The mobile tipping point and what it means for customer experience online

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Wind the clock back twenty years or to the early days of e-commerce. Back then, if you were accessing the internet and perhaps tentatively buying your first CD or book, the chances are you were using a desktop PC. Jump forward fifteen years – lets say to about 2010 – and you are much more likely to be browsing and buying via a laptop.

And today? Well, according to the 2015 Communications Market Report from UK regulator Ofcom, the smartphone has superseded the laptop. The report finds that for 33% of consumers, the smartphone is the most popular device for going online compared with 30% who prefer their trusty laptops. Just a year earlier 40% of respondents favoured the laptop against just 22% of mobile-first users.  

Of course, you could argue that the popularity of social media is the key driver here. Consumers who constantly check their Facebook and Twitter feeds naturally gravitate to smartphones simply because they represent a convenient way to post and connect with friends and followers at any time. However, the survey also finds that transactional activity is on the rise, with 26% of consumers saying they make purchases via their phones. It’s a number that will surely rise.

This has huge significance for online retailers. As customers become more accustomed not only to browsing but also to transacting on their smartphones, the volume of business attributable to mobile commerce continues to spike upwards.

The mobile experience

And this means that merchants must begin to think seriously about the experience of their mobile customers.

Think of it this way. The way a customer experiences a website depends to a greater or lesser extent on the device being used and the browser. That said, with their comparable screen sizes and physical keyboards, desktop and laptop PCs offer a broadly similar experience. Things begin to change more radically when customers access the web via tablets, but it’s the smartphone that probably has the greatest impact on what the user sees and how he or she interacts with the site. 

The conversion barriers

The user is, of course, looking at a much smaller slice of on-screen real estate and that presents some genuine but certainly not insurmountable challenges. Certainly ease of navigation has to be a priority when a site is rendered on a mobile screen, but that won’t necessarily be a problem assuming the search box and key links are clearly visible.

However, when a website is rendered on a 4, 5 or 6 inch screen certain hidden barriers to conversion can occur.

For instance, it may be that the potential customer easily finds a product but the “click to purchase” button is located off screen. Yes it can be reached by scrolling down but if the visitor doesn’t know it is there he or she may simply give up.

Equally a registration form that is easy to complete on a PC with a physical keyboard may well be cumbersome on a mobile device.  

Honing a mobile site

So it’s vitally important to detect and remedy any problems that prevent people from converting, not only when a site is launched or updated but throughout its lifetime. UserReplay provides an effective way to identify and rectify problems on an ongoing basis. The UserReplay solution allows web businesses to record and replay customer journeys, including those of a mobile customer. When a journey is replayed, site managers and technicians can follow individual journeys page-by-page, experiencing the site as the customer experiences it.

In practice, that means the site operators can see where the customer hits barriers and why. Equally important, you can understand the impact of this barrier on conversion rates and revenue. For instance, if a button is off the visible area of the screen, it will be apparent how many customers find it and how many bail out. And if it has been established this has a high impact on sales, remedial work to address it can be prioritised. Mobile commerce is now mainstream internet commerce. UserReplay provides a means to optimise the mobile experience.


Photo: Johann Larsson/flickr cc