At the same time retailers are more savvy in the online shopping experience they deliver to customers, those customers are showing less patience for anything other than truly engaging content.  According to a recent IBM study, the average time on a retail shopping website has declined from 10:04 minutes in April 2008 to 7:15 minutes in April 2010.  Recent trends indicate that rate is hovering near 5 minutes today.  Consistent with this trend is a decline in page views from over 13 per session in April 2008 to just under 8 today.

    What is an online retailer to do?  Create content that matters!

    Apparel retailers should be sharing the same color trend panels (like the one pictured with this post) with their customers that support the lines their buyers bring to the runway.  There isn’t a woman alive who isn’t fascinated by the overlays of colors and textures that most apparel buyers use to build out their trend boards before each season.  Set it to a jazzy flash player and you have instant stickiness.

    Natural and outdoor retailers should include exclusive video of their alternative sports sponsorships: kayak races, endurance races, hot air balloon contests, rugby matches, interviews with drivers, skiers, gliders and skateboarders.

    Eco-conscious retailers should include detailed video of recycling processes, production ethics checks and other good citizen action they are taking.

    Video EVERY event your company supports for charity: building a house, delivering meals, tutoring children, every single touchpoint at every store should be documented and shared online to consistently message the community partnership your company builds.

    Finally, make check out smooth. I am still shocked by the number of steps most retailers expect customers to take to complete a transaction.  The length of the transaction is directly proportional to the number of abandoned carts in the process.  Streamline every step and always give returning customers every shortcut possible – no matter what new offer you want to remind them of.  These are the folks that already love your site – don’t give them a reason to hate it when they have a credit card in their hand.  Use web analytics to identify key drop off points and address them immediately.