February 1, 2012, 12:00 AM

Measuring mobile satisfaction

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The largest gaps between web satisfaction and mobile satisfaction are for Avon, with a gap of eight points, and Walmart, with a gap of seven points. A large gap indicates that customer needs are not being met nearly as well in the mobile experience as they are online. Unless companies improve their mobile shopping capabilities, this gap is likely to become more of a problem for companies as more of the population becomes mobile-savvy and expectations for the mobile experience rise. Customers expect the same high-quality experience on a mobile site as they do on a web site, and companies that do not deliver could see long-term brand affinity and loyalty suffer.

Impact beyond mobile

Since extensive academic studies have shown that satisfaction can influence what customers will do in the future, we were also able to rate each of these 16 e-retailers in terms of their customers' likelihood to make future purchases, both from a mobile phone and from other channels.

Unsurprisingly, satisfaction with the mobile experience corresponds with a higher likelihood to use the same channel for future purchases. The following chart shows that Apple customers are the most likely to make a future purchase from Apple on their mobile phones, followed by Amazon, which tracks with the highest mobile satisfaction scores.

In addition, experiences happening in the mobile environment have a huge impact on other channels. Mobile shoppers most likely to make a purchase from another channel (the traditional web site, a store, or a call center) are those who shopped on Amazon (87) and Apple (81), followed closely by Best Buy and Avon (both 79), Staples, Barnes and Noble, Victoria's Secret and Target (all 78). These scores highlight the companies that have made the most progress in using their mobile experiences to engender loyalty across channels. It is generally the case that mobile users represent a critical and lucrative audience segment, where great gains can be found from engendering loyalty and recommendations.

Other findings:

  • 38% of online shoppers say they have used a mobile phone to access a retailer's web site, mobile site, or mobile app.
  • A sizeable percentage of all online shoppers made purchases from their mobile phones (15%) this holiday season. Even more are using their phone to research purchases that may be made through other channels.
  • Mobile phones give retailers the opportunity to target customers not only in their own bricks-and-mortar stores, but also in their competitors' stores. While some retailers have adopted location-based advertising that shows mobile shoppers targeted advertisements and specials based on their locations, our research shows that customers are actively visiting competing web sites and apps in order to get product information. 43% of mobile shoppers accessed a competitor's web site while shopping inside a store, 26% accessed a shopping comparison web site, and 14% accessed a competitor's mobile app. Before the advent of mobile commerce, it was nearly impossible for one retailer to compete with another inside a store's four walls.
  • Looking at how people are using mobile web sites and apps should inform developers. On average 47% of mobile shoppers used their phones to look up prices and 34% to compare products, so retailers should make sure these capabilities are front-and-center on mobile apps and mobile web sites.

Measuring satisfaction is a must

The methodology used to conduct this study recognizes that satisfaction itself is not the only desired end result. ForeSee uses the predictive methodology of the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, developed at the University of Michigan, that measures customer satisfaction in such a way that it predicts customers' likelihood to shop again, buy more, or be loyal to the company in question. It has even been shown to predict stock prices.

The impact of mobile customer satisfaction on a retailer's multichannel business is clear. The data show that a satisfied shopper is far more likely to purchase (online and offline), remain loyal, and engage in positive word-of-mouth recommendations than is a dissatisfied mobile shopper. While this may be intuitive, ForeSee's methodology is able to quantify the impact of a satisfied online shopper on a retailer's overall business operations. We can see from our data that customer satisfaction leads to:

  • Future mobile purchases: Compared to shoppers who are dissatisfied with a mobile experience (have satisfaction scores of 69 or lower), shoppers who are highly satisfied with a mobile web site (have satisfaction scores of 80 or higher) say they are twice as likely to purchase from the mobile site in the future.
  • Impact on purchases in other channels: Satisfied mobile customers report being 54% more likely to consider that company the next time they are making a similar purchase, and 40% more likely than dissatisfied mobile customers to purchase from other channels, such as the traditional web site or store.

What it means

Consumer perceptions of a retailer are created by the sum of their experiences across all platforms, from the web, to the bricks-and-mortar store, to the call center, and via mobile device. Just as web site customer satisfaction has proven to be predictive of consumer behavior, the same holds true for the mobile environment.

And as more consumers embrace mobile devices for web browsing and the diversity of apps, the importance of meeting customer expectations on the mobile platform will only grow, especially considering that most people never leave home without their phone. The mobile device, be it a smartphone or tablet, is the next great opportunity for retailers. But it's a path beset with pitfalls and obstacles. Do it right, and you can have a customer for life. Do it wrong and you risk losing a customer to competition.

There is only one way to know if you're getting it right, and that is to ask your customers. Listen to your customers and learn how they experience your brand across every channel. Because only through understanding your customers' expectations can you expect to meet or exceed them.

Larry Freed is president and CEO of ForeSee, where Eric Feinberg is director of mobile markets.

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