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Great expectations?

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Funny how money changes everything. In Great Expectations, the hero, Pip, comes into money that he thinks is from the gentry but it turns out it was from the spoils of convict Magwich’s crimes, ditches his family and ends up alone. Money – and expectations – are also changing mobile retailing and not necessarily for the best.

While retailers realise that consumer demand for what they want to do is far outstripping what they actually can do on websites and mobile, the lure of money is making them do some crazy things. Crazy things like not making mobile work really well when they know that mobile conversions are where the money is.

As our top story this week reveals some really top brands have mobile sites that are bedevilled by ‘conversion blockers’ for mobile users. The story names names and shames shames, but the gist is that all sorts of niggly little design errors make the pages of some retailer’s sites really hard to use on mobile.

That is easily fixed with some adaptive-responsive web design. Or even an app. Btu what is more alarming from the study – which got normal people to actually try out these sites on their own devices under real world conditions – is that 10 of the 15 sites tested were deemed too slow.

Forget all the stuff about “B&Q’s homepage loaded with the menu permanently stuck open for several users” and “Users on the Boohoo, River Island and Littlewoods sites encountered problems with completing form fields at checkout”, what is alarming is that if the site took more than one second to start to download it was deemed too slow and users were inclined to move on.

This is a massive issue for retailers. While you have a second – literally – to get you customer in, there is only so much that the retailer can do. Designing a site that is free from bloat, that can know what device version to hit and over what kind of network can only go so far. There are constraints – such as the speed of that network at that moment – which can’t be controlled.

I may be looking at Amazon on 4G on my iPhone 6s, but at any given moment that 4G could be running at any speed up to 20Gbit/s promised by the operator (in fact it will never run that fast, but you get my drift).

So what can retailers do to breach this expectation gap? Like Pip in the Dickens classic, the consumers don’t know which side their bread is buttered. The answer lies in data. Understanding the customer and what they are doing is crucial. Understanding context is increasingly where mobile retailing is going. You know who, what, where and when someone is hitting your site and on what device. What you need to know is why.

The why is the crucial missing piece in servicing customers on mobile. Their expectations are great, but these expectations vary depending on what they are doing. Many use mobile to browse and research. Some to buy. Some do both. Many shilly-shally between devices while they decide. The closer you can get to understanding what mode they are in and when, dictates what you serve up to them, which in turn dictates speed of content and so on.

This is where that much talked about elephant in the room Big Data comes in. This is what Big Data – and more specifically the analysis thereof – brings to the party. Knowing what you have and how to curate it is the key thing that retailers are missing with mobile right now.

You will never meet the expectations of consumers, but you can approach them more cleverly. If only Pip had done the same, he may not have almost lost his Estella and had to live in Cairo for eight years.

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