Smartphone Users Seek More Than Shopping Tools

Oct 01, 2012

According to a study from Google, smartphone users are looking to companies’ mobile sites much more for customer service than to conduct sales. And those failing to deliver not only lose sales to competitors but brand equity as well.

According to the study, What Users Want Most From Mobile Sites Today, 55 percent of smartphone users indicated that a frustrating mobile site experience hurts their opinion of a brand overall. Fifty-two percent said it makes them less likely to engage with a company, 48 percent feel frustrated or annoyed by it and 36 percent feel like they’ve wasted their time.

Clearer, simpler and faster are what smartphone users are looking for. According to the study, users want:

  • Speed – mobile websites loading in five seconds or less, selected by 81 percent of smartphone owners;
  • Store directions or operating hours, 74 percent;
  • Store contact information, 64 percent;
  • Product information, 61 percent;
  • Ability to purchase or place an order, 50 percent;
  • Easy access to company’s social networking page, 41 percent.

In terms of features and functions, the study reveals that top among consumers’ desires for mobile sites are: an easy-to-find search bar, 78 percent; needing just one or two clicks for more information, also 78 percent; site adjusting to small screen size, 76 percent; clean and efficient looks, 74 percent; an option to go to the full site version, also 74 percent; non-scrolling forms with not too many fields, 73 percent; an easy way to save information for later, 73 percent; big finger buttons, 69 percent; "click to call" the business, 66 percent; and scrolling in one direction only, either up-down or left-right, 64 percent.

With 72 percent of smartphone owners reporting that they want mobile-friendly sites, 67 percent are more likely to buy on mobile-optimized sites versus ones not optimized and 74 percent will return later to a mobile site that functions well.

"While the research confirms what we already suspected — that mobile users actively seek out and prefer to engage with mobile-friendly sites — it’s a sobering reminder of just how quickly and deeply users attitudes about companies can be shaped by mobile site experiences," said Google on its blog. "Having a great mobile site is no longer just about making a few more sales. It’s become a critical component of building strong brands, nurturing lasting customer relationships, and making mobile work for you."

The study was conducted by e-commerce technology provider Sterling Commerce, a subsidiary of IBM Corp., and research firm SmithGeiger, based on a survey in July of 1,088 U.S. smartphone owners about their mobile commerce preferences.

Are retailers underestimating the smartphone’s use as a customer service tool? What features and functionality should retailers be emphasizing in building their mobile sites into the ideal shopping tool?

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13 Comments on "Smartphone Users Seek More Than Shopping Tools"

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Frank Riso

This is just another way of saying that shoppers want their online, in-store, and on mobile experience to be seamless and where they do not see it, they shop elsewhere. It has to be part of every retailer’s omni-channel initiative.

Dick Seesel

This topic touches on some of the recent RetailWire discussions and webinars about “showrooming.” Smartphone users are motivated by more than price, and retailers who dwell on the issue of “pricing transparency” do so at their peril. Clearly, consumers are looking for a range of information and services from that “computer in their pocket,” and stores should put more effort into providing what the customer wants.

Max Goldberg

Most retailers are underestimating smartphones, just as many of them first underestimated the Internet. This is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but there are basic tenets that need to be followed. Keep things simple, make information easy to find and have it fit the screen. Is that so difficult? You would think so by looking at most retailers’ mobile sites.

Consumers are using their smart phones to gather information, make purchases and interact with their peers. A retailer’s mobile site needs to accommodate all of these functions in an easy-to-use format.

Ryan Mathews

I think the point here is that customers don’t think in terms of channels or appropriate service levels per media or any of those other nice little segmentations that make marketers so happy. Customers have a relationship to a brand and/or a retailer and they expect any interaction with that retailer or brand to be seamless and uniform.

Are most retailers ready to engage in smartphone marketing at that level? My guess is the answer is a resounding, “No.”

Cathy Hotka

Frank is right. Customers don’t think about channels, only the brand. Those channels need to be able to seamlessly inter-operate, which isn’t easy. It’s this kind of article that makes me laugh when I see pieces written about the impending irrelevance of the CIO….

Ken Lonyai

User Experience, User Experience, User Experience. It really doesn’t matter if we’re talking about mobile experiences or car parking experiences. Any business that solves just one aspect of user experience assuming the rest are secondary is putting a gun to their head. Obviously all the aspects of mobile interaction have to be addressed, not just price searches (induced by showrooming paranoia). It’s what people in my business preach and do day in and day out, as we try to keep our voices above the mobile fad of the moment.

Steve Montgomery

The short answer is yes. Many mobile users are looking for basic information as pointed out by the survey. Where are you? How do I get from where I am to where you are? When are you open? What’s your phone number? Do you carry X, Y or Z?

I agree with Frank that shoppers want to have the same type of experience regardless of the way they access a retailer. In my experience, anything that you can do to make it easier for the customers to make a purchase is a plus.

Anne Howe

The data from this study reminds me of how easy it is to spin survey data into a numbers story that doesn’t always tell the real story. Yes, 1,088 shoppers will tell you in survey research what they will do and are doing, and what they expect. And because the research is statistically relevant, we can state that large percentages of shoppers want efficient and effective mobile sites to help them with shopping on their smartphones.

But really, I believe shoppers may have a bit more tolerance than this article suggests for mobile sites from retailers to “catch up” with their immediate expectations of what perfection could look like.

The fact that the largest percentage of mobile browsers are looking for information that suggests they still want to make a store visit is a sign that this data has perhaps been sensationalized.

This is not to say retailers can relax on plans for better mobile experiences. They need to pay attention to what consumers expect, for sure. But I do not believe retailers should tip their total focus to the mobile experience, especially at the expense of the “in real life” shopping experience.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.

Whatever level of service consumers find desirable from one company becomes the expectation of service for all companies. Not all companies may be able or interested in competing at that level. However, consumer expectations will move on without them.

Lee Kent

A little off point, but I wanted to say this. Take a look at who the top decision makers are in many of our retailers. Boomers, who maybe aren’t as tech savvy as their customers. No wonder they don’t get it. How many apps do they actually have on their smartphones? How about we start asking our target customer what they want and how they want to interact with us? How about we ask our sales people on the floor? After all, the sales people we hire ‘should’ look like our customer. Right???

David Slavick
David Slavick
5 years 17 days ago

Omni-channel commitment requires daily oversight management and investment in design/content for the mobile channel. Another frustration certain to be in consumers minds, but not noted here is lack of compliance to Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) guidelines. If you collect the mobile number, you better have all your bases covered when it comes to managing that data point, including timely response for opt-in, double opt-ins, message frequency language/disclosures, confirming the mobile number accuracy/delivery matched to the consumer and enabling opt-outs through all customer touch points.

Gene Detroyer

Retailers work very hard to make their stores shoppable. Why would they not work just as hard to make their mobile experience usable? Retailers still don’t see what their customers have adopted and have been noted so well by my colleagues. Shoppers don’t think channels, only retailers do. And, those retailers who don’t quickly start changing their thought process will suffer greatly.

Ralph Jacobson

Those using mobile devices have the shortest attention spans, compared to shopping in a physical store without a mobile device, or with a home PC. Therefore, mobile sites have to provide desired information the fastest. I don’t believe retailers nor CPGs have responded to this fact effectively, in most cases.

These companies need to provide detailed product information, and comparison data with simple sites that don’t take long to load. Fancy, “Flash” sites that are not commonly configured on iPhones and Droids are not value added for the shopper. Keep the mobile sites text-based and give people what they want…or you’ll lose them quickly.


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