June 8, 2011, 12:43 PM

Mystery shopping study reveals there is room for improvement in m-commerce

The E-tailing Group studied 50 m-commerce sites and offers advice for mobile retailers.

Bill Siwicki

Managing Editor, Mobile Commerce

Lead Photo

The merchant's m-commerce site earned the highest score in The E-tailing Group's 2nd Annual Mobile Commerce Mystery Shopping Study.

The mobile shopping experience has shown improvements in overall usability, better search refinement options, enhanced product pages and a more efficient checkout process; however, most retailers with mobile commerce sites still have work to do to match the ease of use of their more sophisticated e-commerce sites, finds The E-tailing Group Inc. in its 2nd Annual Mobile Commerce Mystery Shopping Study.

The research and consulting firm audited 50 m-commerce sites based on 160 metrics, such as the inclusion of a store locator, site search and product availability check. It rated sites on a 100-point scale. The top five m-commerce sites are those of Best Buy Co. (82.25 out of 100), HSN Inc. (81.87), Target Corp. (81.75), eBags Inc. (80.22) and Recreational Equipment Inc., also known as REI (80.00).

“Though it has been less than a year since our inaugural m-commerce study in the third quarter of 2010, it is apparent that the mobile landscape continues to evolve at an epic rate,” says Lauren Freedman, president of The E-tailing Group.

The firm also provided a ranking for how the 50 retailers are doing as a group on several key elements of mobile site functionality, rating the availability and quality of each element on a 10-point scale. Store locator received an eight, suggesting many retailers are getting this feature right. “The locator continues to evolve with more emphasis on the cross-channel experience,” the study says. “Good strides have been made since the last study.”

Mobile retailers have more work to do in making it easy for consumers to check the availability of products in nearby stores, a feature that received a four from The E-tailing Group. “Even though there has been improvement in the use of product locators and in-store pickup, too few merchants employ them,” the study says.

Site search earned a seven out of 10. “It is clear that search options are continuing to evolve, giving shoppers greater control over how they browse for products,” the study finds. Making a purchase received a six. “By offering checkout in just one click or enabling the pre-population of important purchasing information, clearly merchants are more cognizant that making a purchase must be fast, easy and flawless,” the study says. And the ability to contact customer service earned an eight. “It is disappointing that not all merchants make their 800 number accessible to customers on the go or offer their e-mail address as a point of contact,” the study says.

The E-tailing Group offers advice to retailers in m-commerce or planning to dive in. Suggestions include:

  • Ensure all paths used by mobile phone owners lead back to the mobile site, whether from direct URL entry or from a Google search link.
  • Keep usability top of mind; use only legible text, implement keyword search at the top of all site pages, provide users with relevant refinement and sorting options, and enable shoppers to check out quickly with pre-populated profile information within an interface that requires minimal clicks to complete.
  • Maintain branding consistency across all channels and ensure customers can connect with the brand via an 800 number, e-mail contact form or e-mail address.
  • Provide a store locator that includes comprehensive information: geolocation, driving directions and maps, store hours, and click-to-call phone numbers.
  • Enhance product pages with comprehensive product information, relevant recommendations, product photos that can be enlarged and viewed from other angles, and ratings and reviews.
  • Provide shoppers the ability to reach out and touch someone by e-mailing product details to friends, or sharing product information and engaging with the merchant on social networking sites.

“It is important to remember that we are still in the early days of mobile commerce with unprecedented adoption projected,” Freedman says. “Just as e-commerce has become ingrained into our culture, so too will mobile shopping transform consumer shopping forever.”

Comments | 3 Responses

  • I think the best advice in this article is "Keep usability top of mind." It baffles me that retailers would rush to get a mobile optimized site, or app up that doesn't address the full list of what their customers are looking for. To say "you only get one chance to make a first impression" is trite, but so applicable in this case. As a consumer I'd much rather be experiencing a robust m-comm site or app from a trusted retailer, than to be disappointed by a short-sighted offering.

  • Even the publishers have not figured this out. For example, try checking out your team scores on espn.com with your Blackberry.

  • Great study from the eTailing Group. The many mobile features that are found from the study are well articulated and each an important part of the mobile experience. Of all SEARCH is by far the #1 most important based on the way mobile shoppers shop by nature of the device. That is why we built an autonomous customizable,search function on all our mShopper mStores because how shoppers shop on a PC is quite different from how they shop on a smartphone. Shorter search terms and faster, more targeted results are required, which makes optimizing and customizing search for the way your individual shoppers are shopping your mobile site critical. Lauren's notation of Usabliity and Product Features fit hand in proverbial hand with a need for all the Product feature/ attributes, images and reviews as important. Once a product is found the consumer wants as much detail as possible to make their decision. Finally, they want their log in information to autopopulate to make their checkout complete with their multiple payment options happen with the fewest keystrokes.

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