Consumer Experiences With Mobile Shopping Are Low, While Expectations Are High

As e-commerce companies experiment with mobile applications and some reap early rewards, a new study reveals that consumers expect a much better experience than what they are getting.

In the past few weeks, Kayak announced that customers could now book hotel rooms directly from its iPhone application; Expedia followed with its own hotel applicationAmerican Express introduced Serve, which lets you manage funds directly on your mobile phone, and there’s also significant talk of Google and Amazon throwing their hats into the mobile commerce ring.

So far, so good. EBay said last year that it generated nearly $2 billion in revenues, a figure that it expects to double in 2011, and Starbucks recently announced that more than three million people have paid using a mobile phone since January.

Overall, U.S. mobile commerce sales are conservatively being estimated to reach $4.9 billion this year, and will account for $163 billion in sales worldwide by 2015, according to ABI Research.

However, a new survey questions whether all experiments are good.

The report, conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by Tealeaf, says rolling out applications before they are ready for prime time can have a detrimental effect on consumer perception.

The San Francisco-based software company has a particular interest in this topic.

It launched initially to help e-commerce companies determine where customers get fouled up when ordering online. It’s now expanding those tools to track behaviors on the mobile Web and, in the not too distant future, smartphone applications.

“With a proliferation of devices, all of our customers are scrambling to deliver a mobile experience for their customers, whether it’s a mobile Web site or a standalone app for iPhone or Android,” said Geoff Galat, Tealeaf’s VP of worldwide marketing. “Those companies are now coming to us and saying they are having the same types of challenges as they were on the Web.”

The survey found that 84 percent of adult consumers who have conducted a mobile transaction have experienced problems. The survey polled 2,469 adults, of whom 410 had conducted a mobile transaction in the past year.

What’s worse is that 63 percent of all online adults said they would be less likely to buy from the same company through other channels, like the Internet, if they experienced a problem conducting a mobile transaction.

“I think that the consumer expectations are inordinately high,” Galat said. “Fifteen years ago when e-commerce on the desktop started, if it worked, it worked, because it was completely new to us. But this mobile commerce piece doesn’t give us that luxury. For consumers, this is a platform shift and [they] expect it to work the same way as it does on the PC.”

But the hurdles are much greater. Without full keyboards, customers don’t want to fill in forms, and with slower network connections, they expect the transaction to be completed within a few taps.

“We all watch the Apple commercials, where they do it in two or three clicks, and then that’s the way everyone thinks it ought to work, but then they don’t see the fine print that says the sequence has been shortened for television,” Galat said.

According to the survey, here are some of the problems customers are most likely to struggle with:

  • 34 percent received an error message
  • 29 percent said the app or Web site was difficult to navigate
  • 25 percent were unable to complete a transaction
  • 23 percent had trouble logging in
  • 16 percent said they encountered insufficient, incorrect, or confusing information

After experiencing these problems, consumers were less than happy. Of the sample group, 23 percent cursed, 11 percent screamed, and four percent went as far as to throw their phones.

Photo Credit: Garibaldi


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work