February 1, 2012, 12:00 AM

Measuring mobile satisfaction

Apple and Amazon lead, but many retailers please shoppers with mobile sites and apps.

Lead Photo

The world of mobile is clearly growing and developing at lightning speed. In a January report from Forrester Research Inc. containing key predictions for 2012, analyst Kerry Bodine pronounces, 'mobile and tablet devices will be key touch points for differentiation.' ComScore Inc. said in November 2011 that 91.4 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones. IBM Corp. reported that 18.3% of all traffic to online retail sites came from a mobile device on Christmas Day, more than doubling last year's figure of 8.4%.

If retailers are going to compete and differentiate with mobile services in 2012, it is critical that they can measure their success in creating a satisfying customer experience. Whether on a web site, in a store, or on a mobile-optimized web site or mobile app, customer satisfaction is the result of meeting a customer's needs and expectations. The principles are the same regardless of the customer touch point. Measuring whether an experience meets customers' needs and expectations cannot be done by tracking mobile sales, app downloads, or mobile site traffic. It can only be done by asking the customers themselves.

That's what we did this holiday season.

ForeSee has been tracking customer satisfaction with mobile sites since 2010, but has never before publicly reported company-level satisfaction scores for mobile apps and web sites. This report is the first effort of its kind. It is based on data collected from visitors to the top 40 retail web sites (by sales volume, according to the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide). We were able to collect sufficient data to calculate statistically significant customer satisfaction scores for 16 of the top retailers' mobile sites, and in this report we share those scores with our analysis.

This study utilized FGI Research's SmartPanel, a nationwide panel of approximately 1.6 million consumer households who have agreed to participate in opt-in surveys. More than 23,000 survey responses were collected from Nov. 30, 2011, through Dec. 12, 2011.

Our findings show which companies are on the forefront of the emerging and powerful mobile trend. Mobile commerce is clearly here to stay, and the companies that can make an early and powerful impression could have a huge cross-channel advantage.

Leading the pack

Here are our key findings:

  • Of the largest e-retailers' sites, the Apple store and Amazon provide the best mobile experience by a large margin. On the study's 100-point scale, Apple comes in first place at 85, with Amazon close behind at 84. They represent the top tier, with a statistically significant gap between them and the rest of the pack. Dell is a distant third at 78, for example.
  • Traditional web sites satisfy shoppers more than mobile sites and apps. In general, retailers receive higher satisfaction scores for their traditional web sites than for their mobile versions. The average satisfaction score for the same companies' web sites was 79, compared to 76 for the mobile experiences from the same companies.
  • Shoppers are using mobile phones to access web sites and apps more than ever before. 38% of online shoppers (from our related study of the top 40 retail web sites) have used their phone to access a retailer's web site, up significantly from 33% last year; and an additional 25% indicated they may access retail web sites or mobile apps by phone in the future.
  • Consumers use their phones for a variety of shopping tasks. Online shoppers were most likely to use their mobile phones to research products (34%), but 15% bought directly from their mobile phones, up from 11% last year.
  • Mobile commerce enables and encourages competition. One in five online shoppers used a mobile phone to compare prices or products while shopping in a retail location.
  • Shoppers use their phones to look at competitor web sites. While in physical stores, more than one-third of online shoppers (36%) used their phones to visit the store's own web site or app, but nearly one-quarter (24%) also used their phones to access a competitor's web site or mobile site.
  • Good experiences with mobile sites and apps have critical cross-channel impact. Mobile shoppers who are highly satisfied with their mobile experience report being 54% more likely to consider that company the next time they want to make a similar purchase and twice as likely to buy from the retailer's mobile channel again.

Mobile satisfaction scores

Of the top 40 web sites, we were able to collect enough data to produce statistically reliable satisfaction scores for 16 retailers' mobile experiences. Because some retailers focus more on mobile apps than mobile sites and vice versa, we measured both types of mobile experiences, so that the scores reflect the retailers' mobile efforts as a whole.

The average satisfaction score for these 16 mobile experiences is 76, but Apple at 85 and Amazon at 84 are well ahead of the rest.

It is important to note that these are some of the largest and most successful e-retailers in the country. Although the average satisfaction for these 16 mobile experiences is 76, that's well above the average score of 67 in a monthly benchmark that ForeSee maintains with a much broader range of companies of all sizes across industries. Therefore, being at the bottom of this list of retailers does not mean a subpar performance, since everyone on this list outperforms the cross-industry average of 67.

On average the retailers' web sites outperform their mobile sites in terms of customer satisfaction by three points. However, a few companies had comparable performance on mobile and web: Apple (a standout with a mobile score two points higher than its web score), Toys 'R' Us, Best Buy, Staples, Netflix, Dell, and Blockbuster.

Mobile is still in its infancy in many ways, so it is not a surprise that satisfaction with mobile sites lags satisfaction with traditional web sites. However, a mobile site can either complement a consumer's overall brand experience or undermine it.

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