Blog | Matching website experience to customer intent

By Jan Pabellon

JanPabellon

The increasing ubiquity of smartphones continues to present opportunities and challenges for all online retailers. This is very much true of the Philippines where, according to WeAreSocial’s Digital 2016 report, over 55% of the adult population own a smart phone — each of whom spending an average of over three hours a day on these devices: whether at home, at work, on commute or anywhere in between.

The report also found that a growing number of these smartphone users are using their devices to do a variety of activities online, including making purchases — as much as 18% in fact have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the past 30 days at the time one of the surveys in the report was made.

It is, therefore, no wonder that in recent years, more and more retailers are re-designing how their mobile ecommerce sites are laid out and rendered on smartphones to address their increasingly mobile customer base. Retailers need to consider the very different ways in which individual consumers use their smartphones. Applying a single focus design paradigm to improving customers’ mobile experiences is at odds with what is happening in the real world.

Mobile experiences: At-rest versus on-the-move

Smartphone commerce usage can be divided into two mobile experiences: at-rest mobile, and on-the-move mobile.

For the at-rest scenario, an individual is using his smartphone, but is not in motion. He may be looking at buying products online, but more often than not, he is merely browsing websites to check and compare products he’s interested in, but is not under any kind of purchasing deadline.

Meanwhile for the on-the-move scenario, an individual is using his smartphone while in motion. Whether just walking, in a car or on a public transport, his intent to buy is sharper, more focused. He may already be on his way to make an opportunistic purchase at an actual store since he is in motion.

How can retailers tackle these two very different mobile scenarios? The answer is for retailers to have one non-specific mobile environment.

There is also a need to focus on developing the next level of mobile customer engagement, or what is called intent Web design.

This new approach draws a direct correlation between a customer’s purchasing intent, his readiness to buy products, and how he is using his smartphone.

Comparing and contrasting the different types of mobile experiences show a strong distinction between the at-rest user with more time at his disposal to educate himself on the products; as opposed to the on-the-move user with limited time and either intent on making a purchase or more likely to be influenced into buying a product.

This means that there is the risk of losing that on-the-move mobile user, especially if he encounters any kind of obstacle to purchase from a slow-loading website because it is too cluttered.

Determining a smartphone user’s intent to purchase

Yet, how do retailers determine if a mobile user is on the move or at rest?

They may want to engage directly with smartphone users and ask, “Are you on the move right now?” and then present them with special, limited-time offers at stores in their immediate vicinity.

Alternatively, they may wish to take a more indirect approach and simply inquire as to the kind of mobile experience a user thinks he needs, for example, “Do you want to download our native mobile app now?”

Retailers can also mine a variety of technologies to infer information about a smartphone user’s intent to purchase including his GPS location, the IP address he is using, how he reached the retailer’s e-commerce site, and what content he is accessing on that Web site.

There is also the option of applying predictive analytics to previous customer data such as website visit histories to uncover and identify types of customer behavior signalling intent to purchase.

All e-commerce retailers must start thinking seriously about customer intent to purchase, which should become a key design point for the next mobile experiences. They must ask themselves how their sites should respond differently to at-rest window shoppers, versus on-the-move committed buyers.

Retailers also need to identify which signals in smartphone users’ online behavior are the strongest indicators of willingness to buy the retailer’s products, and what they can do to amplify those signals and convert them into sales.

Most of all, retailers must improve the level of engagement with smartphone users so that they can serve them the most personalized, localized and time-sensitive offers based on their intent.

By building mobile experiences that can quickly pick up on and are attuned to shifts in customer intent to buy, retailers can provide significant improvements in usability for customers that, in turn, could translate into increases in customer retention and more sales of products.

The author is the director for international products at NetSuite

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