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The June 2017 research study from UserTesting on the retail mobile customer experience found that consumers expect a seamless online shopping experience no matter what device they use. Success in providing that exceptional experience for mobile shoppers involves making it as easy as possible.
That means very little effort on the consumers’ part to get to what they want and complete their purchases. That also means a lot of work for retailers who have not necessarily all made the changes necessary to provide such an incredible mobile experience for their customers.
The Winners And Losers At Mobile UX
The report included a study of the mobile web user experiences (UX) of eight of the top Fortune 100 retailers. These retailers included Best Buy, Costco, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Macy’s, Target, TJ Maxx, and Walmart. They were evaluated on the factors that make up a mobile website experience, including ease of use, speed, credibility, aesthetics, and delight.
Coming out on top were Best Buy, The Home Depot, and Target. These companies scored high on all five UX factors, but they outperformed the other retailers on ease of use, speed, and aesthetics because these were the factors that enabled online shoppers to quickly find what they wanted to buy.
On the other side of the user experience, Costco and Walmart were the two lowest-rated retailers in this mobile retail study. They were identified as needing better transparency around pricing and shipping. The retailers also could improve the mobile experience by reducing the information shoppers are required to provide in order to complete their purchase.
The mobile user experience is a top priority for these retailers because of the amount of potential revenue involved in direct online sales and offline revenue. The study noted that mobile sales totaled over $60 billion in 2016 while mobile interactions influenced $1.05 trillion in offline sales. With the available potential that mobile retail holds and the proven strategy of offering a frictionless purchase path with seamless integration into omnichannel shopping, why is mobile CX still so challenging?
The Challenges Of Mobile CX
There are a number of challenges remain, according to those who study the environment, including Brian Smith, VP of Marketing of UserTesting. “Increasing customer expectations make attaining a delightful mobile customer experience extremely challenging. In a world dominated by mobile-first companies like Uber and Lyft, retailers are playing catch up. Even if they’re dedicating more and more resources to mobile shopping experiences, leading retailers are at a distinct disadvantage. They have a legacy bricks and mortar model and so many customer touchpoints.”
Having these systems makes it hard for leading retailers to transition to a new world where customer expectations are constantly shifting. However, Smith noted that the transition is possible if these retailers put their customers at the center of everything they do, understand the needs of those customers, and iterate and innovate.
He referenced the thoughts of Amazon leader Jeff Bezos who wrote about the advantages of a customer-centric approach in his letter to shareholders. Bezos noted that customers will always want something better but may not even realize it. The desire to delight customers can drive a retailer to reinvent themselves to address that.
Part of this ongoing dissatisfaction among consumers may be their changing preferences about where they want to research, shop, and buy. Sometimes they just research via their mobile phones but want to finish the sale in the store while other experiences a completely through their mobile devices. This leaves a retailer unsure how they can be customer-centric if they aren’t even sure where to reach them and when.
Bricks & Mortar May Not Be Down For The Count…Yet
Backing up the multiple personalities of shopping with today’s consumer is a report from Forrester Research that found that sales completed through mobile phones are still only a small percentage of retail sales. In a summary of the findings, Julie Ask, Vice President of Forrester wrote,
Mobile phone sales (excluding tablets) topped $60 billion in 2016, but that’s nothing compared to the $1.05 trillion in offline sales that mobile phones influenced.”
Others like Smith from UserTesting agree that the brick and mortar environment is not dead. He explained, “According to many estimates, 90% of commerce takes place offline. Yet, the landscape is changing dramatically so brands need to track this evolution.
It’s more complex than retailers can imagine. While we’ve seen advancements, such as in-store availability properly reflected across channels and Buy Online, Pick Up in Store (BOPUS), retailers have to consider everything from chatbots and voice search to Instagram sales channels and how to tie all of those experiences together in a seamless way. This will take some time to figure out.”
Smith did see opportunity in this evolution. Brands can powerfully connect with their customers at the right time and in the right way. That could be on a mobile website, iPhone App, Android App, a desktop computer, and in a store. It could be at home through Amazon Echo, Google Home. or all of the above.
Andrew Alexander, President of Red Roof Inn sees brick and mortar as an evolving concept. “There will always be a mix of consumers who have different needs based on age, demographics, geography and a number of other metrics. Brands now have the added challenge of marketing and selling in traditional ways to core consumers who are comfortable with those traditional methods while also branching out to meet the demands of mobile influences on the market. The brands who effectively cover all of those bases will win in today’s competitive, mobile-driven market.” Versatility is a critical strategic approach to a winning mobile customer experience.
Still, others feel that brick and mortar is headed for the grave. According to Julie Cary, CMO of La Quinta Inns & Suites, “I believe mobile will eventually become the dominant form of purchasing as the experience improves. However, in the near term, I see more interaction happening between brick and mortar and mobile as geo-location technology continues to improve. Brick and mortar will have to continue to evolve as well and create experiences that drive emotional connections with customers.”
Retailers Weigh In On The Mobile Customer Experience
Retailers are also starting to better understand the importance of focusing on their mobile customer experiences. Deborah Wahl, former CMO of McDonald’s USA, noted that the mobile experiences take diligence and patience because it is a process of continual improvement that should be handled by a dedicated team. She explained, “Too often, direction comes down from the top or consultants that are focused on a quick fix.
However, the best UX comes from diligent attention to what the consumer wants and consistent change to make that happen. Also necessary is an agile platform that can be changed fast enough to respond to the learnings from the customer.”
Wahl said one of the critical issues that need to be addressed is the inefficient development of the digital supply chain. This has led to bad content, fraud, lack of transparency and intermediaries that don’t provide value. By cleaning this up and providing great content with confirmed measurement and transparency, more investment will move into the channel. She explained that the improvement in efficiency would also help retailers adapt to the rapid fire change that is occurring with customer habits.
Hospitality Brands Feel The Need For Mobile
It has to be more than just recognizing the importance of the mobile user experience. According to Alexander, “There’s a huge financial investment and time commitment to create a seamless, user-friendly mobile platform. Red Roof has found that through obsessively listening to our guests and performing exhaustive consumer research the number of consumers who want to make purchases on their smart phones is exponentially increasing.”
Red Roof just completed a refreshed, redesigned mobile-driven website to make it easier than ever for travelers to go from road to pillow. While hotels have made the physical facades at their properties look quite nice to enhance their “mobile curb appeal,” brands like Red Roof realized that their website is an additional front door. With 62% of their traffic coming from mobile, changes became the priority.
They also found that they had to address this need for mobile speed so customers can now book a room on their site in as little as three taps on their smartphones. Alexander added, “We also have developed an Along-a-Route feature that uses patent-pending geo-location technology to locate where travelers are headed and provide them with properties directly along their route so they don’t have to waste time searching themselves. In addition to the new features and design, we have drastically increased Google page speed, so a fast and easy process takes even less time, a key expectation of consumers.”
La Quinta is another hotel brand spending more on their mobile strategy. It has strategically invested in a new app to drive personalized engagement with its La Quinta Returns members. Cary stated, “The redesigned app gives members easy access to the innovative features along with simplified searching for and booking a room. It includes features like Instant Free Nights, which is an industry first. Members can use their mobile phone at check-in to redeem points for a free night. Also, with a tap of a mobile phone, members can check-out of their room using Mobile Checkout.”
She also noted another industry first known as Redeem Away!, which allows members to redeem points on the go for lots of everyday purchases like restaurant meals, groceries, and online bookstores. They can do this by linking an eligible Visa credit card and mobile phone number to their La Quinta Returns account. After the member makes a qualifying in-store or online purchase with the linked Visa credit card, a text notification is immediately sent to the member’s mobile phone, inviting the member to redeem points for that purchase.
Getting Delight Right And Other Metrics
Delight is perhaps the most elusive mobile UX attribute as the central factor of exceeding expectations. It’s also more difficult to define and measure than other factors. That’s because purely numerical research struggles to quantify this attribute. However, Smith suggested that his company is able to reliably assess customer reactions on formerly nebulous concepts like delight. For retailers that want to ensure that they are addressing this expectation, they will need to explore more ways to assess the degree of delight they are putting into their customer experiences and adjust accordingly.
Beyond those user experience factors previously noted, Wahl added other metrics like audience, attribution and place-based accountability that retailers should track if they want to tap the mobile potential. While Red Roof doesn’t have an app, the top five metrics they measure as indicators of their mobile site performance include transactions and revenue, mobile conversion rate, bounce rate, the number of sessions, and page speed.
LaQuinta uses KPIs related to mobile include traffic, conversion, revenue, booking value and progression through the site. Their app metrics include downloads, active users, engagement, ratings, and reviews. In looking at all these metrics, it’s clear that the experience user has is what links all these metrics together.
Is There Really Any Other Type Of Marketing?
In looking at Gen Z, it may well be that there may be only this kind of marketing that a retailer can even do to get their attention. That means changing now while there is still time to get in front of these digital natives. In looking at usage and how retailers are now responding, there is no doubt that mobile purchasing is going to continue to grow and be an increasingly integral part of the marketing mix.
Mobile growth is also predicted to be fueled by artificial intelligence, machine learning, and location technology like beacons. Mobile experiences will be made more seamless, relevant and useful when those mobile moments are contextualized and powered by AI and voice.
As Cary concluded, “Consumer expectations will continue to drive brands to innovate faster and there will be less tolerance for not delivering exactly what was asked or sought. I see experiences where brands anticipate needs before the customer does and makes the experience so relevant, easy and delightful that mobile will become the dominant form of interaction.”
While today’s brands that have yet to jump on board don’t qualify for the mobile-first moniker, they shouldn’t hold out for the mobile-last one either.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.