3 Things Every Retailer Should Know About Mobile Visitors

Posted by Tim Ash on 7 May 2014 | Comments

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Mobile VisitorsEven as smartphones, tablets and wearables become ubiquitous aspects of consumers’ daily lives, digital marketers continue to struggle to figure mobile out. Doubtless, you've probably already heard a lot of advice around mobile and the best ways to approach and utilize it. So this post won't list "it's harder to type on mobile devices" or "apps are better for mobile marketing." You already know the former, and the latter isn't always true (but you'll find these ideas on tons of marketing sites anyway). That said, there are things you should strive to know about mobile visitors, and with the right mind-set and tools, they'll allow you to really focus on what matters.

1. Behaviors vary on mobile devices; don't rely on best practices.

If there's one thing you can do to improve mobile experiences, or digital experiences in general, it's this: follow the math. Don't use responsive web design (RWD) because it's trendy. Don't build a mobile version because it's all the rage or because it's best practice. Take the unsexy path: review your data.

Google Analytics, Site Catalyst, KISSMetrics or any of a dozen quantitative tools, free and paid, can dissect smartphone, tablet, laptop and desktop traffic. That's a critical first step. You need to check which pages are being used most by mobile users, and then compare those to the pages being used by desktop and laptop visitors.

What's different?

  • If mobile users are trying to find contact information more, consider putting that front and center for them if you have a mobile version, and review what it would take your infrastructure to implement click to call.
  • If mobile users are accessing certain navigation paths more often, use that data to prioritize which items should get visual prioritization.
  • If the top areas are largely the same, then you can investigate costs for RWD.

A lot of businesses go directly to the "react" phase using best practices, but best practices only work well within a specific context. Figure out what your context is. Collect data. Observe. Analyze. Then you can react.

2. Smartphone conversions are pegged at 1 percent, but you also need to think about the other 99 percent.

Just as traffic tools inform you about your top pages, survey tools like iPerceptions or Feedbackify can tell you what the specific visitor tasks are. Combined with actual sales data and your sales funnels, you'll get a pretty good picture of your site's health, assuming you keep mobile and desktop/laptop traffic separate.

Here's where the qualitative survey tools really prove to be handy: Smartphone sales conversions are pegged at 1 percent. If those numbers are accurate, 99 out of every 100 mobile visitors you have are doing something OTHER than buying from you. That's not to say that you're not making money from those 99 visitors — some of them are checking store locations, others are checking your price lists and comparing them to competitors, and others are looking for your contact numbers. Some of those 99 visitors will convert on desktops, laptops, tablets or even in your brick-and-mortar stores, but only if their experience with you didn't suck.

If you're focusing on more than just the sale, then their experience won't suck. You would know that 30 percent of your visitors are trying to check your price list, and you would devote resources to creating an awesome user experience for visitors performing that task. You would know that a fourth of your mobile visitors are trying to find store locations, and that half of them are failing — and you would reallocate budget towards fixing that aspect of your website.

The point is that there are all these micro-conversions happening before you have your macro-conversion — the sale. Those micro-conversions add up, and you should fix the most common ones and the ones that need the most work. To do that efficiently, you need to know what the tasks are and what the failure rates are. And for that, qualitative tools are required.

3. Most mobile problems have known solutions, but prioritization is hard.

Most marketers worth their salt KNOW that there are 100 things worth improving and 50 things that are flat-out broken on their website. This is doubly so for mobile. It's a tough field to get half-right, let alone perfect.

Your job as a marketer isn't necessarily to fix everything. Some of your fixes will break other things. Your function is to make sure that as many of your visitors can find what they need. As you perform that job, you have time, resource and internal infrastructure constraints.

For you to perform that job at scale, you need to distill your list to five things REALLY worth improving. You need to find the two broken things that will REALLY move the needle. Focusing on everything fixes nothing.

Whether you're implementing a mobile version because visitors would really rather talk to you via their mobile devices, or implementing RWD because your content consumption is the same on mobile as it is on desktops, the idea is to use the data — quantitative and qualitative — to make sure you prioritize and improve where it matters.

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This article originally appeared in Tim's Retail Online Integration column April 23, 2014

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