We asked 1,000 UK consumers to tell us about how they use and shop on mobile devices, their experiences of mobile web, apps and their expectations and frustrations.

We then undertook a benchmark study to assess how the UK’s top retailers are performing against these expectations. 

Mobile site first

The accepted line on mobile site versus apps is that there is no ‘one size fits all’. The platform retailers choose depends on many factors including their sector, customer and sales volume.

However, on the whole, mobile sites have proven to be more popular than apps. Customers use mobile sites more frequently and are in fact more likely to make purchases via mobile sites.

Retailers would do well to begin their mobile journey with an optimised mobile site and get the basics right before jumping on the app bandwagon.

M&S has a high performing mobile site, with a very well designed HTML5 experience. One of the most impressive aspects of the site is how quickly it loads despite being relatively image heavy – something that we know to be very important to consumers from the research.

Whether it is for casual browsing, searching for particular products or just looking up the nearest high street branch, the site delivers and delivers quickly.

Additionally, call to action buttons are large and maps are easy to find, as are contact details for nearest stores and customer services. M&S is taking advantage of the unique functions you can offer the customer, such as location, and providing an outstanding customer experience.

Contextualised content

It seems that, as much as marketers talk about targeting consumers ‘on the go’ via mobile, at 71% the most popular place for people to use their mobile devices to access websites is in fact in the home.

The fact that there’s no place like home for consumers using their mobile devices indicates that phone or tablet is the first port of call to access the web and browse retailers websites, ahead of desktops. 

Retailers should make an effort to apply the functions, features and knowledge they have about user behaviour on desktop to mobile. Not having the functionality of a desktop site proved to be one of the biggest frustrations consumers experience with mobile sites 

Just because a customer is using a mobile site doesn’t mean they want to compromise on  functionality or content they can engage with, they simply want it in a mobile friendly format that’s relevant to them.

The high number of consumers who use mobile devices in the home indicates that more than simply grabbing a device to check some information quickly, people are using their mobile devices to browse leisurely too.

Retailers should take the opportunity to offer consumers more engaging content by incorporating social networking, video or editorial to make the site or app more sticky.

Debenhams excels in this area by showing a clear understanding of customer behaviour.

To take advantage of the browsability of tablet devices, Debenhams incorporated the store magazine into its iPad app, to give users an engaging browsing experience and more in-depth content when they need.

By providing clear user instructions at the beginning of the store magazine, Debenhams ensures customers have an easy and enjoyable experience discovering their products and services.   

Debenhams’ iPad app:


An aligned experience

It is easy for retailers to be overwhelmed by the multitude of channels the customer will be able to interact with, but they should try to see web, mobile and tablet as one channel, but in multiple screens.

When mobile becomes separated from web, customers become confused by the disjointed experience and diluted brand message. It is only with a ‘one channel’ approach that retailers will be able to make the experience of interacting with the brand universal across platforms.

To further improve the customer experience, retailers can offer innovative ways of connecting online and offline such as order online and pick up in store, or allow customers to interact with products in store via mobile.

A recent Econsultancy/Toluna survey found that more than 57% of smartphone users had searched for information on their devices while shopping. 

What type of information or service have you searched for on your smartphone while in-store?

And just as you would on desktop, retailers need to use analytics to see how customers are interacting with mobile content in order to improve experience over time via personalisation.

In 2011, when we carried out our first mobile benchmarking report, we concluded that mobile represented a huge opportunity and many retailers were struggling to realise its potential. Since then, there has been a significant improvement.

This is against a backdrop of the mobile marketplace getting increasingly more complex, with an ever-greater variety of devices, particularly with the increase in Android market share and huge surge in tablet use.

Retailers have really grasped the mobile opportunity and thought about the best approach to make the most of it. Looking into the future, we think companies will continue to step up their mobile game.  

Areas of growth such as mobile coupons, self-scanning in super-markets, NFC and e-wallets mean that there are more options than ever to maximise mobile strategy. With the vast majority of consumers having an internet-enabled device with them at all times, now is the time to really refine brand mobile experience.