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Toys “R” Us mobile site delivers best user experience: report

Toys “R” Us made numerous improvements to its mobile site in the past year, including streamlining the checkout process. As a result, the toy store chain now delivers the best mobile site user experience with a score of 83.5 out of 100, according to a new report from the e-tailing group.

This is the toy store chain’s first appearance as a top performer in the e-tailing group’s annual Mobile Mystery Shopping report. Rounding out the top-six performing mobile Web sites are American Eagle Outfitters with a score of 82.5, Crate & Barrel with 82.25, Nordstrom with 80.25, Sephora with 80.25 and Foot Locker – also new to the top-performers – with 80.25.

“Overall usability of mobile shopping has increased (4.11 vs. 3.99), but merchants still have a long way to go,” said Lauren Freedman, president of the e-tailing group, Chicago.

“The findings suggest that retailers are making major investments in mobile and that they understand it is critical to their business,” she said. “Other research that we have conducted indicates it will be at least 10 percent of the revenues and for many much more so they realize they must be in the game.

“Toys “R” Us and Foot locker have both really worked hard to understand the need for efficiency and providing the same experience through all channels.”

Mobile site improvements
Some of the advancements Toys “R” Us has made in its mobile user experience over the last year include type-ahead capabilities for product search, more accurate misspelled phrase results, faceted navigation and robust refinement options.

Additionally, there are fewer errors throughout the shopping process on the Toys “R” Us mobile site and new features are available such as a store product locator and mcommerce store pick-up. Also, product page functionality now includes zoom and alternative views while the number of necessary steps for checkout has been reduced.

Foot Locker made many of the same improvements.

The report takes a look at six key tasks mobile users are looking to perform to see how good a job retailers are doing meeting shoppers’ needs.

The e-tailing group found that retailers have invested heavily in connecting mobile users to a store, which is reflected in good user experiences for store locators, checking in-store product availability, reserving a product for store pickup or reading a weekly circular.

Streamlined experiences
While retailers have made advancements in terms of brand, merchandising and usability on key pages such as home, category, product, search results and shopping cart, they still need to do work in providing a stand-out selling experience.

No retailer has yet to figure out how to have branding and merchandising coexist with a streamlined mobile experience, per the report.

“Finding store locations and relevant store information is currently the most advanced functionality of mobile sites,” Ms. Freedman said.

“Only 70 percent of merchants have a shared cart, causing frustration on buyers part; also getting through the carts can be challenging without getting errors particularly as shoppers attempt to retrieve ecommerce profiles.”

Checkout is one area where retailers still face significant obstacles in driving cross-channel efficiencies and meeting the demands of shoppers.

An area of improvement is in streamlining product search for mobile users.

Customer service
Retailers have also made it easier for  mobile users to research a specific product by porting the majority of desired consumer functionality to the product page and eliminating frivolous features in order to speed up moving through the path to purchase.

Mobile customer service access has also improved.

The report is based on a review of retailers’ mobile sites during the third-quarter of 2013, with the user experience evaluated on 188 metrics across six top tasks and the overall usability.

The report recommends that retailers streamline the shopping experience to include only the essential browse and buy components to ensure shoppers can quickly find what they are interested in and easily check-out.

Also important is leveraging mobile to support the time-crunched, demanding shopper by integrating cross-channel elements to ensure that mobile customers connect to all of a retailer’s channels at their convenience.

Promotional tactics
Since mobile is still evolving and growing quickly, retailers also need to consistently monitor their mobile strategies with an eye toward regular evolutions to meet the needs of shoppers.

Another recommendation is to use a combination of merchandising and promotional tactics on the home page and throughout the site as enticements to drive users deeper into the site as opposed to hiding these elements deeper on interior pages that might never be viewed by shoppers.

It is also important to keep usability top-of-mind in mobile, which means using only legible text, implementing keyword search at the top of all site pages, providing refinement and sort options and enabling shoppers to check out quickly.

“Customer service is one of the most important parts of the mobile experience,” said Kaylee Magno, senior analyst at the e-tailing group.

“The on-the-go shopper might realize while in the cart or not at home their item hasn’t arrived and wants to track it, might have forgotten something and needs to verify their order, or just has a quick questions before stopping at a store or making a purchase,” she said.

“Adequate customer service is a must, especially when a mobile site is not up to the level of the merchant’s ecommerce site.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York