Your daily life can feel governed by endless streams of outstanding tasks, often coming from your mobile phone. Each unfinished task creates a sense of tension awaiting release, causing frustration and an inability to focus on other tasks. Simply put, disrupted mobile moments are more distracting than one that hasn’t been started, and tension increases until a task is completed or discarded.
When it comes to retail, this type of mobile “disruption” is one that most customers don’t welcome. Many mobile interactions with retailers today are utilitarian in nature – whether it’s ordering a gift, buying a piece of hardware, returning items, or making complaints or general enquiries. All are tasks we’d like to complete without interruption.
Unfortunately, many retailers still view the mobile phone primarily as a discovery device, even though their customers prefer to go beyond discovery to purchase. Friction points occur when the customer weighs the difficulty of progressing his current task against a potential alternative, which is commonly giving up.
The Path of Least Resistance
Think of your own experience: When you need to type in address information, would you prefer using an alternative retailer that has your information already saved, in order to tick something off your to-do list? If your credit card details are being requested, maybe you’ll opt to use PayPal or an app with Apple Pay. Perhaps the most typical outcome is that you simply pause the task with the assumption that you will complete it later. This fractures the customer journey, and chances are slim that the task will be picked up again.
Retailers must consider this mindset when reaching out to their customers. An email may be shelved into a “read later” list that is never addressed. On the other hand, push notifications (through web or app) provide a concise summary of benefits that incentivize action on a mobile device.
Combining Context and Functionality
The good news is that the mobile phone can eliminate these friction points by allowing customers to open and complete a task through to completion in a single pass. A seamless transaction does, however, require access to all contextual information and functionality from the phone.
One friction-free customer experience many of us are familiar with is the Starbucks mobile app. It spans the entire marketing funnel – from awareness (using location services to identify all nearby stores), to purchase (order ahead to skip the line and pick up your coffee en route to the office; or pay using the app or Apple Pay in store), to loyalty (Starbucks rewards appear on your dashboard, and you’re notified when you’ve earned enough for a free reward). Starbucks also provides personalized offers based on your purchase history and allows you to easily treat a friend to an eGift card via the app. In essence, any interaction with Starbucks that you might consider as a consumer is readily managed through the app in a unified experience.
Similarly, Ocado, a British online supermarket, has won big with mobile customers. It not only remembers all user details – including search and purchase history – but can store favorite items and complete shopping carts. It leverages your mobile device’s camera, so that you can grab empties in your kitchen and use Barcode Search to top up your next shop. If you need to pause shopping you started on the app, it synchronizes your data so you can resume shopping later from your laptop. In addition to simple, integrated, and fast payment, when it’s time for pick-up, Ocado zeroes in on customer convenience with an excellent range of delivery options and one-hour time slots. By placing the on-the-go lifestyle of its shoppers at the heart of its mobile customer experience, Ocado has optimized decision-making and purchases for customers at every touchpoint.
Given that our mobile phones govern so much of our daily actions and decisions, the potential for distraction and unfinished tasks left on your device will only intensify. But by skillfully combining mobile functionality with context, retailers can weave a series of discrete, intent-driven moments into a seamless customer journey, eliminating mobile disruption and keeping the unfinished tasks at bay.