A2B? Why NOT!

December 3, 2019

When we started Dotter back in 2012, we were all about Add To Basket (A2B) because it was new and cool and, we thought, offered users a simple way to add products to their weekly shop without having to leave the website where they were conducting their product research.

So we were perplexed to see, from the data, that uptake was poor and conversions were appalling!

“Why is that?” we wondered.  This is what we discovered, and why we consigned the concept of A2B to the technical rubbish dump.

Users are bombarded with posts about cyber security

Every day, more and more stories emerge about password hacks or cyber scams and people are becoming more aware about password usage and internet security in general.  Everyone knows someone who got scammed or had their account hacked and shoppers are more savvy about how they handle their private data...and who they trust with it.

A2B requires users to input their username and password for {retailer.com} into an application on a 3rd-party brand site {brand.com}.  Most are simply unwilling to take that risk now, especially since their retailer account contains payment card information and their personal data, but many more simply don’t remember their passwords anymore because they use password managers that will only respond to the original {retailer.com} domain.

This user drop-off at signin was the first alert we received that something was seriously wrong.  In a 12 month a/b split test on a major FMCG brand, where half of users were presented with A2B and half offered Deep Link to {retailer.com}, we saw the following alarming (where Add to Basket is concerned) results:


The underlying concept is, sadly, flawed

We thought we were great, being one of the first out of the gate with A2B, but there is a significant issue that never gets discussed by those in the biz...

A2B works by opening a connection in the background to a headless browser that visits {retailer.com} on your behalf while you sit waiting, on {brand.com}, for the transaction to complete.  We called this a “digital concierge service”.

The digital concierge logs into your {retailer.com} account (with the username and password you provided in the app), visits the pages of the products you selected and clicks the “Add to Basket” button on your behalf.  But there are 4 major issues with this approach that need to be made clear:

  1. Speed - this process takes time.  Especially if the user is adding multiple products in a single transaction.  Adimo has a demo video on it’s website that shows a user adding a single product to Asda that takes a full 25 seconds to complete - and the video appears to be sped up too.  That’s insane!

  2. Did it work? - The problem with this background approach is that the digital concierge is adding products to {retailer.com} in a different browser session to the user.  So when they visit the retailer’s website, especially if they are constantly signed in by default, the added products will not appear in the basket.
    Only when you sign out and back in again will you see your added items.  This is a very confusing experience for most shoppers.

  3. Is it even in stock? - When A2B applications first present the user with price and availability details at their selected retailer, this is taken from data at {retailer.com} in an unsigned-in state.
    But as soon as the user signs into their account, the retailer is able to check availability at their local distribution center and the products that they previously thought were in-stock may, now, be suddenly unavailable.  Again, this leads to a very frustrating user experience and confidence is lost.

  4. Dead ends! - The digital concierge is just a script running on a server somewhere.  It knows the steps required to login, visit the product page, find the quantity selector and click the “Add to Basket” button.
    But what happens if the retailer decides to add a step?  Perhaps they introduce a promotion which requires some special user intervention that the script doesn’t know about or some products require an age verification popup to be completed.  Well...the script fails and the user gets an error.  It happens all the time.

You’re alienating 92% of your potential customers

The UK is one of the most advanced e-commerce markets in the world when it comes to grocery shopping.  This is because of its condensed geography, leading to ease of delivery for nearly all retailers.

But still only 8% of consumers do their grocery shopping online.  Most of us are incapable of planning all our meals for the week ahead of time and fall back to going to the supermarket whenever we run out of some special ingredient.  Some of us even enjoy the supermarket experience and seek inspiration by browsing the aisles and shelves for something tasty for dinner.  This isn’t so easy online.

Your customer is visiting your website to research your product before making a purchase.  The 3 pieces of information that are missing from most brand sites are:

  1. How much is it?
  2. Where can I get it?
  3. Are there any deals on?

That means that 92% of shoppers visiting your site, at a critical point in the path to purchase, will get a reduced experience if you force A2B functionality on them.  They will be forced to leave your site to get to {retailer.com} and perform a search which will include all of your competitor’s products alongside your own.

So what do we recommend?

Dotter’s approach is to give your users the information they really want regarding price, offers and availability in a simple and clear UX with all the data they need to make a choice, on or offline.


Then we drive them directly to the product page at their chosen retailer to complete their purchase without any of the competitor noise, or show them the nearest available retailer to their current location where they can buy your products.

Then, where available, we track their journey through the retailer to report back on completed purchases in our live reporting dashboard.

And all of this is available to 100% of your site visitors.

To find out more about how we can help ease your customers down the path to purchase, contact theteam@dotter.me.