Commentary

Are Bad Mobile Shopping Experiences Poisoning The M-Commerce Well?

I believe in digital memory. I believe that as cluttered as our heads are with the minutiae of everyday life, let alone the torrent of multi-screen inputs of information, on some subconscious level we remember the sites and apps that are more trouble than they are worth. Not to mention big media names -- but my browser senses put me on hold when I am tempted to click a video at one of the largest news providers online. I know from experience that the site regularly stuffs a 30-second ad spot in front of one- and two-minute clips and stories, an ad-to-content ratio that I find unacceptable. I only click on a story if I really, really want to see it.

Likewise, I know that the mobile ticketing features for one of my most-used modes of transportation simply refuses to remember my credit card no matter how many times I log in and order. Having to type in my credit card numerals every time leads me to the smoother Web experience or just swiping my card on site.

The point is that I have a well-developed digital memory for the apps and sites that make life harder than it needs to be. And according to a new survey by e-commerce platform provider Skava of over 740 smartphone shoppers, the bad mobile experiences are almost universal. The company found that 88% of those who use their phones for shopping have had bad experiences trying to do so.

And if this self-reported sentiment is correct, almost a third of those people will not be coming back to a mobile site or app after they got burned once. Another 29% will wait at least a year before returning to a retailer after a lousy episode. But of course the worst outcome is loss to a competitor, which happens in a whopping 43% of cases where a mobile experience lets the shopper down. They just find someone who will serve them better right away.

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Granted, Skava is selling its own platform and expertise aimed at remedying this situation, and so has an interest in highlighting the amount of mobile pain out there. But I don’t think the numbers here defy personal experience. The natural consequence  of these last few years of halting and uneven development of mobile platforms is that just about everyone has experienced retailers who are not ready.

The choke points encountered by users are not surprising becase we all have experienced them. More than half (51%) cite bad navigation. Nearly as many (46%) complain that the product images are too small. And 41% are wary about the security of using a retail site on devices.

Curiously, only 26% say they have found the checkout process frustrating. Let me speculate wildly here that this last number is more reflective of the share of people who are even expecting a decent mobile purchase experience and trying at all. In the last year it has become commonplace in the industry to say that mobile phones are where shoppers browse -- and perhaps do on-the-spot research -- but don’t buy. In some ways I wonder if industry conventional wisdom is actually consumer presumption as well. I wonder how many mobile shoppers simply expect a bad experience at mobile checkout and so don’t even approach that function.

After all, how many of us have hit upon the very common problem of having a decent mobile experience in an app or site only to have everything revert over to the standard un-optimized Web experience once we hit the buy button? I really wonder whether the last few years of crappy mobile checkout experiences is partly to blame for the overall perception that people don’t buy stuff on their smartphones. I wonder if it is not enough for retailers to create better mobile checkouts, which some have done, but to proselytize the improvements with customers.

For some merchants there should be good reason for people to feel more comfortable sealing the deal on their smartphone. The phone is more likely to be at the point of inspiration and impulse than a desktop or even the tablet. Anyone remember the first time he or she used Amazon’s One-click back in the day when it was a breakthrough and novelty? The seamlessness of the experience was itself worth branding to the company and making a part of the site’s identity.

As retailers up their mobile game, it may benefit them to make painless checkout a real selling point of their device presence. Users have a memory of bad experiences, and it can put the brakes on their venturing back with the same vendor. 

3 comments about "Are Bad Mobile Shopping Experiences Poisoning The M-Commerce Well?".
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  1. Carissa Ganelli from LightningBuy, June 20, 2013 at 7:01 p.m.

    Hi Steve - Terrible mobile checkout experiences have resulted in a self-fulfilling prophecy: the process is painful so customers only browse on mobile not buy. Since buyers only buy, it's not worth improving the purchase process. In an effort to combat customers' expectations of a painful mobile checkout process our clients state, "Try our new lightning fast mobile checkout." to let customers know that since LightningBuy was implemented, the user experience is much improved - in fact it's only a single click to buy. Really.

  2. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, June 21, 2013 at 5:09 a.m.

    If only 26% have "have found the [mobile] checkout process frustrating", this seems enormously better than conventional shops where I'm confident that 100% have found the checkout experience frustrating. Everyone must have experienced some problem with a till at some time in their life right? Frankly I don't find a difference of this scale credible, so the survey must either be wrong or, more-likely, it's using a cherry-picked number that doesn't represent real-world experience.

  3. Steve Hauser from Avid Marketing Group, June 25, 2013 at 10:59 a.m.

    Sounds like a bit of a "chicken and egg" situation as most things with emerging consumer opportunities tend to be. Clearly retailers have not been aggressive in developing technology enhanced checkout experiences for consumers. Nor have consumers clearly articulated what they ultimately want (do they ever?). Will we ever get to a checkout experience that is truly digitally enabled and seamless for consumers? Only time (and maybe retailers) will tell. In the meantime, we are working with clients to position them in ways that can capitalize on opportunities as they emerge.

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