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Customer journeys start with smartphones, but brands still don’t get mobile

Customers are not going to wait for brands to get the mobile journey right…they’ll move on and find someone else who gets them.

Customers are increasingly and overwhelmingly mobile-first. For the most part, many brands are still learning how to optimize traditional e-commerce experiences let alone mobile sites and apps. The Amazons of the world don’t make it any easier to keep up. Yet every day, customers are reaching for their smartphones to learn about what to buy, what to do or where to go. But without being mobile-centric and integrating digital touchpoints, customer journeys are certain to be rife with obstacles between mobile sites and apps and even the desktop web.

Mobile journeys straddle mobile sites and apps

When customers reach for their smartphones to learn and make decisions, they begin a  mobile purchasing journey that’s complex and incredibly fragmented. As a result, the lines blur between mobile sites and apps. According to new research by Google, 46% of mobile shopping sessions include at least one transition between a mobile site and an app.

Design best-in-class mobile experiences, regardless of industry or competitor

Thanks to the ease and convenience of mobile, consumer expectations are higher than ever before. People want seamless and efficient mobile experiences. If they encounter digital obstacles on a mobile site, they’ll switch to an app because they perceive it to be easier to navigate (47%), more efficient to make a purchase (40%) or to save time during checkout (37%).

After years of research in CX, mobile UX, and experience design, I’ve learned that there’s significant room for improvements in digital and mobile journeys. But when it comes to mobile specifically, brands are facing a critical juncture. Not only do they need to improve mobile experiences, they need to understand, from a mobile customer perspective, what people expect, desire and cherish when it comes to their favorite apps and sites.

At the same time, there’s nothing in the marketing playbook that says you need both a mobile site and app. If you do one or both, they have to be efficient, intuitive and native to their foundation (web vs. application). With apps, brands must also deliver continuous utility/usefulness and value. Mobile screens and storage are precious and need to keep earning a spot on the device. Recent studies found that mobile users interact with a total of 30 apps per month and 71% of users churn within three months of downloading an app.

In many cases, customers think mobile sites can be more useful than apps. For example, Google also learned in its research, that 87% of customers say they can be loyal to a brand without having the app on their phone. What’s more, 53% of smartphone users do not have their favorite brand’s app installed, which includes 41% who have never had the brand’s app and 12% that have had the brand’s app in the past, but deleted it.

In my experience, I’ve found that brands tend to think about mobile through an e-commerce or commerce lens. The best apps however, center design around user experiences to deliver best-in-class mobile engagement, beyond just looking within their industry or against competitors.

Without optimizing mobile sites and apps, customers are likely to get frustrated and jump to another source for more native experiences. For example, Google learned that people will switch from an app to a mobile site at any point during the purchase journey. The top three reasons for doing so are because they 1) want to go directly to the source (40%), 2) they are more familiar with the mobile site (38%) or 3) they’re looking to expand their options through search (38%).

Three Ways to Win in the Mobile Purchasing Journey

In order for organizations to win on mobile, they need to remove divides between their mobile site and app teams in order to gain a 360 view of the customer.

1) Unite mobile app and web teams to deliver a unified and value-added experience.

It’s never been more important for digital/mobile marketers to understand how customers are engaging with both platforms. Yet, marketing organizations still silo their mobile app and web teams, causing fragmented user experiences.

Marketing teams need to work together. Otherwise, journeys, by design, are disjointed and not mobile-optimized. Collaboration between app and web teams should study user data and site analytics to tailor, enhance and integrate the mobile experience everywhere possible.

2) Understand the unique attributes of mobile customers and how they make decisions via smartphones.

Study mobile customer behaviors and purchase journeys. Discover what moves them and equally what causes conflict or abandonment. Identify friction points and learn why people switch between mobile and apps to fix critical gaps their journey.  Additionally, understand their relationship with their favorite apps and mobile sites, regardless of industry. This will yield design cues that evoke familiarity, joy and differentiation.

3) Design modern mobile journeys that are intuitive, delightful and value-added

Mobile sites have to perform against customer expectations and preferences. Additionally, to gain precious real estate on a mobile device, apps have to be useful, value-added, trusted and rewarding.

Brands must evaluate the best solutions for their respective customers not design and deploy mobiles sites and apps based on existing capabilities or those follow popular trends. Whether you need a mobile site, an app or both, ensure that your experience delivers what people are seeking, quickly, seamlessly and allow them to move their next step with minimal effort.

This is a time for internal collaboration to deliver external unified mobile experiences. Aligning the roles of marketing, user experience, mobile/digital and customer experience, ensures the delivery of an integrated, intuitive and gratifying experience at every touchpoint. Otherwise, customers will experience friction and fragmentation, which by design, invites competitive engagement.

Photo Credit: Bruce Mars, Unsplash

Brian Solis

Brian Solis is principal analyst and futurist at Altimeter, the digital analyst group at Prophet, Brian is world renowned keynote speaker and 7x best-selling author. His latest book, X: Where Business Meets Design, explores the future of brand and customer engagement through experience design.

Please, invite him to speak at your event or bring him in to inspire and change executive mindsets.

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ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Customer journeys start with smartphones, but brands still don’t get mobile”

  1. Laura says:

    Very valuable insights. What do you think about using a qualitative app analytics tool like Appsee to accomplish these goals? It seems to me that a qualitative tool with session recordings can be a big asset for understanding users and creating a fun, smooth experience.

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