Chicago—Mobile commerce, or m-commerce, may be the latest retail platform everyone is buzzing about but many shoppers may be getting stung in the process. According to a study that reviewed ease-to-use and functionality of 50 mobile websites selling 13 product categories, most received a below average performance.
In fact, in the first “Mobile Mystery Shopping Study” conducted by e-tailing group, an e-commerce consultant, the average score mobile merchant sites received was only 4.5 on a scale from 1 to 10 (the highest) meaning there’s plenty of room for improvement
Understanding the Mindset of the ‘One the Go’ Shopper
“The necessary ingredients for a successful mobile experience, like meaningful retail locators, inventory-sensitive store produce locators, relevant search functionality, snafu-free checkouts and ease of contacting customer service are lacking or being inconsistently executed thus potentially leaving a negative customer impression,” the e-tailing group says.
Although research points to a burgeoning mobile retail market—expected to reach as much as $2.4 billion this year—retailers still have a long way to go in creating effective mobile sites. To compile its study, the e-tailing group set their mystery shoppers to work during the third quarter, benchmarking 150 metrics on 50 mobile websites. To understand performance and usability across diverse devices, the iPhone with its intuitive touch pad interface was used to shop all 50 merchants, while the Blackberry with its traditional track ball hardware was employed to evaluate 25 of those retail sites; iPhones were purposely examined two-to-one as they are currently driving greater revenue.
“In order for mobile commerce to reach projective volumes, retailers must start with a clear understanding of the mindset of an ‘on the go’ mobile shopper,” Lauren Freeman, president of e-tailing group, says. “We believe that means fast and functional from finding stores to product available locally. It also means embracing a user experience that is efficient from search to checkout—ideally powered by one-click options—to be serve the ‘super multi-tasker’ shopper.
Rough Road Ahead: Weaknesses in Mobile Commerce
While the study found that most of the mobile sites examined did create the overall look and feel consistent with the brand, only a few excelled beyond the average. “Nine of the merchants mystery shopped do deserve recognition for achieving usability ratings of 4.5 out of 5.” These include Overstock, Shop NBC, Arden B and Coldwater Creek.
However, “all in all it appears there is some rough road ahead before mobile shopping reaches its full potential,” Freeman adds.
Among the m-commerce merchant ‘weaknesses’ cited in the report include:
• In many cases, mobile sites are a merchant’s best kept secret; they might be inaccessible via direct URL entry or Google search and are inadequately promoted on the merchant ecommerce sites, via targeted emails, and on in-store collateral materials for those with brick and mortar locations.
• Technical snafus are abundant; due to error messages, downed sites, and other logistical problems, shopping often cannot be completed in one session–if at all.
• Cross-channel integration is deficient from many angles including a merchandising and promotional standpoint where the execution of tactics is inconsistent from channel-to-channel.
• From a technical perspective, there is often an inability to access customer profile information like shipping/billing addresses, payment information, and saved wish lists or shopping carts, slowing down the checkout process.
• Mobile sites are not always optimized for the platform or browser on which they are being viewed, resulting in an inconsistent shopping experience.
• Search tools and subsequent search results that today drive significant onsite conversion are not being optimized via mobile.
• One-click settings and sticky forms are not in place to accommodate convenience and time-saving demands of today’s harried shoppers.