February 13, 2012, 5:48 PM

IRWD2012: Nutrisystem gets its mobile channel in shape

Fun mobile features lead more consumers to participate in its dieting programs.

Lead Photo

Vijay Murali speaking today at IRWD 2012 in Orlando.

A big challenge for Nutrisystem Inc., a provider of weight-loss programs and nutritional foods, is getting prospective customers to go through the several steps required to calculate their Body Mass Index—a crucial first step in planning a diet program with a customized meal menu, vice president of e-commerce technology Vijay Murali said today at the Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability Conference in Orlando.

With a little creative use of mobile commerce technology, Nutrisystem has designed a BMI entry form designed to make the process quick and painless enough—even fun, in a responsible sort of way—to result in a noticeable increase in the number of consumers who complete the index form and, as a result, become more qualified prospects for Nutrisystem’s programs, Murali said.

Instead of asking consumers to enter their current weight into a blank window on a data-entry form, for example, the “Body Assessment Form” on a tablet computer lets consumers enter their weight by swiping the form to move a wheel that looks like a needle on a weight scale. “Our BMI completion rate is up,” he said, because Nutrisystem made the BMI form something people “want to use.”

Murali added that effective mobile design also requires retailers to sometimes break the rules of traditional design. While a data-entry form on a web site would try to get as much information as possible on a single page, a consumer on a mobile phone might find it easier to enter the data on a few pages instead of just one. At the same time, however, he noted that designers should still try to limit the number of data-entry forms on a mobile device and ensure that pages load quickly.

Murali addressed how to transfer the user experience from a traditional web site to a mobile device in a session titled “Site design for the new reality: PCs, phone, tablets.”

His co-presenter, Betsy Emery, CEO and founder of web design consultants Tellus Web, of which Nutrisystem is a client, also referred to leading designs at other online retailers, including Walgreens, Zappos, Sears and health-and-wellness products retailer Gaiam. In each case, she said, these retailers understand their customers and design mobile sites that suit how they like to shop. Walgreens and Zappos, for example, have streamlined navigation so shoppers can quickly find products; at Sears, effective mobile features include the ability to choose “As Seen on TV” products for the consumer looking for something she just saw advertised on a television commercial. And at Gaiam, mobile shoppers can click a relaxation audio file that complements their interests in health and wellness products.

Retailers, she said, need to “look at mobile first” because it’s becoming a primary shopping experience for consumers.

Nutrisystem is No. 63 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide; Sears is No. 7, Walgreens, No. 73, and Gaiam, No. 285. Zappos is unit of Amazon.com Inc., No. 1.

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