November 1, 2012, 12:00 AM

Mobile take-off

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Retailers can create a similar personalized mobile atmosphere for their shoppers. If a customer is logged in to her account with a retailer that sells DVDs, for example, the retailer could flood the home screen with recommended titles based on past purchase and browsing history. As for the time element, if the retailer knows that customer is a science-fiction film fan, it could highlight an impending sci-fi DVD and its release date, possibly offering the option to pre-order the title.

JetBlue goes beyond the home screen with its personalization efforts. The airline offers free Direct TV satellite television to every flier. The app features a Direct TV schedule that, when a TrueBlue member is logged in, highlights the programs the traveler will be able to watch during his upcoming flight. App users can set reminders on programs and the app will send a push notification message before a program begins. Internet access is not required for the reminders, so smartphone users can keep their devices in airplane mode.

Since it launched the eased checkout process and personalization in February, JetBlue has experienced a significant and steady increase in TrueBlue enrollments via the mobile app, Stephen says, although he declined to reveal specific numbers.

"It's because of that personalization we offer to the mobile customer," he says. "It's an added incentive to the account that made it so successful. We are now seeing a steady stream of TrueBlue members actively using the application."

Customer feedback

While easing checkout and personalizing a mobile site or app can benefit customers in many ways, customers may have something to say about the way these or other processes are being handled. It is crucial to listen to what customers are saying about mobile commerce, especially through app store reviews and formal feedback mechanisms, travel firm executives say. Like travel companies, retailers can guide their mobile initiatives based on consumer sentiment.

Travelocity is adding the ability to book business class and first class flights to its iPad app because of feedback it gleaned from user reviews in Apple Inc.'s App Store.

"That was the No. 1 request in the App Store comments," says Fulmines of Travelocity. "We read every single one of them. If we see five, six, seven people asking for business class booking, that might extrapolate out to a big proportion of our users. You've got to keep an eye on the App Store and do your best to make sure you are addressing legitimate desires and show users in future app upgrades that you have taken their feedback to heart."

Corbin of Marriott also monitors App Store reviews—and takes customer feedback to the next level. The Marriott app features a customer feedback form, and the Marriott m-commerce site features a 16-question survey for customers to take (see picture on this page).

"Mobile is new for everybody so we want to make sure we have our eyes and ears open to the customer," Corbin says. "You can try to interpret what works and what doesn't through tracking data. Sometimes the best bet is the most direct route, so we ask them to take a survey. We have learned things there, and accelerated some things."

For example, Marriott learned from mobile customers about a problem it had with page links deep inside the site.

"We ended up having a challenge when people would do a Google search for 'Chicago hotels,' for example, and our Chicago Marriott pops up and they click on it. On the web through a PC it would take them directly to the hotel's web site. On mobile it would take them to the mobile web site home page, and then they would have to enter their search information again," Corbin explains. "Now we redirect them to a mobile version of that hotel's web site. As a result, we have seen bounce rates fall significantly." A bounce occurs when a consumer lands on a web site page and then leaves that site without visiting other pages.

Always at hand

Acting on customer feedback is important in mobile commerce in part because consumers always have their devices with them. Marriott's Corbin envies retailers with apps and sites that customers are constantly using while in a store. He wants Marriott's app and site to become more like those of some of his retailer counterparts.

"We look at retail where somebody is shopping in a store with their Amazon app open; for us in the travel industry we want the Marriott app always open, and you have to provide a greater array of services to accomplish that," Corbin says. "That's where the next wave of innovation will come from in travel. Commerce is easy. We've had online booking for years. Services is where it gets interesting, all those things that happen after the booking, such as location-based offers."

Travel firms share a lot in common with retailers when it comes to servicing mobile customers, and retailers can look to innovative travel firms for inspiration. What's working well for a travel firm could be a boon for a retailer in m-commerce.

bill@verticalwebmedia.com

@IRmcommerce

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