A fully optimised, frictionless mobile website has long been an expectation rather than a differentiation, but with customer needs and behaviours evolving at such a fast pace, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to meet their expectations of a positive experience.
At the same time, the mobile experience in general is changing, with new technologies, uses and integrations allowing brands to change the way they interact with customers. With brands like Starbucks adding AI-powered voice-ordering capabilities to their mobile app, and IKEA using AR to help customers virtually place products into their home, how can brands similarly prepare and take their mobile experience to the next level?
On Tuesday 12 November, 50 product people joined us at the Charlotte Street Hotel, London, to hear insider stories from six industry leaders on experimentation strategy, interaction patterns, data validation, platforms and adoption. And to enjoy some breakfast on us…
Context was the recurring theme of the day: understanding where the mobile experience fits into the context of the user journey; looking at data with the context of user behaviour and business objectives to make better decisions; testing and validating products in the context of real life situations.
Part of a puzzle
Many of our speakers touched on the need to consider mobile both as an individual experience, but also as one element in a much broader user journey. Pulaq Pathak, Senior Product Experience Manager at Amazon, discussed the importance of considering mobile as an extension of the user’s day to day life — part of an ecosystem, rather than a separate, individual experience.
Nadia Hulkhory, Product Development Team Lead at Rightmove, developed this further, explaining that decision making doesn’t stop when a user moves to another device. Consumers expect to pick up where they left off, regardless of channel. For the user, the goal is the outcome, not to use your application, as Leon Barrett, Product Director at 383 put it. And, Pulaq pointed out, customers will find a way to get to that outcome, whether using your channels or not.
Understanding the context of how and why users are engaging with your products via mobile is key to developing a strong experience. Kimberly Roditi, Principal Product Owner at Yoox Net-a-Porter Group, discussed the different channel experiences for Net-a-Porter customers — mobile app users are more likely to be loyalty customers, with a higher average order value. The mobile site, on the other hand, is better suited to acquisition of new customers.
Apoorva Varma Mehta, Mobile Experience Lead at The Royal Bank of Scotland, also touched on differing channel requirements. Whilst mobile is at the forefront of their product offering, it’s not the ideal channel for customers to have difficult or complex conversations about home buying and debt management. It’s far more likely they will use the mobile channel for research, but go into branch to speak to an advisor in person.
Similarly, Ashton Snook, Global Head of Product Design at Hive, talked about the need to build a holistic experience across the ecosystem of physical, voice and mobile. Voice, for example, is great for simple interactions, but right now it might not be the best channel for complex activities.
Data driven, not led
The importance of data ran through all of our talks, but also a note of caution on viewing data in the context of user behaviour and business goals. Nadia talked about Rightmove’s approach to experimentation, and how quick and simple tests had allowed them to make decisions in as little as 3 days, but she also explained one example where the data needed to be looked at more closely.
When making changes to a mobile form, Nadia and the product team found that although conversion rate increased, the error rate was much higher. In a choice between metrics and user experience, experience won out, and the experiment was halted. Negative data, Nadia explained, can be just as important in shaping your product decisions as positive statistics. Apporva discussed a similar need to understand the effect of the mobile experience on other channels — for example, monitoring to see whether changes on mobile lead to increased service calls.
Speakers made reference to not only the digital ecosystem of devices and platforms, but also the need to be aware of how products exist in the physical world. Ashton and his product team have to consider the way their product fit into the users home, and he explained how the physical experience of, for example, unboxing a product can set the precedent for a user’s digital interactions. The key is to ‘learn in the wild’ he says, which involves running interviews within the home, not just in labs or focus groups. (If you want to hear more from Ashton on Hive’s approach to product design, check out our blog post: Getting smart about smart home innovation).
Leon also touched on the importance of understanding the context of how your mobile app or website is being used — are users engaging whilst in store, for example, whilst on the commute, or whilst they are at home? And how do their requirements differ in each case?
To innovate, or not to innovate?
As the event drew to a close, the conversation turned to innovation, as our panel compere Matt Asbury, Head of Engineering at 383, asked the speakers what the term meant to them. Kimberly felt that innovation needed to move beyond gimmicks, with a focus on services rather than technology. For Ashton, innovation is to be found in everyday interactions, not necessarily in bleeding edge technology. ‘Human problems are more important than shiny technology’, as our Strategist Nick Lockey puts it.
Leon shared this sentiment, highlighting the need for product teams to be driven by customer needs, and not the urge to jump on technology bandwagons. Similarly, Pulaq spoke of linking innovation to customers, not competitors, and avoiding developing features just because everybody else is doing it. Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) were highlighted as an example of an innovation that requires the right project or situation to be considered, due to the limitations on Apple devices.
A huge thank you from the whole 383 team to all of our speakers, and to everyone who came along. Look out for more events coming very soon!