The mobile device now dominates internet access. For retailers, however, while mobile users routinely outnumber desktop, low conversion rates are challenging on going investment strategies, according to Daniel Martin, Head of EMEA Retail for Maxymiser, who here explains why mobile cannot be considered in isolation. This article is copyright 2015 The Best Customer Guide.

While there is a clear need for retailers to significantly improve the mobile experience, Daniel Martin, Head of Retail, Maxymiser, insists retailers need to understand the way mobile is being used in what is a far more complex consumer journey, which now extends across multiple channels.

Retailers have a love/hate relationship with mobile. Yet, with online sales in the UK reaching £100 billion pounds for the first time in 2014 and mobile sales making up 37% of those, there is a clear need for retailers to hone not only their mobile experiences but make sure they reflect consumers' changing cross-channel browsing and buying behaviour.

However, fundamental changes in consumer behaviour coupled with the fact that 90% of mobile transactions still fail make it impossible not to consider mobile as a separate part of the customer journey. This may in part be down to a sub-optimal mobile user experience, but it is also an indication of the fact that mobile behaviour is far more complex than desktop activity - especially when taken in the context of the wider cross-channel experience.

While the traditional desktop customer was typically either browsing or buying, the same cannot be said of the mobile consumer. An individual could be in a café opposite the retail store, on a train, even at home exploiting the speed and ease of use of the mobile rather than firing up the desktop. Is the consumer browsing via mobile prior to popping over the road into the store; or then using the desktop at home to make the purchase?

Understanding Journeys
It cannot be denied that the mobile device is rapidly becoming the hub of these cross-channel brand interactions; in order to stay competitive, retailers must create a consistent, optimised and personalised experience across all these. It is therefore essential to understand the why and the where - and respond accordingly in order to deliver the right, most usable, mobile experience. For example, simple changes to the home page, such as reducing the check-out process from three pages to two, even one, have proven to deliver a massive uplift in conversion.

Having created a strong mobile experience, organisations can begin to consider the entire customer journey and look beyond the single channel purchase metrics. How effective is reserve and collect via mobile? How important is the call centre to these customers? By raising the prominence of the call centre phone number or the reserve and collect option, organisations can assess the impact on overall, rather than mobile only, sales.

Customer Identification
Creating a seamless cross-channel experience is by no means an easy task. In reality, the process can be extremely complicated, involving multiple departments such as customer insight, analytics, offline and loyalty schemes, and it can be extremely time consuming to both build and implement. However, the value appears through a detailed understanding - not just of a customer in a single situation, but across multiple modes, such as browsing and purchasing. Once an understanding of these modes is reached, the user experience can be optimised in line with business values and goals.

To create this, getting customers to identify themselves is the first crucial step. But how can this be achieved? Through the use of wish lists, saved baskets and loyalty schemes, retailers are progressively pursuing methods of gaining information about both existing and prospective customers that is carried and matched from device to device. Take, for example, a commuter looking to buy a present for his wife. Whilst browsing on his mobile he finds the perfect gift, saves it in the onsite wish list, and later makes the purchase on his desktop at work. By adding the item to his wish list, the user has generated an identity, therefore making it possible for the retailer to recognise his purchase on the desktop site, further creating the potential for the experience to be personalised.

Once experiences across devices have been identified, it is important for retailers to understand how each experience is different. Consequently, a set of hypotheses should be created surrounding how to optimise the experience for business benefit, such as increasing basket value, conversion, or user engagement.

Retail is Evolving
Retail continues to evolve. And as the economic gloom lifts, it is clear that consumers are enjoying being back on the high street. But they are on the high street with mobile device in hand. Those retailers that are delivering a good mobile experience - with clarity and speed - are inducing a measurable change in behaviour.

"Where the mobile experience is good, those customers that opt to purchase via mobile are making a lot of purchases. Some, however, will always prefer to browse and purchase via another channel - desktop, call centre or in store," concluded Martin. "It is those organisations that understand the entire customer journey; determine how best to engage the customer at each stage of that journey and how to deliver a consistently good experience that will be able to create a mobile strategy that sits firmly within the overall business model and, as a result, delivers companywide rather than just channel-specific revenue uplift."