Matching M-commerce Experience to Customer Intent

Being time poor, coupled with advancements in technology, has had a significant impact on the lifestyles of many Australians. As consumers become increasingly connected and empowered, they demand convenience – to be able to shop when and how they please, using their channel of choice — and they want a great experience every time.

As omnichannel retailing takes hold in Australia, the rapid growth in ownership and usage of smartphones in particular, is transforming the way that consumers shop. Devices are increasingly becoming an integral part of their shopping experience: from researching and evaluating, to comparing and purchasing products.

The increasing ubiquity of smartphones, however, continues to present both opportunities and challenges for all online retailers. For years, many retailers skated by with stripped-down mobile sites and an unsatisfying ‘View Full Site’ escape hatch for advanced tasks. Thankfully mobile strategies have, in general, progressed in recent years, with retailers redesigning how their m-commerce sites are laid out and rendered on smartphones. While these revisions have been necessary and important, I would argue the underlying assumption so far has been on developing a one-size-fits-all mobile shopping experience.

If you consider the very different ways individual consumers use their smartphones, it’s clear that applying a single focus design paradigm to improving customers’ mobile experiences is at odds with what is happening in the real world. We all use our smartphones at home, at work, while commuting and during other daily activities. In fact, our devices are always close at hand 24 hours a day. By contrast, if we also own a tablet, we typically use it as a replacement or stand-in for our desktop and laptop computers, so these devices are not always with us or within our immediate reach.

Taking these factors into consideration, smartphone commerce can roughly be divided up into two mobile experiences:

  1. At-rest: an individual is using their smartphone while not in motion – typically while relaxing at home. They might be buying products online, but more often than not they’re browsing websites to research and compare products and are not under a purchasing deadline.
  1. On-the-move: an individual is using their smartphone while they are on the go – walking, in the car or on public transport. Their intent to buy tends to be sharper and more focused. They may already be on their way to make a purchase at a brick-and-mortar store or they may be willing to make a quick detour for an opportunistic purchase at a nearby store.

For now, the answer to these two very different scenarios seems to be one non-specific mobile environment. It is becoming increasingly clear that the focus needs to shift towards developing the next level of mobile customer engagement – or what we like to term intent web design. This new approach draws a direct correlation between a customer’s purchasing intent, in other words, their readiness to buy products, with how they are using their smartphones.

There are strong distinctions between the two mobile experiences. The at-rest user has more time at their disposal to educate themselves on products, while the on-the-move user has limited time and either intent on making a purchase or is more likely to be influenced into buying a product. What you must keep in mind is that losing the on-the-move user is very quick if they encounter any kind of obstacle to purchase, such as a slow loading website or an overly cluttered one.

The critical question is how can you determine if a mobile user is on the move or at rest? You may want to engage directly with smartphone users and ask ‘Are you on the move right now?’ and then present them with special, limited-time offers at stores in their immediate vicinity. Alternatively, you may wish to take a more indirect approach and simply inquire as to the kind of mobile experience a user thinks they need, for example, ‘Do you want to download our native mobile app now?’

A variety of technologies can also be applied to gather information about a smartphone user’s intent to purchase, including their GPS location, the IP address they’re using, how they found your ecommerce site and what content they’re accessing on your website. You may also look to apply predictive analytics to previous customer data, such as website visit histories to uncover and identify types of customer behaviour signaling intent to purchase.

It is clear that all ecommerce retailers must think seriously about customer intent to purchase. This should become a key design point for the next mobile experiences you deliver to smartphone users visiting your website. The important questions to ask are when and how your m-commerce site should respond differently to at-rest window shoppers versus on-the-move committed buyers.

It is also important to identify which signals in smartphone users’ online behaviour are the strongest indicators of willingness to buy your products, then what you can do to amplify those signals and convert them into sales. Most importantly of all, you must improve the level of engagement with smartphone users so that you can serve them the most personalised, localised and time-sensitive offers based on their intent.

By building mobile experiences that can quickly pick up on and are attuned to shifts in customer intent to buy, you can provide significant improvements in usability for your customers, which in turn, could translate to higher customer retention and increased sales.

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