COMMENTARY

Shoppers moving to mobile: Where retailers fall short with m-commerce experiences

July 20, 2017

Photo: iStock.com

By Dan Carney, senior vice president of operations, Limelight Networks

Mobile is a large and growing segment of online shopping, with data showing 62 percent of mobile users have purchased online and 42 percent of consumers use mobile as their primary access to websites. These on-the-go devices are having broad implications across the retail landscape — from consumer expectations of their online experience to the future of shopping malls.

Some of the recent data indicating consumer expectations for high-quality digital experiences reveal that 79 percent would recommend a brand based on a positive web experience. However, 22 percent of online shoppers will leave a web page that takes more than three seconds to load, and 38 percent will go to a competitor's website if they have a poor experience. To avoid losing customers to the competition, retailers must ensure they're doing everything they can to build a solid mobile shopping experience, starting with incorporating innovative technologies.

The need for speed

To get an understanding of how important speed of web page loading is to mobile shoppers, data from a retailer with a vast online customer base is instructive. According to Amazon, every 100ms of latency results in 1 percent reduction in sales. This number is huge, and anything retailers can do to reduce the time to load web pages is critical.

To start, it's important to understand what causes latency between a shopper clicking on a link and the subsequent web page loading. What happens here depends on more than mobile connection speeds — in fact, the amount of latency depends largely on the distance between the web servers and mobile carriers, along with the number of internet router requests and responses have to travel through.

On top of this, there is the number of objects contained on a retailer's web page. Each "request" a shopper makes while interacting with a singular mobile page can have 20ms to over 100ms latency — it adds up.

So how can retailers shift their mobile strategy to improve the speed of the experience? Modern internet protocols, such as HTTP/2, allow multiple requests to happen in rapid succession on the same connection, reducing the number of round trips to retrieve a retailer's website content.

Additionally, by bringing content closer to mobile carrier access points, retailers can shorten server round trips and, ultimately time spent waiting for a page to load. This is something that Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) do quite well — by caching web content in POPs located regionally, global CDNs help to eliminate a major contributor to latency, creating a faster mobile shopping experience that keeps customers happy.

Keep your content current

When shopping on mobile, customers will typically engage with both static and dynamic web pages. Static pages change infrequently or never, so they seldom require updates.

However, dynamic content changes frequently and is considered personalized or real-time content. Requests for this type of media are generated as a shopper interacts with a retailer's website. Take for example, a shopper who is looking to see a clothing item in a different color — these kinds of dynamic content requests are uniquely generated for each user that accesses a website, and therefore need to be forwarded to the origin each time each time a page is used. It is critical that delivery of dynamic content is optimized so as not to delay responses to the shopper.

This is also where CDNs excel, especially those developed with a private backbone to accelerate dynamic content delivery by avoiding the congested internet. Another importance aspect is ensuring mobile web pages are designed specifically for mobile screens, and not based on the page layouts for desktop and laptop users. We've all experienced poor web page rendering while shopping on our mobile screens.

The flip side of keeping content current is what happens if bad content is in edge cache, such as incorrect pricing on an item, or something on a page that is no longer available. In these cases, you can't remove this content fast enough. Fortunately, smart CDNs offer mechanisms to rapidly purge stale content, making it inaccessible from global caches almost instantly even as it is being deleted. This ensures content is always fresh and accurate.

Securing your web infrastructure

According to the 2016 Cyberthreat Defense Report, one in three online retailers has suffered revenue losses as a result of a cyberattack, and 19 percent of U.S. online shoppers will avoid going to a retailer that has been hacked.

Given that mobile devices are perceived as the weakest security link, how can retailers ensure their website and customer data is secure and protected? There are many aspects to protecting against cyberattacks that involve encryption of data, controlling access to website content, and keeping websites available to customers even in the case of active Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) and web application attacks. For effective protection, many retailers are starting to turn to cloud services for all security measures. Leveraging a CDN will ensure retailers are protecting their mobile websites and shoppers.

What are retail brands putting on the line by not prioritizing the mobile experience? It's all about omnichannel — mobile commerce, like desktop or in-store shopping, is a representation of a brand. If retailers don't ensure they're providing the fastest, most accurate and secure shopping experience, they're not only risking losing customers, but hurting their brand image. With analysts predicting that 30 percent of shopping malls will close by 2025, likely due to the traction of online and m-commerce, there is no option but to provide the best possible mobile shopping experience for customers.

Looking for more great insight and expert discussion relating to customer experience? Attend the upcoming CONNECT 2017/The Mobile CX Summittaking place August 21-23 in Philadelphia. The event will explore the many opportunitiesthat retailers, restaurants and other B2C enterprises have for leveraging mobile and digital channels to build their brands, increase sales and improve customer engagement, experience and loyalty.


Topics: Connectivity, Consumer Behavior, Customer Experience, Digital Merchandising, eCommerce, Mobile Retail, Omnichannel / Multichannel, Online Retailing, Retail - General, Technology, Trends / Statistics


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