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Forrester analyst: Simplified, speedy experiences trump optimizing for conversions

NEW YORK – Two analysts at Forrester’s CXNYC 2016 advised brands to follow guidelines for optimizing mobile engagement and driving revenue – such as simplifying tasks, avoiding taunting error messages and removing unnecessary steps – instead of focusing solely on conversion rates when testing new features.

During the session, “Superior Digital Customer Experience Drives Revenue,” the Forrester analysts discussed optimal ways of inciting ecommerce sales, such as the ease of use exhibited by Starbucks’ mobile ordering application. While driving higher conversion rates may be the end goal of marketers’ digital initiatives, the best results will likely arise from following several steps to ensure seamless user experiences occur.

“I would encourage [marketers] to go beyond looking at conversion rates when you think about testing,” said Andrew Hogan, analyst at Forrester Research. “When you simply test against conversion, you run into some strange behaviors in how you design your page that may not be best for users.”

Identifying best brand examples
Mr. Hogan named Starbucks as one retailer with an ideally optimized mobile app. Although the beverage giant’s Mobile Order and Pay service does occasionally encounter some loading issues, its geolocation technology and ability to remember favorite orders offers great convenience to users purchasing coffee and snacks while on-the-go.

Mobile Order and Pay constituted a modest four percent of total transactions for Starbucks in 2016’s first quarter, but makes up 10 percent of the chain’s busiest stores’ total transactions. Additionally, it consists of 20 percent of total transactions during peak consumption times at those busy locations.

“It’s not perfect, but it’s better than a lot of the options out there right now,” Mr. Hogan said.

Many apps suffer from sluggish response times and loading screens, a factor that can act as a turn-off to a time-strapped consumer wanting to make a quick purchase or find an answer to an urgent query. Brands must work to combat these issues, and also ensure they avoid taunting error messages when an app user incorrectly performs an action.

Unnecessary steps should also be removed during the customer’s path to checkout.

Forrester Research has identified five fundamental aspects that marketers should consider when developing strategies to drive ecommerce-based revenue.

Search and navigation experiences to get to content are extremely important, as is the content itself. Meanwhile, progress and workflow, error avoidance and recovery and privacy and trust are also imperative to consumers.

Four basic aspects that elevate digital experiences and bolster revenue opportunities are delivering speedy performance, providing clarity, guiding users and simplifying tasks.

Mr. Hogan used Walmart as an example of this. Back in 2012, the retailer discovered that there is a direct correlation between conversion rates and load times. Consequently, for every one second of improvement on its site pages, Walmart experienced up to a two-percent uptick in conversions.

This culminated in the brand enjoying a 12 percent growth in ecommerce sales last year.

“Basically, [Walmart’s] same-store sales have been flat now for years, but [its] ecommerce effort has grown like crazy,” said Harley Manning, vice president and research director at Forrester Research. “In fact, it’s still growing at a very healthy rate.”

Optimizing site pages
The two executives also walked the audience through a brand example showcasing one of Home Depot’s product pages, with the intent of highlighting several practices that other retailers can implement into their own Web and mobile commerce sites.

Home Depot prominently displays a PayPal checkout button on its product pages, a factor that can influence a customer’s decision and make him or her feel more comfortable with the security surrounding online payments. PayPal is generally considered a known, trusted brand.

“PayPal, it turns out, is actually really powerful,” Mr. Manning said.

Retailers must also be discerning when it comes to showcasing complementary or frequently-bought items on a product page. Consumers must know what the products are and find them relevant to the item they are currently considering purchasing.

Other best practices include simplifying tasks by having auto-populated fill fields, and confirming when users’ actions appear incorrect. For example, if a mobile app user inputs his address for delivery and the app is not able to recognize it, it should follow up with him and suggest he take another look at the address.

Forrester recommends that companies wanting to enhance their digital experiences define their users and scenarios, assign stakeholders to conduct and document detailed reviews, discuss and prioritize potential fixes and test their improvements.

“Without question, there’s an inherent advantage to being digital,” Mr. Manning said.