Designing a better retail mobile app experience

By Marc Hummel

March 23, 2016

Google just released a comprehensive report on mobile retail apps. It covers everything from discovery and search (of course), to product reviews and frictionless payments.

In this post, we’re going to share what we learned from the report and cover ways you can take their ideas even further.

1. Exploration and search

The Google report does an excellent job of emphasizing the importance of that first user interaction. As you know, it’s super easy to download an app, realize it’s an annoying, cumbersome mess you’ll never actually use, and tap and hold until it dances and you can delete the thing forever.

One of the things Google recommends:

Provide clear utility before asking users to register.

“Users often abandon an app that asks them to provide personal information upfront unless there’s some form of immediate payoff (ordering a car service or food delivery, for example). In particular, apps with low brand recognition—or those in which the value proposition is unclear—must clear a higher hurdle when asking users to register at the start of the experience. Only ask a user to register if it’s essential. One common way this principle is applied is by providing guest checkout at the point of conversion.”

In our recent retail mobile app guide, we explored some ways brands can give their mobile app utility.

We observed:

“The most popular apps do useful things. From messaging and social networking, to apps for storing recipes and tracking exercises. When at their best, apps enable us to do things with our phones and tablets that we just couldn’t do before. And it helps establish your app as part of a new habit. Give your app some useful features, and your customers are more likely to interact with your app on a regular basis.”

Then recommended:

  • Make it easy to create gift registries and gift shopping lists for weddings, baby showers, etc.
  • Shopping lists that sync up with a map of the shopper’s preferred store, so they can quickly and easily navigate the store
  • Direct in-app access to a customer service representative via phone or chat

2. Product detail pages

The Google report moves on to cover product detail pages and reviews. The focus is on making the mobile user feel like they’re not missing information—a tough balance to master in the mobile world.

One of Google’s recommendations is to show users how much they’re saving on discounted products.

“To make the most of your promotions, ensure you display the sale price and the original price as a comparison. Show them how much they’ll save.”

It might seem obvious, but displaying clear and timely information such as the amount of money saved with a certain discount can be one of the casualties in the fight between precious mobile real estate and details.

In our retail mobile app guide, we highlighted an example from Home Depot that helps shoppers access information relevant to them in each stage of the buying process.

“The closest store location appears right at the top when you launch the [Home Depot] app. Each product detail page has real-time in-store availability and a button to pick up in-store for free. But they didn’t stop at the pre-store step in the process. Their app also has a built-in product locator, so you can easily nd what’s on your list in the actual Home Depot store. It’s a cool feature their best (shopping-averse) customers are sure to appreciate.”

3. Checkout and payments

We love this idea from the Google report. It’s a way to solve for the coupon box conundrum, which we wrote about way back in 2013:

“But what about visitors who don’t have a coupon code? The code box presents this segment with a new decision: finish their order or look for a code in order to pay less. The possibility of saving money (and filling in an empty box) tends to be too difficult for most people to ignore, so off they go on the web, searching for a coupon code. And that increases the risk of them seeing an ad from one of your competitors or otherwise getting derailed—not good.”

Google recommends marketers resurface promotions, deals, and coupons at checkout:

“Avoid losing shoppers who have yet to make a purchase by providing promotions, deals, and coupons that can be used immediately at checkout. If users have to hunt for promotions, deals, or coupon codes, they may abandon the mobile site or app to search for them, leaving no clear path back to return to their shopping experience.”

4. Frictionless shopping

Google recommends you highlight added values throughout the shopping experience.

“Retailers that offer added value, such as free shipping or deals, need to reiterate these at every possible point in the shopping experience. Take particular care to ensure that this information resurfaces on each product page.”

This is related to number 2 above. Don’t keep your customers guessing. “I saw the free S&H banner on the homepage, but does it apply to every item? Why does my checkout page show a shipping charge? Am I going to have to call customer service over this? I don’t have time for another lawsuit,” your customer may be thinking.

Keep it simple. Keep it consistent.

A great way to make sure you’re not creating headaches like the scenario above is to conduct funnel-oriented tests. As we said in our report:

“From searching for a product, to typing in that tiny CVV number on the back of your credit card, the experience should be as seamless as possible. You need to test different app ows to see how people really use your app (and how your users think it should work).”

Here are some of the functionalities and flows you can test:

  • Checkout/purchase flow
  • Onboarding (new user signup)
  • Product search
  • Contacting support
  • Locating a nearby store

Check out the full Google report and our retail mobile app guide

Marc Hummel is a former Content Marketing Associate for Monetate. He's also a part-time grad student at the University of Pennsylvania. He enjoys biking to work, reading, listening to podcasts/music, and eating ice cream. Usually not all at once. For more about Marc, go here.

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