Put valuable content up front, just as airlines make a boarding pass easy to find in their apps.

On Cyber Monday of this year, we witnessed the biggest online shopping day in history with over $3 billion in sales. Even more impressive was how much of this came via mobile devices over the holiday weekend. On Thanksgiving Day, for instance, mobile overtook desktop shopping visits for the very first time (57%) and drove well over a third of online sales.

All in all, it was not a bad week for the Internet.

However, in the midst of a continued shift towards mobile—buffered by bigger screens and better navigation—there is still a gap between visits and actual buying. Going a layer deeper, recent survey has shown that not only is mobile shopping considered stressful by many users (49%), over half of respondents say that they are not satisfied with the mobile retail experience.

In the rush to build apps and quickly acquire users, many brands are struggling to engage and retain a mobile audience. In retail, we see that apps are used only an average of 13.5 times before they are abandoned.

As we enter the next leg of the holiday season, here are a couple things retailers should consider.


One piece of advice? Edit.

Survey data shows that 71% of heavy mobile users rank convenience as the most important aspect of a mobile retail experience. Personalization rated lower, but this doesn’t paint the full picture. Consumers have difficulty identifying what an optimal personalized experience looks like, as it should feel invisible when done well. If executed properly, convenience is enhanced through personalization.

Brands will have to identify what their hero feature is; they’ll have to edit and de-clutter. In the airline industry for example, the hero feature is the boarding pass. It adds user value and helps to make the app indispensable.

They also should look to deliver experiences that map with user preferences. The only way to do so is to have a better understanding of what users are actually doing. Brands can leverage the standards of the desktop Web—be it analytics or A/B testing—and make data-informed decisions that map with what users want.

Try something new


Emerging technologies are often met with a level of trepidation. At one point, cord-cutting created hesitancy amongst networks and broadcasters. Nowadays, TV Everywhere has become a significant piece of the entertainment fabric.

Survey data shows many shoppers are interested in emerging retail technologies, even if few use them now. With location-based services for instance, 16% of respondents say they would use their mobile device in conjunction with physical shopping often; 51% said sometimes.

This holiday season, we saw major retailers experimenting with location. For example, shoppers were able to take pictures of any product with their smartphone, and the app would recommend products in-store that were similar. Mobile wallets are also gaining more acceptance, with 83% of respondents saying they are easier to use than credit cards.

Mobile essentially allows retailers to digitize the physical world. As it travels with the user, it not only allows us to interact with things like cash registers, it provides contextual data that enables retailers to deliver highly personalized experiences. Executed properly, it’s a big shift in how we shop, marrying the online and offline worlds.

You can imagine a scenario where a large-screen display changes based on what the retailer understands about the shopper’s preference; one shopper might be shown flannel shirts, while another scarves. Or, if a retailer had information around when a shopper came by and what she purchased, the merchant could easily send a customized follow-up email to re-engage with the shopper after she has left. 


Nobody get it right the first time

The landscape is becoming increasingly competitive. Mobile retailers are no longer competing with each other. They are up against mobile-first companies like Uber, and have to meet those levels of consumer expectation.

The biggest lesson here for retailers is to operate in the spirit of constant iteration. It will take multiple attempts for a brand to pinpoint a mobile experience that will be easy and valuable for users, while catering to individual preferences. And as new technologies are tested, it will again take several iterations to uncover the best use cases.