In December we took a look at the experience of searching for an Apple product, clicking-through to the online Apple store and then purchasing the item from a customer’s point of view.

The above investigation was carried out on a desktop and I praised its faultless paid search strategy and for providing a fluid, fast and overall joyful ecommerce experience. 

However as electronic goods are the second most commonly searched retail product on a mobile device, and the fact that in the UK most mobile users go on to make a purchase after starting the journey on mobile, it’s worth exploring the small screen customer journey.

Search

On a desktop SERP, a brand wanting to succeed in marketing really should be aiming for the top five organic results, or placement within the paid search area. Both if you want to cover all eventualities. 

However on mobile it’s a much more unforgiving place. On typical smartphone (I’m using an iPhone 5) a searcher may only three results, and this tends to be a mixture of ads, organic and Google Shopping results.

However it’s safe to say that Apple has mobile search nailed.  

Here are the results for ‘iPhone’ featuring top paid and organic results…

‘iPhone 6’…

For ‘iPad’ Apple hasn’t taken out a PPC ad, and there seemed not to be any competition at the time of search.

There is an argument to say that Apple needn’t take out any PPC ads at all, being as it appears at the top of the organic results for every one of its products. 

But then again there is still competition from other retailers in the paid ad space, and who knows how many more retailers would try to seize this space if Apple didn’t operate here.

Let’s take a look at how Apple differentiates its ads from its competitor Three.

Neither provides the most persuasive ad I’ve ever seen, but both have realised that brevity is the key to mobile search. However in Apple’s ad I’m not convinced that the ‘retina display’ and ‘A8 chip’ messages are a good use of your precious copy space. 

A large section of mobile users do use their devices for research, so I completely understand the emphasis on education over sales, but the ‘learn more’ message isn’t a clickable link so that too feels useless. 

Perhaps this should be a link along the bottom, rather than ‘tips and tricks’ and ‘iOS8’, especially as the eventual landing page you’ll see later in the article is entirely geared up for customer research.

Three on the other hand offers an attractive incentive: ‘no data limits’, links to the products available and here’s the key way in which Three provides the superior mobile experience: a direct link to a click-to-call button.

If a customer chooses this route instead of clicking through to the mobile website, the button can still be tracked and the call attributed to the mobile search. It’s a great way to tie up online and offline behavior.

Landing page

Clicking through on the iPhone 6 ad leads you to a page in which the focus is entirely on researching the product. 

In a way this is great, as again a great deal of people will be using their mobiles just to research rather than buy, but as we’ll see later on, it still benefits you to create an effective and user friendly journey towards conversion.

Scrolling down the page you’re treated to a wealth of well-laid out and nicely typeset information that’s presented clearly.

There are also many links to additional information on more specific areas, as well as some helpful graphs.

I’m not convinced Apple has made the best of its product images though. This is the first shot of the phone you see when scrolling down the page.

It’s an odd angle and not particularly easy to look at. 

Purchase

So you’ve obtained all the information you require about the iPhone, and you’ve been persuaded to make a purchase. You then click on the floating ‘buy now’ button which has remained at the top of the screen for the entire journey. It’s a good-looking button. Not too invasive but you’re aware of it being there.

You’re then presented with this…

And if you can make out the text on the tiny CTA, you click through and then presented with this…

Actually let me just resize this image so it’s the same size as my actual mobile phone…

All of Apple’s “bigger than bigger” messaging now seems bitterly hypocritical.

Conclusion…

Despite all of Apple’s successes in conquering the paid and organic mobile search space, Apple hasn’t bothered to provide either a responsive, adaptive or specifically built mobile site.

Even if Apple’s sole focus was to drive searchers to learn about the product, there is no attempt to then help them convert in a convenient way, either online or offline. Bearing in mind that Three provides a click-to-call button from the PPC ad and a mobile site. 

Apple’s ‘buy now’ button makes the user assume that they will be able to do exactly that. Instead it provides a brick wall. This is a massive failing in Apple’s attitude towards the mobile customer.

Further reading…

For more on Apple from the blog, check out How Apple can use data to improve personalisation.

For more on the customer journey, check out these investigations on UK retailers John Lewis and Halfords.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 18 February, 2015 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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