How to repair the broken mobile experience


Shopping at the Undon Market in Thailand

You know that post-holiday feeling?

You look back at all the excitement, the fun, the family, food, gifts, sparkling lights, sense of nostalgia and joy. And then, early in the new year, the bill comes due.

Same goes for mobile shopping. So much excitement around mobile this holiday season. Now, it turns out, when it comes to the mobile experience, the bill has come due.

Sure, the mobile buzz was deafening during the holiday shopping season. Mobile traffic and purchases hit records by various counts. The company formerly known as Demandware found that 52 percent of shopping visits were mobile during the peak season. More interesting for retailers, Demandware (now Salesforce Commerce Cloud) found that mobile accounted for 31 percent of purchases during the holiday season, up from 25 percent in 2016.

BloomReach’s own data showed similar trends. In fact, on the weekend before Christmas, site visits via smartphones eclipsed visits on the desktop, data from across BloomReach retail customers showed.  And throughout the days leading up to Christmas, mobile (as in smartphones) came on strong in terms of visits, product views and conversions, reaching 28 percent of purchases on the last full weekend of the season.

So, what’s this bill-coming-due talk?

Mobile is raging despite poor experiences

It turns out that the mobile surge is raging in spite of the customer experience that enterprises are offering rather than because of them. A recent (January 2017) Forrester report, “Reinvent the web to win the mobile moment,” states that “mobile websites are still broken.”

In fact, the authors write that they can’t name three mobile sites they love — this despite all the effort and money businesses have poured into their mobile sites. They are not simply cursing the darkness, however.

There is hope for digital professionals who are ready to build app-like mobile experiences and take the time to understand just what it is consumers are trying to accomplish on mobile. All of which is going to cost money, perhaps a 20 percent to 100 percent increase in a company’s current spending on digital initiatives.

The message is pretty clear: Simply offering a miniature desktop site on mobile is no longer acceptable to consumers who have come to expect sophisticated and personalized digital experiences. Customers today don’t use smartphones and desktops for the same things. Those designing the mobile experiences, need to be mindful of that and they need to design the mobile experience accordingly.

“It’s mobile. It goes everywhere,” says Rick Kenney, head of consumer insights at Salesforce Commerce Cloud. “That means the store — it’s going to be there with the shopper while she’s in store. It’s going to be there with the shopper if she’s waiting for the train. It’s going to be there when she’s in a mode where she might actually have few extra moments to do something too. The other devices don’t do that.”

That said, Kenney sees progress with the mobile experience. The recent adoption of Apple Pay by a number of retailers is one sign, he says. One-click checkout addresses a major ugh factor for mobile — being faced with long checkout forms. And retailers will continue to push forward, he says.

“We’re seeing good retailer adoption of new technologies,” Kenney says. “We’re certainly seeing consumer adoption of using mobile web, in particular.”

The expectation and stakes are high for mobile experiences

The stakes for improving the mobile experience are high. Writing on Salesforce’s blog about the company’s “All Wrapped Up: 2016 Christmas Holiday Shopping Recap,” Kenney made a point we’ve made before: Holiday shopping trends are not only interesting for what they say about what just happened. They’re interesting for what they say about what is about to happen.

“Cyber Week and the big weeks that follow set the tone for the next twelve months of shopping, establishing the new normal for shopping behavior, as the intense period of shopping leads consumers to adopt new technologies and shopping habits.The migration to mobile and increased use of social media as a gateway to commerce are clear examples that the shopping season is a harbinger of what’s to come in the year ahead.”

“When you do something repeatedly and in some form of intensity for a short time, like we do shopping during cyber week, that’s the stuff that sticks with you,” Kenney explains. “That’s why I expect the highest mobile season ever will carry on right into this year.”

Rick Kenney, Salesforce

The same with social as a shopping channel, which Kenney says emerged prominently in the holiday season.

Commerce is clearly moving to digital. Salesforce’s recap says digital revenue grew 36 percent during Cyber Week 2016 over the year before. Globally, revenue was up 38 percent for the week, which Salesforce defines as the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday.

And digital is clearly moving to mobile, as is evident from BloomReach and Salesforce data. And so, as Forrester says, “You have no option — you must make your mobile web work great on phones.”

How? Forrester has a few suggestions. (Not just cursing the darkness, remember?)

  • Reinvent the web for mobile moments: Use app-like design and turn to progressive design to take advantage of browsers’ capabilities. Simply adopting responsive design or building an site aren’t enough anymore. Look at your mobile sites as a user would. What are consumers trying to accomplish when visiting your mobile sites? Make sure they can do that simply and quickly.
  • Make sure the metrics you use to measure mobile success line up with the primary purposes behind your mobile site. Your mobile site doesn’t exist to serve the same customer needs as your desktop site, so why would the success metrics for the two be the same?
  • Break up your silos. In order to build meaningful mobile experiences, make sure your web team, design team, IT team are working as one team. Consider placing them all under one executive responsible for mobile’s success.

There are practical steps to take to fix your mobile web experience so it is no longer broken. Maybe they will even get you to the point where researchers like Forrester will actually love your site.

But it seems clear the first step for those looking to fix mobile, is to redesign their thinking. Mobile isn’t going away. It’s a thing. And it’s a thing that is very different from the desktop experience.

Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Contact him at; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.

Photo of shopper by Insights Unspoken published under Creative Commons license. Photo of Rick Kenney, courtesy of Salesforce.