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It’s time to humanize the mobile customer journey

You see it everywhere, people staring at their smartphones without seemingly ever looking up. They’re glued to their screens, multitasking, while walking, driving, waiting in line, watching TV, studying, sitting on a train/plane, etc. While some of us may not agree with the amount of screen-time people endure, it is their time and it is creating a new genre of connected consumerism. This always-on, mobile customer isn’t just connected, they’re empowered. And, these empowered consumers are completely shattering the construct of the traditional funnel as we know it.

Conversations about broken funnels, I call it the ‘cluster funnel,’ and organizational silos are by no means new. But in my digital CX research, most businesses still market, sell and serve these evolving and highly evolved, consumers through traditional models that are out of date and out of touch. In fact, in my recent “State of Digital Transformation” report, I learned that a mere 35% of organizations investing in digital transformation had studied the modern customer journey. That number is not only dismal, it’s down from 54% the year before.

Part of the challenge is that companies are working against years of legacy thinking, standards and processes. There’s an over assumption that dated marketing checklists and metrics for still apply today. Another challenge is that many executives, in their corporate element, are not the very customers they’re trying to reach. When they’re at work, they’re operators and stakeholders and they make decisions about customer experiences as such. Furthermore (and there are many “furthermore’s”), many strategists discount digital and mobile by looking at misleading data that validates their beliefs, that it’s not urgent to make major shifts in spending and resources yet.

Connected customers are human; it’s time to “get” them

Here’s the thing…customers who live on smartphones aren’t cyborgs or the minority, they’re human beings. Pretty much anyone you want to do business with is obsessed with their mobile device. You can judge it or learn from it, but you can’t ignore it if you care about customer engagement. While it might just seem like an addiction (it probably is) or a new appendage, smartphones unlock new worlds and capabilities and it absolutely changes their behaviors, preferences, expectations and aspirations.

We need to humanize the customer journey to see exactly how mobile is changing everything.

Innovation begins with understanding what modern customers (human beings) value and how and why they…

  1. Use technology
  2. Make decisions
  3. Discover
  4. Learn
  5. Make decisions
  6. Want to be engaged
  7. Remain loyal

In a recent research effort that examined how consumers “get things done on mobile,” Google discovered a series of important patterns that help humanize how mobile phones impact customer journeys.

Getting things done in mobile

Customers don’t just use smartphones to find and buy stuff, they use them to learn, analyze, and filter choices to make informed decisions, at the speed of mobile, which is never fast enough. They’re empowered, not entitled, and these insights help guide innovation efforts in marketing and CX/UX.

1. Customers turn to their smartphones to be productive.

When connected consumers want to make a decision, they reach for the device that’s always closest to them, in the moment, whenever and wherever that moment happens.

According to Google[1], when asked about the need that smartphones most frequently meet, the answers were overwhelmingly constructive. Mobile consumers in the US, UK, Australia, Germany and Japan commonly stated that smartphones make them feel, 1) productive and efficient (73%), 2) confident and prepared (54%) and 3) able to make better decisions (55%).

2. The mobile journey is a “call to adventure.”

Google describes mobile purchase journeys based on consumer input as “the thrill of the hunt.” Since I’m a big fan of Joseph Campbell, I see the mobile experience as a “call to adventure.” But this hunt or adventure isn’t without its purpose. Consumers reported that they set out on this journey to find the best solutions and “make them feel like they’ve found the best value for their money.”

As customers increasingly use smartphones to inform and validate their purchases, the resulting journey is complex, fragmented and real-time. Almost half of mobile customers (47%) reported that customer journeys span not only mobile sites but also apps, in many cases using several mobile sites and apps. For example, an average mobile shopping session in the U.S. consists of at least six visits to an app and/or mobile site including, search, shopping, social, etc. Just about half of those sessions (46%) include at least one jump between mobiles sites and apps.

3. Customers use mobile sites because they’re familiar and can deliver desired information, but poorly designed sites send customers away.

When it comes to the mobile customer journey, it’s complicated. It doesn’t have to be. With an understanding of how and why customers use mobile devices, brands can optimize mobile experiences whether it’s a mobile app, site or both.

Customers shared with Google that mobile sites can sometimes feel more familiar and be easier to navigate compared to apps. Mobile users also think that mobile sites offer a wider array of information over apps. When asked about the top reasons why people switch from an app to a mobile site when researching or making a purchase, the top responses included (not ranked):

  • I want to go directly to the source
  • I’m more familiar with mobile sites
  • To broaden my search
  • It’s easier to make a purchase

Note that ease of use wasn’t a top reason for why customers use mobile sites. That’s because they expect their experience on a brand’s mobile site to be as easy and seamless as their experience on the app (73%).

Here’s why this is important. Without intentional design and purpose based on people’s expectations and behaviors, mobile sites (and apps) will underperform. And when that happens, people don’t feel productive.

Customers will leave a poorly designed site for one that is faster and easier to use. Plus, it leads to poor brand perception and lost customers. On the other screen, a good mobile site is an opportunity to win new customers.

What makes an experience productive? According to real world customers, some of the top attributes that would make them purchase on a mobile site are, that they’re…

  1. Easy to navigate
  2. Make it easy to find what I’m looking for
  3. Fast

4. Mobile apps are easier to use and save time, but they signify “a relationship” and must earn a coveted spot on smartphones.

Only a precious handful or two of apps are considered must haves on every mobile device. Everything else is a fight for a spot on customer smartphones. There are millions of apps competing for attention out there. Most consumers only interact with nine apps per day. And, 80% of apps are churned through within 90 days.

When a customer uses an app in their shopping journey, it is because they are easier to use and they save time. When asked why they switch from a mobile site to an app when researching or making a purchase, customers again emphasized productivity and also utility…

  • Easier to navigate
  • Easier to make purchases
  • Save time in checkout
  • Go directly to source
  • Narrow my search
  • Find credible source

Having an easy to use, fast, seamless mobile site is mandatory. It’s a different game to also earn an app download and engagement. There’s an inherent level of trust and authority with apps. Going directly to the source, narrowing search options and finding a credible source, all speak to the importance of utility, usefulness and value when engaging customers in micro-moments. They move fast and bounce around. As such, apps have to deliver against consumer needs (intent) in the moment (immediacy) and over time (loyalty).

Google learned that apps have to earn their spot on the phone even amongst the most loyal customers. Overall, three out of four of customers say that they can be loyal to a brand without having their app on their phone. In fact, about half of customers do not have their favorite brand’s app installed. When asked why, the answers were revealing…

  1. I never considered downloading the app
  2. I didn’t know they had an app
  3. It hasn’t felt worthy of my time/effort to download it
  4. They don’t have an app

Brands must consider the unique value proposition for customers to go through the effort to find, install and use the app. An app represents a relationship with a brand. There must be a need that’s delivered and also awareness for the app and its benefits. It must demonstrate significant value to get on the device and continue to prove value. If it’s a gimmick or value diminishes, customers will uninstall it. For example, if a brand forces a customer to download an app to access a deal over half will delete it shortly thereafter.

In the end, most customers don’t feel they need an app to learn about, browse, and make purchases from a brand. They can achieve the same goal on a brand’s mobile site. While brands may or may not need an app, they must have a mobile site that’s fast, easy to navigate and makes it easy for customers to find and buy what they want. And, that’s what this is all about. It’s about understanding that mobile customers aren’t average customers. They’re different and they’re evolving. But, they are also human.

There are real people on the other side of those screens. Google’s research demonstrates what every brand should be prioritizing immediately, the need to humanize the modern customer journey. Doing so, humanizes the people who live and act on smartphones to understand how they discover, make decisions and wish to stay engaged. That’s what relationships are all about after all. They’re rooted in understanding and value.

[1]Source: Google/Heart+Mind Strategies, ‘Getting Things Done on Mobile’, Feb. 2018, A18+ smartphone users, n=4,664. Data aggregated across US, UK, AU, DE and JP.

Source: thenextweb


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