when it launched its Moto X phone. Urban Outfitters also crashed, he says. "Those are pretty well known brands so that to us is a bit of a surprise," Rudger said.
Those types of experiences can turn off shoppers from buying online. For instance, Patrice Grell Yursik, 34, wanted to buy a warm coat for her husband when she started shopping online on Cyber Monday, but changed her mind after she ran into troubles on Macy's web site.
"Macy's had really great deals and I had an awesome Michael Kors coat in mind but when I went to try to get it in black it was sold out," said the style blogger who lives in Chicago. "The site kept freezing and locking up, but by the time I tried it again the coat was gone."
That experience ultimately drove her offline.
Macy's says due to the volume of traffic and shopping on Cyber Monday, there were "rare occasions" when an item sold out almost immediately after a customer put it into their virtual shopping cart.
GETTING PEOPLE TO USE MOBILE APPS
There's evidence that Americans increasingly want to shop on their smartphone and tablets this holiday season. In fact, while mobile shopping accounts for about 10 percent of online sales, it made up half of all online traffic during Black Friday weekend, according to IBM Benchmark, which did not give dollar amounts.
But more often than not, people are shopping on their smartphones and tablets using retailers' web sites. That's a problem because having a specific shopping app is important when it comes to converting window shoppers into buyers. (continued...)
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