February 17, 2011, 4:50 PM

How to test for success in mobile commerce

On-site testing can help retailers design a winning mobile site or app, IRWD speaker says.

Lead Photo

Chris Brya, director of mobile and emerging channels at Choice Hotels

Testing is imperative in mobile commerce because there are so many variables, Chris Brya, director, mobile and emerging channels, at Choice Hotels International Inc., told attendees Wednesday at the Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability Conference. Not only are there several platforms, from Google Inc.’s Android to Apple Inc.’s iOS, there also is a range of devices, each with unique features, quirks and screen sizes.

Brya, whose company has its own on-site usability testing lab, discussed the importance of mobile usability testing and offered tips on how to do it in his presentation, “How m-commerce magnifies the importance of usability testing.”

“Even within a platform, there are several different devices with different capabilities, such as display sizes and processing capabilities,” Brya said. And all mobile devices have less memory and smaller screens than a PC, and connect to wireless networks at varying speeds.

Measuring all these variables can be daunting. Brya said retailers should zero in and focus on the most important aspects of a mobile site or app to measure. Those, Brya said, are efficiency, satisfaction and effectiveness. Efficiency measures if the site or app meets customer’s expectations for speed, accuracy and performance. Satisfaction measures how customers think and feel about the mobile site or app. Effectiveness measures whether customers achieve what they want and need from the mobile channel.

In order to create an efficient, satisfying and effective mobile experience, retailers need to know three things about their mobile customers: who they are, what their mobile goals are and how they will be interacting with the mobile channel.

To get a better glimpse into each of these, Brya recommends retailers first use web analytics to determine the mobile platforms and devices customers use to access their e-commerce sites. Next, he said, retailers should look at traits such as gender and age of mobile visitors. Finally, he advised retailers to recruit consumers who fit these demographics to come in for recorded mobile usability testing sessions.

Watching consumers interact on mobile devices is the best way for retailers to design for their needs, he said. “Capturing data and recording the sessions are absolute keys,” Brya said. “You need to see actions and reactions so that you can analyze nuances that can turn out to be huge factors.” Retailers can record sessions via ceiling cameras, wearable equipment such as a helmet or special eyeglasses with built-in cameras, or screen capture software.

“You’ll want to identify a task, but no more than 5-6 tasks, that you want your customers to give you feedback on,” he said.

Some aspects to examine include:

  • What are the consumers’ impressions of the mobile interface?
  • Can they easily buy a product?
  • Can they locate how to contact you easily?

To measure effectiveness, retailers can examine:

  • What was the percent of tasks completed?
  • What was the ratio of successes to failures?
  • Was it easy for them or a struggle to use the mobile site or app?

To measure efficiency retailers should look at:

  • Average time to complete a task via mobile.
  • Average time to learn how a specific aspect functions.
  • Quantity of time spent on errors.
  • Number of errors.
  • Frequency of the need for help.

And to investigate satisfaction, he suggests retailers evaluate the subjects on the following experiences on a scale from 1 to 7:

  • Was the site or app useful?
  • Were consumers satisfied with the features and functions?
  • How many times did the customer express frustration or struggle?
  • Did the mobile technology support the tasks that the consumer wanted to complete?

Lastly, Brya cautioned not to forget to evaluate the competition. He says usability testing on competitors’ mobile sites or apps can give a retailer great insight into what they should (and should not) be doing. “Don’t think twice about conducting usability testing on your competition’s mobile app or web site,” Brya said.

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