Mobile Commerce Daily is now Retail Dive: Mobile Commerce! Click here to learn more!

Aveda, Best Buy, Crate & Barrel are best-in-class mobile merchants: survey

While many retailers have plenty of room for improvement, Aveda, Best Buy, Crate & Barrel, Dockers and REI are all best-in-class mobile merchants, according to the e-tailing group’s Mobile Commerce Mystery Shopping study.

On a positive note, most sites deliver a mobile experience that is consistent with the brand and enables an adequate shopping experience, even if it is not ideal. However, with some exceptions, the necessary ingredients for a successful mobile experience—such as meaningful retail locators, inventory-sensitive store product locators, relevant search functionality, snafu-free checkouts and ease of contacting customer service—are lacking or being inconsistently executed thus potentially leaving a negative customer impression of the fourth channel.

“Overall, not enough sites have deployed efficiency and convenience features like geolocation, relevant search functionality, inventory-sensitive store product locators and customer profile integration, to make shopping by mobile device a no-brainer,” said Lauren Freedman, president of the e-tailing group, Chicago. “To shop by mobile today is often a frustrating and time-consuming experience and not always a viable means of commerce for the on-the-go mobile shopper.

“With some exceptions, the same high standards in the appearance and functionality of a merchant’s ecommerce site were not always evident in its mcommerce counterpart, which seemed very first generation,” she said. “In some instances it seemed as if a mobile site was launched just to have one with little consideration given to how it might affect customer opinions and future shopping of their other channels.

“It was also surprising that, even on sites that had a lot of the desirable mobile features and functionality, technical snafus were abundant, sometimes forcing the shopping or checkout process to be abandoned and revisited at a later time. Again, it seems that little forethought was given to how this might impact the customer’s future shopping behavior.”

The e-tailing group is a niche ecommerce consultancy that helps merchants, retailers and technology companies across all of their channels.

The good, the bad and the ugly
In addition to Aveda, Best Buy, Crate & Barrel, Dockers and REI, the mobile commerce properties of ArdenB, Coldwater Creek, Overstock and Shop NBC also had excellent usability ratings.

Mobile commerce merchant strengths:

•   Enable an adequate shopping experience, even if it is not ideal

•   Create an overall look and feel that is consistent with the brand

•   Provide the full range of categories and products, with a few exceptions

•   Offer keyword search, though the quality of execution varies

•   Facilitate a buying decision by providing an adequate amount of product information

•   For those sites that have ratings/reviews, enough products are included to support the buying process

Mobile commerce merchant weaknesses:

•   In many cases, mobile sites are a merchant’s best kept secret; they might be inaccessible via direct URL entry or Google search and are inadequately promoted on the merchant ecommerce sites, via targeted emails, and on in-store collateral materials for those with brick and mortar locations

•   Technical snafus are abundant; due to error messages, downed sites, and other logistical problems, shopping often cannot be completed in one session…if at all

•   Cross-channel integration is deficient from many angles including a merchandising and promotional standpoint where the execution of tactics is inconsistent from channel-to-channel

•   From a technical perspective, there is often an inability to access customer profile information like shipping/billing addresses, payment information, and saved wish lists or shopping carts, slowing down the checkout process

•   Mobile sites are not always optimized for the platform or browser on which they are being viewed, resulting in an inconsistent shopping experience

•   Search tools and subsequent search results that today drive significant onsite conversion are not being optimized via mobile

•   One-click settings and sticky forms are not in place to accommodate convenience and time-saving demands of today’s harried shoppers

Lisa Schwartz, ecommerce analyst at the e-tailing group, provided the following advice to retailers/merchants based on the study’s findings.

Before creating a mobile site ask yourself and your organization some key questions:

• Does your ecommerce site embody standards and efficiencies that well represent your brand? If not, use your resources to first get that in order before endeavoring upon a mobile site launch.

• Is a mobile site necessary to keep up with your competitors and meet your customers’ shopping expectations?  Mobile is not a must-have for every category.

• Do you have the man-power and technological infrastructure to maintain an mcommerce site that is integrated with your other shopping channels?  You don’t want to provide your customers with a poorly supported, disconnected experience.

“Don’t launch a mobile site simply to keep up with the Joneses,” Ms. Schwartz said. “A negative shopping experience might turn shoppers away not just from your mobile site, but from your other channels too.”

The number of mobile phones users in the U.S. will reach 255.4 million—or 80 percent of the population—by 2013, per eMarketer.

Relative to mcommerce, smartphones enabled with Internet access are the devices to track, and they currently account for 21 percent of all mobile phones in the U.S., based on a Harris Poll Online Survey.

Furthermore, mobile shopping in the U.S. rose from $396 million in 2008 to $1.2 billion in 2009 and is projected to reach $2.4 billion this year, according to ABI Research.

“Even more compelling is that, according to Morgan Stanley, it is predicted that by 2015 more consumers will use their mobile devices than their desktop computers to connect to the Web,” Ms. Schwartz said.