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With our growing need to become more mobile than ever, it’s no surprise that mobile device sales are through the roof.

In fact, more tablets were sold per day in the last quarter of 2013 (854,000) than there were babies born per day (approx. 370,000).

This rise in mobile sales is no coincidence, and businesses need to understand exactly how their consumers are using mobile and how it ultimately impacts sales.

Mobile consumers are task-oriented – unlike online or in-store consumers, they are much less likely to spend time browsing for products and services and are more likely to log on to sites with a purpose to buy.

As such, businesses need to ensure they provide an easy, quick and consistent mobile user experience to ensure their customers remain loyal.

Understand the customer struggle

Customers have extremely high expectations of their mobile experiences despite the relative immaturity of the platform. Mobile customers who experience a less-than-satisfying shopping experience are less forgiving than other consumers.

Recent research from Harris Interactive found that if they do encounter problems, 16% admit they would become more likely to buy from a competitor, while 13% would abandon the transaction altogether and try a competitor’s website or app instead.

Therefore, understanding the mobile user experience and ensuring it is up to scratch has never been more vital.

According to our recent research with Econsultancy, the proportion of businesses that feel they have an excellent or good understanding of the mobile user experience has almost doubled, from just 18%  in 2012 to 30% in 2013. 

How companies rate their understanding of the mobile user experience (compared to the overall online customer experience):

Just 5% of companies rate their understanding as poor. But while the understanding of their mobile customers has increased in the last year, businesses still have a long way to go when it comes to addressing customer issues and adapting to their needs.  

The most serious issues faced by consumers visiting e-commerce sites via mobile devices are screen-sizing issues as well as bad navigation and poor ‘findability’ issues.

Organisations need to ensure they are addressing all their customers’ struggles to ensure they are providing the best possible mobile experience.

Here are three top tips businesses should take on board to achieve this:

1. Make the interface user-friendly

The user interface is by far one of the biggest things that will impact a customer’s mobile shopping experience.

It’s the first thing they see when they enter the site. Many businesses make common mistakes such as not accounting for size/width of an average customer’s finger, making mobile users fill out long forms, not accounting for various device widths, or making pages non-zoomable.

Although mobile is a big business priority for organisations, just two in five companies said they use mobile-specific development platforms or toolkits to improve the presentation and performance of mobile-optimised sites.

Customers usually look to mobile shopping as an easier and more convenient alternative to shopping in store and online, so the ease-of-use of a mobile site or app plays a significant role in brand loyalty.

As such, businesses must ensure the extra time and money invested in mobile also goes towards improving the infrastructure of mobile-optimised sites and apps.

2. Listen to your customers and adapt

Knowing what makes customers tick can be tricky, but thanks to the internet and social media, customers have lots of ways of telling you, and everyone else, what they are and are not happy with. 

If they have a bad experience, they are more likely to vent their frustrations on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, which can be hugely detrimental to a brand's name. In the digital age, reducing the customer struggle has never been more vital.

Approaches such as online surveys, app store reviews, social media listening tools, usability heat maps and digital customer experience replay are all effective in understanding in near real-time exactly how your customers feel and what they think about the customer experience you provide.

Businesses must be open to learning and adapting their mobile customer experience based on customers’ views.

3. Be consistent across every channel

Consistency across all channels is vital. There is nothing more annoying for customers than when they switch from a website to a mobile app or site and cannot quickly and easily navigate through it, or lose the items they ‘saved’ when switching between channels.

It is vital that the user interface across these channels are similar to not only give customers a much more consistent experience, but to also enable them to easily familiarise themselves with the business’ brand and sites.

Businesses should also integrates channels to provide customers with a single, top-quality customer experience. For example, many customers prefer to research products on their mobile devices for a later purchase, so businesses should consider allowing them to save a list of favourite products or services that could be accessed via any connected device for booking later.

In addition, businesses should remove the clutter, advertisements, and any other irrelevant information for mobile apps. Consider the most important things consumers need to do or find through your mobile experience and provide enough information for them to complete those tasks on the go.

Customer expectations have increased vastly since the dawn of ecommerce, and mobile customers are no exception. M-commerce is seen as a quicker, easier and more convenient alternative to other shopping channels, and mobile customers are not tolerant of anything less than that.

While many businesses have admitted that investment in mobile is a big priority for them this year, they need to ensure they are listening to what customers want, and are investing in the right areas of the mobile experience.

Getting the mobile customer experience right can open up a number of doors for businesses across their other channels.


Published 28 March, 2014 by Bill Loller

Bill Loller is Vice President, Mobile at IBM and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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