Portable and intimate by design, mobile devices are ideal for driving e-commerce sales. Here are suggestions to help enhance your marketing strategy by improving the customer experience.

How urgent is it for brands to address customer experience in our increasingly digital world? If it isn't your primary mandate, drop everything. The always-on nature of mobile devices and the intimacy of the medium has created an environment in which consumers expect on-demand, personalized interactions with companies of all kinds.

Research firm Gartner reports that 89 percent of marketers will fail at providing a competitive customer experience unless they offer mobile-enabled interactions in real-time. Gartner isn't the only organization that has recently stressed the importance of homing in on mobile customers. Based on its research, Altimeter Group predicts that, "Mobile will become the standard for hosting the customer journey." However, most companies are still unprepared to service the mobile-only customer. The result? Consumers are forced to look elsewhere for the experience they crave.

The Path to a Smartphone Strategy

Whether the customer experience in question relates to the purchase process, marketing, or customer service, mobile strategy should be front and center. Just consider that mobile transactions currently represent 22 percent of digital commerce revenue, and that this number is expected to increase to 50 percent by 2017. In other words, less than two years from now mobile will be as much a part of e-commerce as the desktop.

Among companies' main mobile e-commerce concerns are page design and functionality, but content shouldn't be overlooked. By focusing on quality copy, incorporating educational and instructional content, and weaving in formats like video, brands can round out the mobile shopping experience and keep consumers coming back for more.

But before they can begin engaging users, they must determine what their customers want. Stephanie Trunzo, (Read more...) digital officer of mobile design and development firm PointSource, believes that understanding the customer journey is a vital first step in developing an effective mobile strategy. "Mobile is changing how we live and work, and customers are increasingly more discerning every day," she says. In order to appeal to customers, her firm looks for the "mobile moments" that afford clients the ability to introduce new interactions that will enhance the mobile user experience. "This helps to understand the users' context, which is critical when identifying features and success metrics, as well as getting all of the relevant stakeholders to consensus. The journey we identify becomes the foundation that the strategy is built on," Trunzo says.

Apps Are Where It's At

More increasingly this strategy includes apps. Google research conducted in affiliation with Ipsos MediaCT reveals new information about what makes branded apps a success. The companies report that 57 percent of frequently used apps offer a consistent user experience across devices and an attractive design. Meanwhile, 63 percent provide clear instructions for use and deliver value by making the consumer's life easier in some way.

Home Depot's mobile app is an excellent example of putting the customer experience first. Upon initial download, users get succinct instructions for how to use the app and where to find the information they're looking for.


Other core features include access to store inventory with over 700,000 products in real-time, in-store maps that make locating products easy, customer reviews, and local ads from users' nearest brick-and-mortar stores. It also includes a shopping list that can be populated by inserting text, scanning an item bar code, or saving a product once it has been viewed. In all, the app provides a robust and practical experience that, in terms of delivering information capable of informing a purchase decision, far surpasses what a Home Depot customer can get in-store.


Servicing the Mobile Customer

While marketing strategy and e-commerce require attention, so too does the customer experience beyond the sale. SAP's global vice president of CRM Solutions Volker Hildebrand underscores the importance of keeping marketing and service "in lockstep." His best practices include embracing peer recommendations and avoiding meaningless messages.

"Online communities play an important role in helping customers find answers to questions they may have, allowing them to quickly solve problems themselves. So they should not be overlooked by organizations," Hildebrand says.

Ratings, reviews, community support, and loyalty programs all factor into the process of rewarding not just transactions, but customer engagement. He adds, "Although everyone agrees that mostly meaningless marketing messages and irrelevant product offers are annoying to customers, very few companies have managed to truly engage with their customers one-on-one-in the moment. This is when it really matters to the customer and in the context of their individual profiles, preferences, and behavior."

A sea change is coming. Actually, in many ways it's already here. Businesses - it's time to ready yourselves to deliver the experience mobile-only customers seek.

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