Iman Sadreddin, Senior Director of Ecommerce Development at NetSuite
With over 60% of total online retail sales expected to be made via mobile by 2019, mobile content and commerce continue to present opportunities and challenges for all retailers. In recent years, we have redesigned how our mobile ecommerce sites are laid out and rendered to ensure consumers receive the best possible service on-the-go. These revisions have been necessary as demonstrated by brands such as O’Neill Clothing which experienced a 600% revenue increase from going responsive. However, I would argue, the most adopted approach by far has been on developing a one-size-fits-all mobile shopping experience.
We need only to consider the very different ways in which individual consumers use their smartphones to realise that applying a single focus design paradigm to improving customers’ mobile experiences is at odds with what is happening in the real world. We all use our smartphones at home, at work, on our commutes and other travels. In fact, the devices are always close at hand 24 hours a day. By contrast, if we also own a tablet, we typically use that mobile device as a replacement or stand-in for our desktop and laptop computers, so our tablets are not consistently on our person or in our immediate vicinity.
Mobile Experiences: At-Rest versus On-the-Move
I think we can roughly divide up smartphone commerce usage into two mobile experiences: ‘at-rest mobile’ and ‘on-the-move mobile.’ In the at-rest scenario, an individual is using their smartphone, but they’re not in motion; typically, they’re relaxing at home. They might be looking to buy products online, but more often than not they’re browsing websites to research and compare products and they’re not under any kind of purchasing deadline. In the on-the-move scenario, an individual is using their smartphone while they are in motion; they may be walking, in the car, or on public transport. Their intent to buy tends to be sharper and more focused. They may already be on their way to make a purchase at a brick-and-mortar store or, since they are in motion, they may be willing to make a quick detour for an opportunistic purchase at a nearby store.
For now, our answer as retailers to the two very different mobile scenarios – at-rest and on-the-move – is one non-specific mobile environment. I believe we now need to focus on developing the next level of mobile customer engagement, what I like to call ‘intent web design.’ This new approach draws a direct correlation between a customer’s purchasing intent, in other words, their readiness to buy your products, with how they are using their smartphones.
Let’s compare and contrast the different types of mobile experiences required by an at-rest mobile user versus an on-the-move peer. There are strong distinctions between the at-rest user with more time at their disposal to educate themselves on products and the on-the-move user with limited time and either intent on making a purchase or more likely to be influenced into buying a product (see Table 1). What we always have to keep in mind is that losing that on-the-move mobile user can happen very quickly if they encounter any kind of obstacle to purchase from a slow-loading website to an overly cluttered website.
Table 1: At-Rest vs. On-the-Move Mobile Experience Requirements
Determining a Smartphone User’s Intent to Purchase
Yet, how do we determine if a mobile user is “on the move” or “at rest?” We may want to engage directly with smartphone users and ask ‘Are you on the move right now?’ and then present them with special, limited-time offers at stores in their immediate vicinity. Alternatively, we may wish to take a more indirect approach and simply inquire as to the kind of mobile experience a user thinks they need, for example, ‘Do you want to download our native mobile app now?’
We can also mine a variety of technologies to infer information about a smartphone user’s intent to purchase including their GPS location, the IP address they’re using, how they reached our ecommerce site, and what content they’re accessing on our website. We may also look to apply predictive analytics to previous customer data such as website visit histories to uncover and identify types of customer behaviour signaling intent to purchase.
All ecommerce retailers must start thinking seriously about customer intent to purchase, which should become a key design point for the next mobile experiences we serve up to smartphone users visiting our websites. We must ask ourselves when and how our sites should respond differently to at-rest window shoppers versus on-the-move committed buyers. We also need to identify which signals in smartphone users’ online behaviour are the strongest indicators of willingness to buy our products and then what we can do to amplify those signals and convert them into sales. Most importantly of all, we must improve the level of engagement with smartphone users so that we can serve them the most personalised, localised, and time-sensitive offers based on their intent. By building mobile experiences that can quickly pick up on and are attuned to shifts in customer intent to buy, we can provide significant improvements in usability for our customers. This in turn could translate into increases in customer retention and sales of our products.
If we are able to do that, the results might be greater than we expect. Shoppers are already asking for those adjustments to happen as highlighted by Cognizant’s annual Shopper Experience Study. Indeed, 62% of shoppers agree that it is important that the company offering their favourite products/services communicate with them through the method of their choice and 44% of respondents believed that their experience across various touch points, such as online, in-store and on social media is important in forming an overall opinion about a product. Competitive advantage is clearly up for grabs!
About the Author
By Iman Sadreddin, Senior Director of Ecommerce Development at NetSuite, a leading provider of cloud-based omnichannel software that helps retailers transform commerce by seamlessly connecting every step of the business—ecommerce, POS, CRM, order management, inventory, merchandising, marketing, financials and customer service.