Any online businesses planning a mobile strategy will have wrestled with the pros and cons of mobile apps and mobile websites. But for me, the most interesting discussion point is not the technical merits of both, but the importance of customer experience in defining mobile strategy.
The simple fact is that consumers really don’t care how you deliver your mobile strategy as long as it works and provides a hassle-free experience. Online businesses that want to claim a slice of the rapidly growing billion dollar m-commerce pie must wake up to the fact that customers have sky-high expectations. So putting their needs first is essential.
First impressions matter
Consumers make no allowances for poor customer experiences on mobile devices, despite the relative newness of the technology. A recent Harris Interactive survey, commissioned by Tealeaf, showed that consumers are an unforgiving bunch, with 75 percent believing there is no reason why a mobile transaction should fail to complete on the first attempt.
So, what does this mean for a company planning a mobile strategy? Consider these five points from your customers’ point of view before you get started:
1) More than just a phone
The most important factor to keep in mind is the plethora of devices that can fall under the “mobile” banner. So how do you ensure a positive online experience for customers using any mobile device? Ecommerce businesses will often develop a mobile-optimised website as a quick fix, but does this really provide the best possible online experience for customers?
Why not develop an app? Often an app that has been specifically created for a particular device will be rigorously tested and will ensure a good online experience, but consistency of experience is a potential problem here too. Do you develop an app for the iPhone now but leave your Android customers waiting a further six months? Do you offer the app for free or have a tiered pricing structure for different devices?
For customers, it is simple; they just want the process they are trying to complete to work, no matter what platform or device they are using.
2) Maximising functionality
Mobile devices are a lot smaller than traditional devices such as laptops and desktop computers and have varied input mechanisms, such as touchscreen displays.
Optimising your site or your app for touchscreen input or making sure users don’t have to scroll too much when searching for information on a small screen is vital to ensuring there is a good mobile customer experience.
This isn’t just about matching the experience customers will receive on a desktop though; it’s about enhancing it. For example, my bank in the US now allows me to use my iPhone camera to take photos of cheques and pay them in through the app itself. That’s a great experience and one that really makes me value the brand.
3) Location, location, location
Another area on which to focus is where your customers will be when they visit your mobile website or app. Mobile naturally lends itself to scenarios where customers are on the move, which has an impact on the type of actions they might want to complete.
For example, a retail customer might want to check prices on mobile websites while in-store before making a purchase. Or he might download a discount voucher when out and about using an app. Location can be a major driver in altering customer expectations.
4) Multichannel means multidevice
Thanks to the ubiquity of mobile, many of us now have a number of internet-enabled devices we use on a daily basis; in fact, ABI Research predicts that in 2012, half of all UK adults will have a smartphone, never mind the growing tablet market and other new products launching on the market.
This presents a challenge for ecommerce businesses. Consumers are already adopting a multidevice approach—perhaps browsing for a product on a tablet or smartphone but completing the transaction on a desktop, through the contact centre or in a traditional bricks-and-mortar store.
The mobile experience must therefore take into account the fact that a consumer may access the same site or brand on a number of different devices.
5) Visibility into typical customer struggles
Mobile apps and mobile websites both present specific challenges and opportunities that will greatly influence the customer experience. So it is essential that, once the mobile strategy is up and running, the business has visibility into what its customers are doing on mobile devices so the site or app being used can be optimised on an ongoing basis.
Rather than seeing mobile as a threat to sales through other channels, e-retailers need to gain insight into how mobile fits into the overall customer experience. The best way to achieve this is by understanding how customers actually use the channel.
Onwards and upwards
No matter which route you go down, this remains a very dynamic, emerging ecosystem. With functionality and features changing on a regular basis, keeping up with customer demand will be a challenge and will require a more agile approach to ecommerce.
But, no matter what the technology throws at us, there is one underlying rule that will keep all online businesses on the right track; if your mobile strategy serves the needs of your customers, you can’t go far wrong.
Geoff Galat is chief marketing officer at Tealeaf, a provider of customer experience management technology for website, mobile and online channel optimisation.
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