Econsultancy Report: How to Optimize for Mobile Customer Experience
What do mobile consumers want? The not-so-basic answer to that basic question is the subject of a new report from digital marketing/ecommerce publisher/event producer Econsultancy

The report, “Mobile Experience Trends Briefing,” is subtitled “Key takeaways from Digital Cream London, 2013” and was conducted in association with IBM Tealeaf, that company’s provider of digital customer experience management. The yummy-sounding Digital Cream is a get-together of roundtables on different subjects, held annually in different cities around the world and all operating under what the report called the “Chatham House Rule” -- that is, no comments are attributed to speakers or their companies, in order to encourage participants to speak freely.

Understanding the Mobile Experience

As the report points out, mobile is no longer in the future, but many major brands are still struggling to catch up. Only 57 percent of the top 100 brands had a mobile-optimized site as of January, 2013, a significant improvement over the 37 percent from mid-2012 but still a far cry from universal recognition of mobile’s critical position for marketers.

The report noted that most companies have a poor understanding of how the mobile customer experience differs from other kinds. Only 45 percent of responding companies said they had an “excellent” or “good” understanding of the mobile user experience.

For those that do understand, the report said, a key factor is that mobile customers, especially smartphone users, are task- or intent-oriented, so simplification of the customer journey is paramount.

In addition to knowing the targeted mobile device and when it is used, companies also need to understand the usage habits of the targeted demographic sector. For instance, young mothers tend toward intent-based smartphone use during the day, while affluent males often used iPhones in conjunction with iPads and PCs at work.

The Mobile App vs Site Debate Continues

A key question for companies interested in targeting mobile audiences is whether to spend resources on developing for mobile apps or to optimize their websites for mobile use -- or both. Apps can offer a more focused, higher performing experience, but mobile app development can also be more resource-intensive than sites.

The report noted that mobile sites are still favored, because of the additional expense of creating apps, plus the perceptions that few apps are used more than once and that many have bugs. A recent report from Forrester also pointed to higher abandonment levels of mobile apps by users, the limited number of apps that users will download, and users’ low tolerance for any mobile app bugs.

Similarly, the in-a-rush mobile user gets impatient with e-commerce, leading to high cart abandonment rates. Just this week, for instance, Google announced it would offer the ability to sync payment and shipping information across devices through its Chrome browser which, it said, could cut the average 21 steps to buy something on a smartphone to 3, thus dramatically reducing the high cart abandonment rates among mobile users.

There are a host of other issues with mobile ecommerce, of course, including “showrooming,” where users look at products in a store and then shop online (often while in the store). And, again, different demographics, devices and times of day affect buying patterns. Good news includes indications that coupons and vouchers often work more effectively on mobile devices than with their paper counterparts.

Best Practices for Mobile Experience

The report also looks briefly at mobile-targeted advertising and many other technical and behavioral challenges for mobile marketing, such as connectivity speeds, the crowded marketplace of online app stores and device display issues.

Best practice tips included research (know your customer, build your strategy around their behavior, get top level support within your company for your efforts) and usability (thumb-friendly buttons, single customer views and incentives), followed by very brief case studies of Amazon’s mobile website, Starbuck’s apps and others.

As the report indicates, mobile experience optimization is significantly more complex to assess and prescribe than website optimization, because of the range of device capabilities, platforms, screen sizes, connectivity speeds, and the behavioral variation based on user type and conditions of use. Although dozens of observations in the report could use much more description and detail -- the downside of a briefing -- the report serves as a good introduction to computing’s new center of gravity.

Photo courtesy of violetkiapa (Shutterstock)