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Performance area reviews: Mobile and cross channel

As we have seen in this report the retailers that are maximising their potential for conversion rate optimisation do so not only online where the discipline traditionally extends from but also take their learnings into other channels too. Pretty much all of the retailers we spoke to are focusing on usability and user experience across multiple channels with particular focuses on maximising the journey and potential for conversion on mobile.

“Within the sector that we operate in it’s essential that we consider and understand how customers shop across all channels,” says Kate Mitchell, web conversion manager at Benson for Beds. “We’d be a naïve business to just focus on online journeys as people experience our products and services in a variety of ways,” she says.

At Majestic Wine online optimisation manager Stephen Green says that the work the company does to optimise its online performance is essentially simply a continuation of what it has always done. “Our expansion into online and mobile from store retail is really just an extension of sound retailing – putting the customer at the heart of everything we do and responding to their needs,” says Green.

“Big wins have come from mobile. There’s a huge opportunity to embrace that experience.”

Sam Barton, ShopDirect

He points out that the company’s instore staff are in truth the company’s ultimate optimisation specialists. “Our staff offer friendly and personalised advice based on a deep product knowledge and passion for wine, something we strive to replicate online,” he says.

Integrating the different channels is vital and something that many retailers – including Majestic Wine – are looking towards. “We are looking to join in-store and online more closely with the launch of a new app later in the year and improving our mobile experience to grow with our customer base,” says Green.

Retailers are working hard to maximise conversion across different devices but it is not easy. Schuh’s deputy head of ecommerce Stuart McMillan says that the approach should instead be as one whatever the device. “I don’t consider mobile to be another channel, the same CRO principles apply no matter what your digital touch-point. That also applies where the sale might happen offline but was initiated online. We do what we can to improve the user journey for our Click & Collect services, even though the sale happens elsewhere in many cases,” he says.

At the company’s head of online Kevin Sears says that the company measures conversion rates on every channel level – including the impact of stores in its analysis. The company also measures CRO using cross device tracking since its customers are accessing Bathstore via a number of different devices before they ultimately purchase. “The insight this gives us is very powerful and enables us to invest budget in areas which initially we may think were not profitable,” says Sears.

Being able to tie the customer’s behaviour online with their behaviour offline is the key challenge for retailers that have large property portfolios since the store journey is so much harder to track. Businesses with online retail stores can find that the end conversion is often invisible. “The customer may go through a fully optimised online journey, but then choose to buy in a store, which can be harder to track. We are investing in our CRM systems to give us a single view of our customers, so that we can optimise the customer journey based on the customer’s choice, including, if relevant, whether they prefer to shop on or offline,” says Office’s multichannel director Robin Worthington.

A big area of focus for many retailers is mobile testing to maximise conversion through this channel. A number of the retailers interviewed for this report had this as a key focus for 2015 and many had introduced responsive sites in the last 18 months or so to improve the user experience and boost the likelihood of conversion.

At the retailer runs concurrent tests on its site across all devices from desktop, tablet and mobile and has also run a small number of conversion rate optimisation tests across its IOS app too. “Our priority has been on optimising conversion across mobile web and our tablet and desktop experiences,” says the company’s optimisation manager Ollie Scheers.

Wauwaa has also concentrated on boosting conversion through a mobile site. “When we first launched in November 2013 it was with a desktop version of the site and then in summer 2014 we launched a mobile site and saw our mobile engagement skyrocket,” says Brian Mak, chief marketing officer at the retailer.

The retailer launched its first mobile optimised site last summer and is to launch another new site this month (February). The new site is now completely responsive for desktop, tablet and mobile. “You have to be a mobile first business- our metrics have proven it since more than 60 or 70% of our traffic is mobile. We know the importance of having mobile friendly experience on the site,” he says.

Schuh also recently relaunched its website to ensure it was optimised whatever device was being used. The site now combines separate device offerings into one responsive site which has seen conversion rates increase across all devices. However McMillan says this is not a tactic for the fainthearted. “There are many case studies of site rebuilds that have been bad for conversion rates,” he points out.

At ShopDirect recent optimisation work has also focused on mobile devices. “Big wins have come from mobile devices. There’s a huge opportunity to enhance that experience so a recent project was changing some of the navigation elements on mobile and that had a significant impact on conversion,” says Sam Barton, head of user experience at ShopDirect.

Improving the whole process on mobile is vital since the channel has a much lower rate of conversion and is something many companies are focusing on. These include Klarna which has turned the idea of checkout conversion on its head, particularly through mobile, in order to increase conversion. “Retailers invest lots of money getting customers to the point of checkout but 70% of customers drop out at the point of checkout and on mobile that’s even harder. We have flipped the whole checkout to separate the buying and payments processes and so increase conversion,” says Jonathan Sheard, head of enterprise sales at Klarna.

Robin Worthington, multichannel director at Office, says that mobile has had the biggest recent impact on conversion metrics which makes sales conversion a little tougher to realise than previously. “Customers are now spending far more time browsing websites via their phones, and not always with any intention to actually buy,” he says. “As well as making it easier for customers to compare prices and products from competitors, mobile browsing means that if you use the traditional measure of orders versus visits, conversion rates on mobile can reduce the overall average conversion rate.”

And this, points out Worthington, can cause problems. “At a top line reporting level, this can look bad, particularly when you have to explain a lower conversion rate in a board meeting!” he says.

However although it means as a retailer that you may be getting lots of extra visits to your site as a retailer you may still be enjoying higher sales despite the lower conversion rate. “We therefore now report conversion by device (mobile, tablet, desktop) and take many steps to optimise the performance of our mobile customers,” says Worthington.

Whatever device customers are using, retailers simply must be taking a multidevice, cross channel approach to CRO that brings in their stores too. “It’s important to understand that mobile is just one part of an overall journey, and someone browsing on their phone might come back later on a desktop and buy then. We therefore look at all channels together in any CRO project,” says Worthington.

This is proven by the company’s’ decision to put tablets into all of its stores so that customer can order products that aren’t available instore – a move that Worthington says has significantly improved conversion in stores.

The Entertainer has also introduced tablets onto the shopfloor to allow for range extension and queue busting. “We have an app written for the shopfloor staff that lets them have a live view of all the stock in the central warehouse – that allows us to do the range extension part,” says Rob Wood, online trading manager at The Entertainer.

For Office however tablets are only one of a number of digital techniques that the company has introduced to help increase conversion across all its channels. “We have also tested incentivised advertising (via Google and affiliates for example) to drive customers into our high street stores, and have experimented with i-Beacon technology, which has allowed us to target customers with personalised offers and messaging when they are in the store vicinity. We have other initiatives planned to improve conversion across all our channels in future,” says Worthington.

Ecommerce expert Paul Postance says retailers must maximise for CRO across all channels. “The big fear a few years ago was that mobile use had a lower conversion rate but increasing traffic share. So if customers weren’t buying as much on mobile, the business would be in trouble. Happily data showed the way and we started learning how customers treat devices and places to interact differently. Knowing how to leverage this for example via in-store Wi-Fi and dynamic offers, in-store kiosks, or hybrid responsive designs to help guide research on a smartphone and subsequent buying decisions on a large screen gives retailers an edge,” he says.

And as Postance points out such data can also give unexpected insight. “In a previous role I saw customers attempt to buy sofas by smartphone on our newly launched mobile site. We hadn’t expected that so hadn’t built that part of the journey, but they were trying. This usage data was used to make a value-based case for development effort to implement the change,” he says.

The potential is huge but requires the retailer to think like the customer according to Bensons for Beds’ Kate Mitchell who says that all retailers need to better understand how their customers are buying across channels. “A better understanding of cross channel buying behaviour is needed and will have a really positive impact on sales conversion – both helping inform an optimisation strategy and change mind-set within the business,” she says.

But the experience of Walls and Floors shows that as well as online, instore and mobile high conversion rates can come simply from focussing on old school channels. “We’re adamant about customer service and so we have recently gone seven days a week with our phone contact centre,” says Tom Murrell, web development manager for the retailer – this he says enables customers to get the advice they needs as well as giving them the confidence to buy online.

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