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With predictions of further growth for mobile commerce this Christmas, it's more important than ever that retailers tailor the user experience for smartphones.
IMRG predicts that UK consumers will spend about £4.6bn online in the two weeks up to December 17, and that £920m of that is expected to go through smartphones and tablets.
This example, from Cath Kidston, shows how a poor mobile experience will lose sales for retailers during the Christmas shopping season and beyond...
Site has not been optimised for mobile users
Simply load the site up on a mobile, and you can see the problem. Menus are hard to read, and some serious zooming is required to actually click on anything.
At this stage, many mobile users will bail to save themselves the hassle.
Online shoppers don't want to see error messages. It erodes trust. If there is a big error message across the site, why would they risk entering their credit card details?
It says something like 'sorry, there's an error on the xml package. Please contact your technical support...'. A definite conversion killer.
Dodgy drop-down menus
The drop-downs work well enough on the desktop site, but here they won't go away, meaning that they obsure the first few products.
Site search doesn't work
I have no idea why, but I just cannot use Cath Kidson's site search on mobile. It just won't let me enter any text.
As site search is a valuable shortcut for users, and even more important on mobile to save time, this is a serious usability flaw.
Poor product page images
On the desktop site, Cath Kidston has a useful zoom tool which allows you to see details of products and patterns:
No such luck on mobile. There's no zoom tool, or alternate images, so it's hard to get a feel for the product. Also, text on delivery charges, size guides etc is hard to read without zooming in.
No guest checkout option
Customers don't like having to register before checkout. A recent Econsultancy study found that a quarter of online consumers would abandon a purchase if they were forced to register first.
It's a major barrier to purchase on mobile as it means more work for the shopper and, especially on a non-mobile site, more fiddly zooming in and out to fill in forms.
Terrible password reset process
A common problem with forced registration is that you may have shopped on a site before and therefore have an account linked to your email address, yet you have forgotten the password.
This is an issue which a guest checkout option would solve. As it is, Cath Kidston compounds the problem with a fidlly password reset process.
First of all, you enter email address and try to guess the password. Perhaps it's the one you use for all of your online shopping?
If not, then you're in for some pain. First of all, it deletes the one you just entered with the wrong password, meaning you have to type it all over again:
Then, you have to open up your email and wait for the reset password. It's a jumble of letters and symbols which you couldn't possibly remember, so let's hope your phone has copy and paste:
Then, just to add another (unnecessary) step to the process, you need to change your password again as soon as you have entered the one you were sent.
This means entering the gobbledygook password again, then the new one twice.
If your password reset process looks like this, you'd better hope your customers are really keen to buy.
On desktop, regsitration issues aside, it isn't a badly designed checkout process. However, on mobile its hard to read, which means more work for the shopper. Throw in the pain of Verified by Visa, and it's a real challenge.
Yes, you do need a mobile optimised site
There are so many potential pitfalls for the mobile shopper on this site, that I'd be amazed if many smartphone users actually manage to buy anything.
This was pointed out to me by my wife, who made it through so far thanks to some lovely pyjamas, but finally ran out of patience when trying to rest her password.
Let's recap: it's hard to navigate, there are big error messages on the homepage, you have to register to checkout, and the password reset process is nuts.
Perhaps Cath Kidston feels it has no need for a mobile site, but I find that hard to accept. It's a well-known brand, one which probably attracts a slightly wealthier demographic who are likely to use smartphones.
Of course, it'll be easy enough to check analytics to get an idea of the number of mobile visitors, as well as the average conversion rate for these users, which I can't imagine is very high.
This should make the case for a mobile site. It doesn't have to cost much, and even a basic, stopgap site would be better than this.
Mobile commerce is growing, and will continue to grow. Some even predict it will be bigger than desktop by 2015.
If you don't have a mobile optimised website, and your mobile user experience looks that Cath Kidston's then you are missing out on sales.