Lost in Transaction: How Retailers Can Build a Better Mobile Environment

November 7, 2014 Bohdan Zabawskyj


There’s no question that consumers love their smartphones—and they’re using them to shop. In the U.S., more than 58% of consumers own a smartphone, and mobile commerce grew 24% from 2012 to 2013, compared to a 16% growth in e-commerce. Mobile commerce sales topped $10.6 billion in the first half of 2013 and could surpass $25 billion by the end of the year, according to comScore.


But there are troubling signs about the effectiveness of today’s mobile retail experience. In a survey by U.K.-based MoPowered, 79% of respondents said shopping on a mobile device is slow and difficult to navigate. And according to California-based Jumio, nearly half (47%) of mobile shoppers failed to complete a purchase because the checkout process took too long.


What’s behind these lost transactions? A key factor is that many retailers are applying techniques from e-commerce (that is, a desktop or laptop environment) to mCommerce, and these practices don’t necessarily transfer well to a mobile platform. With 15% of all online traffic now coming through mobile, it is essential that retailers build a better mCommerce experience.


Understanding mobile consumers

Creating a compelling user experience begins with understanding the mobile consumer. Primarily, mobile shoppers are trying to perform simple but important tasks that are quick and tactical, such as calling up an app to find a store location or comparing prices. It’s important to keep in mind these tasks are performed in potentially hectic environment—not to mention done with one thumb.

In contrast, online users at home tend to be more patient and perform tasks of a more in-depth, research-oriented nature. The experience is immersive and involves longer periods of time spent online. Typical tasks include researching products and services, reading reviews, or weekly menu planning.

How to build a better mobile experience A successful mobile experience will embody a number of user-centric attributes.


Personalization and Localization

As Marshall McLuhan famously said, “the medium is the message,” and in a mobile context, the medium is personal and intimate, it’s always on, it’s local and it’s social. That means everything that’s presented to mobile consumers has to be relevant in terms of their location, preferences, established usage and purchase patterns. A screen that is not tuned to a given user will inevitably result in a negative experience with the brand.

Immediacy and Control

Mobile users definitely have the need for speed. Two out of three mobile shoppers expect sites to load in four seconds or less, according to Strangeloop Networks, and delays can become a huge source of irritation for mobile shoppers. Aside from immediacy, the mobile experience should provide access and control of features and capabilities in a way that seamlessly adapts to the users’ needs.


Mobile technologies that embody these principles in a retail environment provide a rich ground for innovation. Mercatus focuses specifically on the following aspects of the mobile retail experience:


Adaptive Hyper-Localization

Consumers are now able to compare prices, locate a store that offers a better deal, read reviews and more, all while standing within arm’s reach of a product on the shelf. Mobile applications and services can seamlessly adapt their mode of operation to a customer’s location (for example, in-store versus at home). Chain-wide or store-specific promotions and price matching can also be optimized based on a user’s current geographic location or anchor points such as home, work or gym. This effectively allows retailers to achieve “mass customization” by tailoring promotional offers that are relevant to each customer.


Real-Time Loyalty Rewards

There are numerous benefits to virtual loyalty accounts—and it’s not just about saving real estate in a customer’s wallet. Smartphones can enable real-time access to a customer’s loyalty balance and award level status. “Gamification” practices can provide status indicators via progress bars or badges associated with “achievements.” Retailers can also enable the real-time creation of chain-wide, regional, store-specific or ad-hoc (surprise) promotions that can be highly targeted to customers. Loyalty awards can also be used to provide incentives to customers, such as purchasing house brands or using re-usable grocery bags.


Seamless Multi-Screen Support

There is an increasingly diverse assortment of IP-enabled devices, including traditional computers, smartphones, tablets and TVs. For retailers, it’s important to provide seamlessness and synchronization between the devices. For example, an iPad can be used to plan meals and recall recipes. Upon selecting a recipe, an associated cooking video can be played on an IP-enabled TV, while displaying promotional items associated with the recipe on both devices. Consumers can access a customized flyer with targeted items based on their shopping history, chosen recipes and available coupons. They can then select shopping items using their iPad that can be added to a shopping list that would be accessible from their iPhone.


Proceed to Checkout

With these exciting technologies and capabilities, the mobile environment represents a massive opportunity for retailers to provide valuable, relevant and helpful shopping experiences. Aside from enhancing relationships with customers, an optimized mobile experience will ensure those shopping carts don’t get abandoned in the virtual checkout aisle.


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