The Optimization Imperative: Finetune Your Mobile Shopping Experience

Online shoppers are browsing and buying more frequently than ever before — and doing so from multiple networks, locations and mobile devices across the globe.  For the retail industry, mobile has become a major aspect of the brand and commerce experience.

Mobile's global growth stats are staggering
And it's no wonder, with smartphone subscriptions projected to increase by an average of 15 percent a year through 2020 reaching 6 billion. Whether they are researching before making a purchase in store or buying directly from their mobile devices, today's consumers use their smartphones throughout the entire shopping experience, influencing a significant percentage of overall retail spending. Consider that in the UK, nearly 20 percent of e-commerce shopping happens during the daily commute. The portion of mobile revenues for Alibaba's China commerce retail business grew by 448 percent year-over-year. In Australia, mobile traffic is up 65 percent in just one year, with mobile devices making up more than 60 percent of all Internet traffic.

A recent survey indicated that 75 percent of store shoppers use their mobile devices while shopping in stores and mobile usage is said to have influenced upwards of 50 percent of retail store sales during the 2014 holiday season. What's more, digital interactions are expected to influence 64 cents of every dollar spent – in other words, $2.2 trillion – in retail stores by the end of 2015.

Importance of delivering a good mobile experience
Consumers expect retailers to provide an immersive, dynamic experience characterized by rich interactions and imagery. Retailers must contend with numerous challenges when delivering sites and apps to mobile devices: they must ensure optimal viewing on multiple devices, multiple screen types and different operating systems. However, it's nearly impossible for companies to overcome these issues on their own since mobile sites and apps are dependent on a public Internet that is fraught with bottlenecks, latency and security issues. In other words, optimizing the viewer experience is hard in a fast-changing and increasingly fragmented mobile world.

Despite all these obstacles, it's critical to deliver these rich, dynamic experiences at lightning-fast speeds since 52 percent of smartphone users expect pages to load in two seconds or less, and 20 percent expect pages to load instantly. We've seen, however, that meeting smartphone users' high expectations can be exceptionally challenging. In a recent study of mobile users, one third of respondents reported apps and/or mobile sites being slow to load. In fact, Akamai's Consumer Web Performance Expectations survey found that mobile users have the least satisfying e-commerce experience.

These failures to meet consumer expectations can dramatically impact a company's bottom line — more than half of U.S. smartphone owners have abandoned a mobile transaction because of usability issues, slow loading times and poor navigation and check out, costing retailers as much as $24 billion in revenues. At the same time, more than half of UK smartphone owners have abandoned a mobile transaction because of similar issues, costing retailers as much as £6 billion in lost revenues.

And to top it off Google will punish you for not delivering a mobile friendly site — starting April 21, 2015, Google incorporated the "mobile friendliness" of a site in its ranking algorithm. Find out how your site is viewed by consumers on mobile devices.

What does mobile look like in stores in 2016?
Some brands are proactively adjusting their approach to how they engage mobile consumers in store. For example, Kohl's is unveiling an "in-store mode" for its app, to accompany shoppers while they browse the store. Target already offers an in-store app that allows shoppers to build their weekly shopping list and view an interactive map of each Target store. Similarly GameStop is bringing the richness of the online shopping experience to the store. Upon arrival, shoppers using GameStop's mobile app are directed to see ratings, reviews and trailers for new releases.

On the other hand, Macy's and Hointer are pairing up to take a very different look at the in-store shopping experiencing. The two companies are engaging consumers with mobile devices to improve the convenience and simplicity of finding, trying on and buying clothes through their own app and "smart" dressing rooms, which can communicate with sales reps and inventory to quickly stock the dressing room. Ultimately, this conveniently improves cross-sell and upsell opportunities. 

So what can you do?
In a hyper-connected world, consumers expect high-quality performance on a variety of devices from countless locations across the globe. The top two reasons for consumer dissatisfaction on mobile devices were that "the website was slow to respond" and "the website was not available." With that understanding, it's critical to ensure websites display quickly and reliably on any mobile device – ideally without installing, integrating and managing numerous solutions from multiple vendors. Overall, make sure you know and understand your customers by giving them what they want and when they want it to ensure you are prepared for the holiday surge in online traffic.

Caley Iandiorio is the industry marketing manager, commerce at Akamai, provider of the Akamai Intelligent Platform which offers users web performance, mobile performance, cloud security and media delivery solutions to manage the underlying complexities of online businesses. Akamai offers access to a network of more than 170,000 servers across the globe.
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