From EU antitrust investigations to a mobile usability crisis, Richard Plant uncovers the biggest e-Commerce news stories of the last month…

European e-Commerce Market Faces Far-Reaching Antitrust Probe

The European Commission is launching an antitrust investigation into the European e-Commerce sector, Computerworld reported last week.

The probe aims to break down sales barriers between national markets, and will look for evidence of contractual restrictions in distribution agreements that prevent retailers selling their goods in other EU countries.

The European Commission already suspects these restrictions are harming cross-border trade. The probe will set out to discover how far-reaching the barriers are, and whether they’re detrimental to customers, and to a fair, free market. It will focus on cross-border trade of clothing, shoes, electronics and digital content.

In a statement to Computerworld, competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager wrote: “If they are anti-competitive we will not hesitate to take enforcement action under EU antitrust rules.”

Competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager

Margrethe Vestager. Source: Johannes Jansson at Norden.org.

Additionally, the Commission plans to prevent unjustified ‘geo-blocking’, where retailers shut out consumers from other territories for no good reason – and will propose actions to make parcel delivery costs more affordable for retailers.

Preliminary findings are expected to be published in mid-2016. Computerworld reports that e-Commerce retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers can expect to receive information requests from the Commission “in the coming weeks”.

e-Commerce Smartphone Traffic Growing Fast, But Mobile User Experience is in Crisis

Site usability in the e-Commerce sector is yet to catch up with users’ preference for mobile devices, suggests a new study by e-Commerce platform MarketLive.

Survey data, drawn from MarketLive’s own client base, shows smartphone traffic grew by 269% in Q1 2014, accounting for 27% of all traffic. Additionally, smartphone transactions were up 104%.

Despite this tremendous growth, however, smartphone transactions accounted for only 12% of total revenue, with desktop PCs still accounting for nearly three quarters of revenue.

And, shockingly, nine out of ten carts were abandoned by smartphone users in Q1.

In his commentary on the study, Marketing Land’s Greg Sterling wrote:

Most smartphone-based e-commerce experiences are still awkward at best and checking out can be quite cumbersome. Hence the high abandonment rates — especially compared with tablets. Payments are a major pain point for consumers; retailers need to implement third party payment systems and remove friction from the checkout flow.

55% of Online Retailers Plan to Move e-Commerce Hosting to the Cloud This Year

A new eBay enterprise study reveals that more than half of online retailers are planning to switch their e-Commerce hosting to cloud-based systems this year, reports Marketing Land.

More than 1,000 retailers were asked which e-Commerce technologies they were planning on “bringing into a cloud environment”.

Across the board, 55% said they wanted to switch their hosting package to the cloud. 62% of retailers in the highest revenue bracket ($50 million to $250 million) said they were planning to switch.

Bar charts showing percentage of retailers planning to move e-Commerce technologies to the cloud.

Click for full-size version. Source: Marketing Land.

This revenue bracket was also most likely to be planning to switch their inventory management (48%) and marketing programme management (48%) systems to the cloud.

Additionally, 72% of retailers surveyed said they were expecting their online revenue to increase this year. Only eight per cent said they expected revenue to decrease.

Nearly Two Thirds of Online Retailers Prefer Customised e-Commerce Solutions

Nearly two thirds of retailers favour customised packaged e-Commerce platforms such as Magento, according to a new report by Econsultancy.

The insights firm surveyed more than 600 e-Commerce professionals, and found that 62% expressed a preference for customisable solutions. 20% said they favoured non-customised package solutions, and just 15% preferred SaaS (software as a service) solutions.

Customised solutions are more prevalent amongst high-revenue e-Commerce businesses. 71% of UK companies with e-Commerce revenues over £50 million use customised solutions, while only 14% use packaged solutions.

Businesses with e-Commerce revenues less than £1 million are much more likely to use packaged solutions (41%).

The survey also revealed that mobile e-Commerce functionality is seen as the most important feature in an e-Commerce solution. 59% of respondents said they saw this feature as ‘critical’, followed by high-quality search functionality (54%) and product management (53%).

More Than 72,000 Sites Still At Risk of Magento Security Bug

A potentially devastating security flaw in the Magento e-Commerce platform has been exposed by online security firm Check Point.

As V3 reported last month, the ‘Shoplift’ bug puts thousands of stores at risk of security attacks and data thefts. Check Point informed Magento of the security loophole earlier this year, and Magento issued a patch to fix the problem in February.

This means brands that use the up-to-date version of Magento should not be at risk. However, according to Byte, there are still a whopping 72,088 sites running the vulnerable version of the platform (as of 1pm today).

Graph showing sites still affected by Shoplift bug.

Number of sites still affected by the Shoplift bug. Source: Byte.

Check Point’s malware and vulnerability research manager Shahar Tal said:

As online shopping continues to overpower in-store shopping, e-commerce sites are increasingly targeted by hackers as they have become a gold mine for credit card information.

“The vulnerability we uncovered represents a significant threat not to just one store, but to all of the retail brands that use the Magento platform for their online stores, which represents about 30% of the e-commerce market.”

Check Point advised all Magento users to apply the February fix as soon as possible. You can check if your site is running the vulnerable version using this tool.

More e-Commerce News and Advice

Read our last e-Commerce news roundup: UK e-Commerce Growth Slows, But Travel Sector Skyrockets

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About the author:

Richard Plant joined ClickThrough marketing as a Web Design and Conversion Specialist at the beginning of 2015. He has over 10 years’ experience in Sales and Marketing working with companies such as Groupon, Computershare, Fitness First and Npower. He spends (too much) spare time building home theatre PCs and can be found on a weekend shouting at the TV during Aston Villa Games.