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GUEST OPINION Six of the best: top customer experience recommendations for retailers

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The key to mobile is user experience – it drives loyalty, recommendation and sales. Here Dee Roche, VP, Global Marketing, Eptica outlines how retailers can really improve their mobile offerings through six simple suggestions as to how to make the customer experience better

Today, mobile phones are the one device we have with us almost everywhere. They are our morning alarm clock, provide internet and email access for work, and let us interact on social media and consume videos and music in the evenings. No wonder that by mid-2014 more people will access the web through mobile devices than PCs, according to research by iDate, and that there are close to 2 million different apps available across different platforms.

This shift is radically changing how consumers interact with retail brands. In a recent survey of 2000 shoppers, 10 per cent said a lack of mobile presence is dissuading them from interacting with retailers as they can’t research key store and product information on-the-go. And a report by eBay Europe reveals that just under half of mobile shoppers complained about the reliability of mobile shopping experiences.

Shoppers now demand the ability to communicate, find information and make purchases wherever they are, through whichever channel they choose. Whether it is checking the location of their nearest store, researching prices or asking questions, people want to be able to do it via the mobile channel.

Remember that mobile devices are much more personal than a desktop or laptop. They are always on and always with us, which means that consumers are much less forgiving of a poor experience – they won’t move to their PC to complete a transaction that fails on their smartphone or tablet, for example. Fail to deliver a superior mobile experience and shoppers will head elsewhere. Get it right and excellent service will translate into loyal customers and increased revenues.

How do retailers react to this major shift in consumer behaviour and deliver the right experience, right now? Here are our top six recommendations to providing an agile mobile customer experience, whether consumers contact you through the web, email, chat, social media or phone channels.

1. The Power of Apps

Improve your customer experience by including web self-service and web chat within mobile apps, making it simple for customers to get the information they need, when they need it. This can only increase sales by removing roadblocks from the customer journey. Gartner believes that mobile customer service apps will increase by 600% by 2014 as companies extend their customer service to multiple devices.

The benefits of apps are not limited to online retail operations; bricks and mortar stores are also using apps to deliver recommendations and offers to build customer loyalty. Shopping apps at clothing boutiques in New York’s SoHo neighbourhood are using in-store sensors to analyse which products shoppers are interested in so they can deliver customised offers and recommendations via smartphone apps.

So whether you sell online only, on the high street or both, ensure you have a well thought out strategy that matches mobile apps to customer needs.

2. Responsive Design

Customers want a consistent experience that matches the device they are using at the time. Use responsive design to ensure your website recognises whether customers are on PC, tablet or phone and delivers optimised content to best meet their needs and the device they are using.

Responsive design is evolving and US companies such as lingerie retailer, Bare Necessities, are using a new approach called RESS (responsive design plus server side components). This ensures fast load times and performance so that optimised pages are shown to the shopper according to the device they are using. It is vital that mobile web pages don’t treat customers as second class citizens, but include everything that they have come to expect on the their desktop PC but in a way that it matches their device.

Support your use of responsive design by incorporating appropriate escalation points (such as to chat, text and email) to match customers’ requirements, making it easy for them to seamlessly move to other channels if they want to.

3. Knowledge everywhere

Don’t develop mobile customer service in a silo. Make sure it is consistent by sharing the same knowledgebase between mobile apps and your other channels. Many retailers such as Dixons’ KNOWHOW customer service brand are already using and seeing the benefits of a single centralised knowledgebase for web, telephone and email channels. It makes sense that as retailers’ introduce mobile apps, they use the same approach, enhancing and protecting their brand by ensuring the right information is available, regardless of channel. It puts customers in control of their experience, giving them access to the right answers, wherever they are.

4. Make your website mobile friendly

Ensure your site is mobile optimised so that it is fast and seamless to load, whatever device people are using. Understand the different dynamics of customers on tablets and mobile phones. They each want an experience that matches the abilities of their devices, rather than simply moving the PC interface to a smaller screen. For example, mobile devices rely on touchscreen entry, so don’t put in long and complex forms. Use location-based information that tablets and smartphones provide to deliver focused information to customers.

Make it easy for customers to find answers through small screen devices by prominently displaying the information that they are most likely to need on the move, such as store and opening details. Offer them the ability to find information themselves through web self-service or quickly chat to an agent through your mobile site.

5. Gather insight

Mobile provides an unrivalled opportunity to learn more about your customers by analysing their interactions. What are they asking for? When are they contacting you? Mine your customer experience insight to understand mobile customer behaviour – how does it vary from the traditional web? Does it change between devices such as tablets and smartphones? Which operating system do your customers prefer? Use the knowledge you discover to hone your strategy.

6. Omnichannel approach

Customers want to use their channel of choice, across multiple devices. They may start an interaction on your app, escalate via email, call to confirm details, complete the transaction via the web and then discuss the experience on Facebook or Twitter – all from the same mobile device. Make sure you provide a satisfying and seamless customer experience across all these channels, as this leads to greater loyalty and increased revenues.

M-commerce is increasing dramatically as more and more shoppers turn to mobile devices to research, buy and interact with retail brands. Christmas 2013 could well prove a watershed as a much greater percentage of present buying moves from the PC to smartphones and tablets. Now is the time for retailers to invest in the mobile customer experience – or risk being sidelined by competitors who have made the move to mobile.

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