October 24, 2011, 3:53 PM

Persistence is a mobile commerce virtue

Please, Mr. Retailer, don’t make me type everything all the time.

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Making mobile apps and m-commerce sites easy to use should be a paramount consideration for e-retailers.

No question that some retailers know that one way to impede conversion rates on their mobile commerce sites and apps is to require consumers to re-enter their credit and debit card numbers for each transaction. Many have adopted ways for consumers to store their payment information, and some use services like PayPal Mobile Express Checkout that store a user’s payment information to expedite the payment step.

But some retailers also need to consider the importance of being able to save log-in credentials on a mobile device. For example, as forecasters are predicting Chicago is in store for another tough winter, I decided to buy a new down coat. After some shopping around, I settled on a coat and bought it Saturday morning via a retailer’s e-commerce site. Curious about the order status Monday, I pulled up the e-retailer’s mobile app on my smartphone and logged in. Yep, just as expected, there it was.

Looking at the coat, I considered I might need new gloves, too, tough ones to warm my hands as I walk through the man-made canyons of Chicago’s Loop.  Navigating back to the mobile app’s home page, I scouted the men’s glove category and found a pair; but I thought I bought a pair not long ago from the retailer. Checking my order history, I was surprised to have to re-enter my user name and password again, even though the app had not been closed.

I signed in again and checked my order history. No gloves; I must have bought them elsewhere. Out of curiosity, I went into Account Preferences to determine if at least the user name could be saved. No option existed. In fact, when I navigated back to the main Account page and tried to look up my loyalty number, I had to log in again, even though this time I had not left the Account section. The rest of the e-retailer’s mobile app works well and has a smart design, but this one section is irritating.

I understand the necessity of offering safeguards to protect user accounts on mobile devices, especially if consumers save payment information in those accounts. But retailers should at least provide the option to save the user name, if not the password, in mobile apps. Most modern Web browsers have that built-in feature. Why not include this capability in an e-retailer’s mobile app? Consumers seldom let their smartphones wander out of sight. It would be less of an inconvenience than typing in a user name and password on a smartphone screen, assuming the consumer recalls the credentials.

Retailers would benefit, too, because the app’s usability would improve and potentially reduce consumer fickleness. Unimpeded by a technical limitation of an app, a consumer might be more willing to shop, helping increase the retailer’s return on its mobile commerce investment.

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