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In-app recommendations, sales assistance crucial for driving mcommerce: report

Consumers are increasingly looking to recommendations and assistance options within mobile applications during the shopping process, suggesting that merchants should not overlook the initial buying experience in their efforts to streamline the checkout process, according to a report from Contact Solutions.

The survey found that 23 percent of participants claimed in-app recommendations would fuel them to add more products to their mobile shopping carts, with 33 percent affirming it would convince them to spend more time in the app. Therefore, brands must be cognizant of the initial shopping process and provide enough suggestions and tips to ensure that consumers will not leave the app to seek support, a move that one out of four shoppers say would prevent them from making a purchase with the brand entirely.

“Focus on improvements that reduce effort, complexity, and friction as consumers interact with your brand,” said John Hibel, director of marketing at Contact Solutions, Reston, VA. “Mobile consumers want to be in control, they have a short attention span, and they’re constantly being interrupted.

“Design your app experience with that kind of lifestyle in mind.”

Front-end operations
While offering a streamlined checkout process should certainly be an end goal for brands seeking to drive in-app sales, there should be just as much emphasis on front-end operations if the consumer is to be enticed to continue shopping. Aspects such as easy navigation features, visual displays of relevant information and fast load times are all important to consider.

“We’ve seen a lot of initial focus on the shopping and buying capabilities of the app in order to drive deeper engagement.  That works great until the customer needs some assistance, then when it takes too much effort to get help customers get very frustrated and abandon their carts,” he said.

“Just like you’d never design a new store with a sales floor where sales associates are nowhere to be found, you should never build your mobile shopping app without customer care integrated from the start.  Mobile customer care needs to be part of your mobile engagement strategy throughout the entire buyer journey – not just post-sale.”

Contact Solutions also advises marketers to invest more heavily in mobile in an effort to curb showrooming habits at the brands’ bricks-and-mortar stores. 27 percent of customers prefer to shop via mobile while in-store, but marketers must ramp up every initiative to direct those shoppers to their own apps, rather than a competitor’s.

In-app support
Brands that do not offer quick access to a live agent or personal shopper are at a major disadvantage, according to the report. Only 12 percent of customers have used their mobile devices to get help when needing assistance in an app, which fractures the marketing experience.

“With proper analytics in place, it’s not that difficult to determine when consumers are struggling to achieve a goal in the mobile app,” Mr. Hibel said. “Context-sensitive help can reduce that struggle and avoid the resulting frustration that would make that consumer less likely to use the app in the future.

“This is much better than forcing the consumer to expend the effort to find assistance in a list of FAQs.  In-app access to live agents is a critical safety net.  If you force customers to stop what they’re doing, leave the app, call a toll free number, and wait in line to talk to an agent, that fractures the buying experience and creates a tremendous amount of friction that will reduce the likelihood that consumers will us your app again,” he said.

“Instead, offer a seamless transition within the app from self-service to live agent assistance, preferably with the ability to pass context to the agent so the entire experience is seamless.”

Ultimately, forging a personal connection between a sales associate or agent and a customer may be the top tactic to combat mobile shopping cart abandonment. As 44 percent of shoppers dislike leaving an app to seek support or recommendations, it is up to brands to step up and provide the contextual resources needed to mimic an in-store shopping experience.

“Consumers are constantly interrupted, and they absolutely hate being trapped in a session afraid to leave because they’ll have to start all over when they return,” Mr. Hibel said. “If you want a mobile experience that’s sticky and engaging, make sure you can start an interaction (even with a live agent), stop for any reason, then minutes or even days later resume the interaction right from the point where you left off.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York