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At the start of the year, retailer John Lewis announced some impressive year on year sales figures, along with the revelation that more than three quarters of its site traffic on Christmas Day came from mobile devices.  

Its profits continue to look very healthy, and mobile is an ever growing proportion of its sales. 

So what is it that John Lewis is getting right with its mobile strategy? And what lessons can we learn in order to apply to our own? 

These are some of the elements that John Lewis delivered on. 

Mixing clicks with bricks

Consumers are increasingly expecting seamlessness between mobile, desktop and offline and retail is moving away from being only ‘online’ or ‘offline’.

The once pure-play ecommerce sites such as Amazon and Ebay are launching real world stores, whereas almost all of the big high street names are now online. 

Consumers don’t make the differentiation between your app, site or high street store. They’re just dealing with you as a retailer and expect a consistent experience whether they are purchasing in person, on desktop or on a mobile device, and retail strategies should address this.

John Lewis’ Click & Collect service is a great example of this, joining up the online and offline experiences to make purchases more convenient for customers. And it’s proving to be popular, with the retailer revealing usage grew 60% in 2013 over the previous year.

Its apps also feature a barcode scanner, allowing users to check online stock levels of items they’ve seen in store. This way John Lewis is connecting online with offline experience, and vice versa. 

Added value user experience

The smallest of touches can really add value in terms of user experience in ecommerce. John Lewis’ apps and mobile site all offer a very satisfying, unified and simple user experience.

One example of a nice little UX touch is a little message overlay saying ‘double tap to zoom, swipe to view more images’ which pops up on product images on the mobile site.

It’s a small thing, but one that will help users and enhance their experience, particularly those less familiar with the conventions of browsing on mobile.

Speed is of the essence

It may seem obvious, but it is hard to overstate the importance of speed on mobile. Our consumer research tells us that far from ‘mobile’ meaning ‘on the go’, the most popular place for mobile browsing is at home.

The only reason a consumer is picking up their smartphone or tablet is speed and convenience, so that expectation must be met with a speedy and responsive site. No surprise then, that the top frustration consumers told us they had with mobile commerce is slow loading times. 

That means eliminating as much as possible in terms of code, optimising images, using browser caching and reducing server response times. Seconds once mattered on desktop, fractions of a second matter on mobile. 

John Lewis were not actually the top performers in this respect, scoring a relatively average six out of 10, but speed is not purely about load times, it’s also about how quick and easy it is to find the information you want, which John Lewis’ site and apps do deliver on.  

Make customer contact as simple as possible

The top feature our consumer research told us customers are looking for was not fancy responsive design or product barcode scanners. It was a simple, straightforward way to contact customer services. 

Amazon has been innovating in this space with Mayday, its video chat enabled customer contact service on Kindle Fire tablets, but it doesn’t have to be an all-singing all-dancing multichannel video service.

John Lewis does it the simple way, offering the ability to email customer services or submit a price match request from right within its apps. 

Know your context

We’ve said that the most common location for consumers to use mobile devices is at home, but that isn’t to say that using location-aware context can’t be a huge differentiator.

Use this insight and the data you can collect from a visitor’s location, browsing or search behaviours to your advantage and personalise content, offers and product recommendations for a better experience.

John Lewis didn’t outperform its retailing rivals in this respect, but our runner up Argos did.

The Argos app, once you’ve determined your local store via its location enabled map, will tell you stock levels at that store for individual products when on the product page.

This simplifies the experience for the user, and connects the ‘clicks to bricks’ by relating the information on mobile to the real world. 

David Bowen

Published 10 July, 2014 by David Bowen

David Bowen is the Product Manager of EPiServer. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter, or add him to your circles on Google+

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Comments (1)

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Yigal Carmy

Interesting article.
"The only reason a consumer is picking up their smartphone or tablet is speed and convenience" - couldn't agree more, but you only talk about the speed.
One of the main issues with current mobile web commerce solutions is that they are not convenient. They are not fun to browse, the navigation is "web style", no swipe, and you loose context often.

over 2 years ago

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