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GUEST OPINION Are retailers slowing the progress of mCommerce?

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Gareth Bray, Head of Solutions Engineering for Moxie, argues that, while mobile is meant to be the future of e-commerce – not least now driven by Google’s new algo – retailers lack of understanding is holding it back as the experience is still really poor. So what can be done?

Mobile is poised to play a key role as the era of eCommerce becomes a reality, with more customers abandoning brick and mortar stores and instead embracing the convenience of shopping anytime, anywhere. Unsurprisingly, the proliferation of mobile devices is at the heart of the change, with mobile technology advancements ensuring that shoppers can now browse and enjoy seamless retail experiences from their smartphones or tablets with unparalleled ease. Well, that’s the theory, anyway.

In reality, eCommerce conversion rates continue to stutter from the desktop to tablet, with true mobile shopping lagging behind these. There are numerous reasons for this – customers still find that shopping on a laptop or desktop is more convenient and that mobile shopping is not yet as easy as these alternatives. Despite the millions of pounds spent on search engines, driving consumers to enter online shops, there is often a tangible lack of support from retailers as customers continue their online shopping journey. Online engagement weaknesses can be magnified on the mobile device by any number of factors. In the face of recent surveys, the question is what can be done to improve the experience?

Recent research found that over half of UK shoppers felt that the eCommerce experience could be improved if they were provided with the same quality experience on mobile, desktop and in-store. A (successful) retailer would not allow a customer to wander through its store, seemingly abandoned and unable to seek information, before leaving without a purchase. Instead, it would make sure that an assistant would be on-hand to guide the customer through their journey and provide all the information they needed at key moments. Too many retailers do not offer this same level of care on mobile, contributing to the startling fact that conversion rates on mobile devices are still only 1%.

Delivering a consistent customer experience across devices and channels is still a major challenge for retailers, and must play a large part in the fact that UK eCommerce still is very much in a growth phase, and one that is slowing, rather than dominating the retail landscape. Digital shoppers are leaving a brand’s website or mobile app without converting as retailers are failing to ‘staff’ an online store as they would a physical one, and are not engaging with customers during the journey from entry to purchase. This is no small issue, with a survey last year finding that 48% of UK shoppers who abandoned their shopping cart due to a bad experience have never purchased from that shop again.

In order to address this, companies must prepare a multichannel, cross-device strategy that goes way beyond basic ‘FAQ’s. Retailers should provide mobile-friendly versions of their websites with contextual, personalised information and channels available throughout the experience. This can be as simple as having a ‘mobile chat’ function available to overlay the web page, providing the option to ask a retail assistant for guidance without interruption to the journey to purchase. In 2014 a survey found that just 14% of UK online retailers offer live chat, but over 60% of consumers expect it to be available: representing a real opportunity to online stores as a proven high-conversion and cost-effective channel. However, retailers must also realise that having the chat feature is not enough – it must complement the mCommerce journey if it is to prove a success.

Speed of response is also imperative. There are solutions available that can help businesses to better understand and help customers across a range of channels and devices immediately, and it is these solutions that represent an opportunity to replicate the in-store experience on mobile. It is rare that a customer enters a physical retail store and goes longer than five minutes without a sales representative offering guidance, and the same principle should apply with eCommerce, with a study finding that 71% of customers demand support within 5 minutes of entering an online store. Time really is of the essence for retailers aiming to successfully cater to customers’ mCommerce needs – if they don’t act quickly, they will lose the sale.

Customer personalisation does not need another article decreeing its virtues – its importance now speaks for itself. Yet, as the figures above attest, shoppers hoping to make use of the device that they have most consistently to hand are still not catered for. The sooner retailers embrace mobile and project the values of in-store assistance – personalised, proactive and contextual help – regardless of device, the sooner the age of mCommerce can begin in earnest, and avoid becoming a buzzword for unfulfilled potential.

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