With more and more websites seeing the majority of their visits from mobile devices and Google paying more attention to mobile friendliness, it’s no surprise that the small-screen experience is top of the agenda for companies.

In a blog post, Paribus, a company that aims to help consumers get money back when products they purchase online drop in price, pointed to an interesting example of how desktop and mobile experiences can vary in significant ways.

When Paribus began investigating why one of its users never seemed to apply discount codes to his orders even though they were prominently displayed on the websites he was ordering from, it noticed that those discount codes weren’t prominently displayed on mobile.

In fact, at one point in time on the Banana Republic website, a 40% discount code wasn’t displayed to mobile users at all.

Oversight, discrimination or smart business?

As Paribus sees it, this had a discriminatory effect. The customer “had no idea he was being charged 40% more than everyone else,” Paribus’ Eric Glyman argued.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that the issue was the result of oversight.

When adding content to a responsive site, there’s always the potential that something will be missed, resulting in content not being visible across all resolutions.

And even when content is displayed across all resolutions, screen real estate can dictate that it’s displayed more or less effectively, as can be seen in other discount code examples. 

It’s also possible that Banana Republic made a conscious decision not to display the discount code in question on mobile. For example, it’s conceivable that in some instances, a retailer would opt to provide greater incentives to only some users based on the knowledge that it didn’t need to provide those incentives to others to get the desired results.

Just as dynamic pricing has been the source of controversy, such behavior might leave a bad taste in one’s mouth, but it increasingly takes place in some form because it’s smart business for companies to use data to optimize their results.

At the end of the day, it’s clear that there’s often a strong rationale for there to be differences between desktop and mobile experiences, but that doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t be thoughtful about just how different they allow these experiences to be. 

Retailers don’t succeed solely by maximizing individual transactions. They succeed when they maximize customer relationships, and the lifetime value of those customer relationships can easily be affected over time if customers have drastically different experiences based on the devices they prefer to shop with.