The Secrets of Mobile Commerce Satisfaction: An Interview with Larry Freed

I had the pleasure of interviewing Larry Freed, president and CEO of customer experience analytics firm ForeSee and author of Innovating Analytics – Word of Mouth Index: How the Next Generation of Net Promoter Can Increase Sales and Drive Business Results (something to ask Santa for if you haven’t read it). ForeSee regularly publishes research on ecommerce and mobile commerce satisfaction, and in today’s post, Larry weighs in on what makes a mobile commerce site excel.

Between 2012 and 2013, responsive design has been a trend. What impact do you believe responsive design has on customer satisfaction, if any?

At ForeSee, we’ve been very much involved in analyzing best practices with regard to responsive design. We define responsive design as the approach a company internally takes to deploy its site across multiple form factors, which is coming from an inward-facing perspective. However, companies need to think about their strategy from the perspective of the end-user and consider what the experience of the customer will be like.

There are three ways or levels to approach deploying across multiple touchpoints. The first is the strategy of providing the same site to everybody on all form factors, which leads to an overall poor experience across platforms, as the design for a web browser won’t translate to the form factor of a smartphone.

The second approach is responsive design, where one site adjusts to the form factor. This can be successful, but still assumes that users of the different devices are visiting the site for the exact same reason. Tablet users may be visiting the site for a completely different purpose than that of a web user. Responsive design by itself does not solve user experience issues, but when done right, it can be a good thing.

Finally, the third and most time intensive — yet valuable — approach is when a company invests in specific sites for each form factor. Again, this considers what tasks or information the user of a smartphone will need versus that of a web user and prioritizes which features are most prominent and easy to access. By tailoring the experience to the end-user, the likelihood of creating a satisfying experience dramatically increases.

What are the key features shared by the most satisfying mobile sites and/or apps?

Based on our research at ForeSee, where we are constantly assessing customer experience through a variety of analytic tools, we have found that the most satisfying mobile sites and apps are those that provide an experience that has been adjusted for the form factor and takes into account what the most important functions will be from a user’s perspective. For instance, a user accessing a hotel’s website from a smartphone will likely have different objectives than a user who is browsing on a desktop computer. The context of the experience is critical, so organizations need to determine what those key functions will be and how they can deliver on them.

What are the big satisfaction killers found on mobile sites?

At ForeSee, we’ve found that one of the worst mistakes companies make is assuming their traditional desktop environments will work well on a mobile device.

The second mistake is being more focused on what the organization wants its users to accomplish versus what the users want to accomplish. If there is a disconnect between the two and the organization implements the site based on internal assumptions, the users will ultimately be dissatisfied.

Finally, the biggest satisfaction killer is not listening to your customers. An organization can’t manage what it doesn’t measure, so it needs to measure all audiences (mobile, web, etc.) in order to better understand customers’ needs and a better chance of offering a successful experience. We’ve been helping our clients to determine the right metrics to use to do this most effectively.

What’s most important leading up to the holidays in mobile satisfaction, merchandising or marketing?

The key objective of mobile marketing is to attract people to the retail environment (be it the store, the website, etc.), which is critical for retailers this holiday season. With this in mind, mobile marketing is going to have a noticeable and significant impact. However, despite the growth, it will only appeal to certain customers. There is a lot of buzz around mobile marketing, but it’s more valuable for the discount shopper – coupons as you’re walking out of the store, pricing strategies designed to fight off showrooming, etc. The key for retailers is to stick to the strategy of the company – a company shouldn’t become a discounter if customers’ brand expectations are different.

Ultimately, as is clear from our research at ForeSee, and which I discuss at length in my book, Innovating Analytics, what determines satisfaction is the customer experience, which could include a combination of merchandising, pricing, site navigation, etc.

Finally, an important aspect of the mobile experience is that mobile technology bridges the gap between the web and the physical store, so consistency across those channels is going to be critical (same product, same price) as well as transparency of availability.

What is it about Amazon that gives it such a high score on mobile?

From product look-up to product reviews, Amazon has a simple to use interface with lots of functionality and a wide range of merchandise. Amazon is very focused on the experience and is determined to improve the experience to meet the customers’ needs, whether the customer is in a competitor’s store and looking on their smartphone or casually browsing or shopping from their couch.

Are customers generally more satisfied by mobile sites or apps?

Generally, apps provide a better experience because they are attuned to the frequent user. The app user is generally more loyal or more committed to the brand because they have taken the time to download the app to their device. They are also more aware of the capabilities of the app so that familiarity generally results in higher satisfaction levels. In short, the app user already has some base-level of satisfaction with the company because they’ve decided to download the app.

With this in mind, however, the number of users who download the app is generally smaller than those who access the mobile site. An organization needs its mobile site to be as strong as the app if it wants to drive traffic to the app and secure long-term, loyal customers.

What are the top measurement mistakes that retailers make regarding mobile analytics / big data integration?

In Innovating Analytics, I describe quite a few of the major measurement mistakes that are all too common in business today. With regard to mobile analytics and big data integration, the biggest mistake organizations make is not focusing on the customer experience or not measuring the experience through the eyes of the customer. Companies need to use Voice of Customer (VoC) measurement that gathers insights from the customers themselves. Behavior data (time spent on the site, pages visited, etc.) alone won’t give the answers a company needs. While it is informative, it’s impossible to understand the context of what the user is trying to accomplish. For example, if a user spends 10 minutes on the website from start to finish, the organization might be inclined to consider that a success. However, if that user spent their entire time on the site trying to find a phone number to call, they are likely very frustrated after 10 minutes of searching. Knowing what the customer’s intent helps put everything in context.

In general, when we think of mobile analytics, it’s important to think of it in context of the customer journey. Most users today, and in the holiday season, are not going to be single channel consumers. They’re not going to use only mobile, web or store, there’s going to be a combination. So being able to look across those channels becomes an important aspect of the analytics.

Thanks again to Larry for joining us and sharing his insight on mobile commerce satisfaction. For more wisdom from Larry, check out Innovating Analytics – Word of Mouth Index: How the Next Generation of Net Promoter Can Increase Sales and Drive Business Results.


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