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Digital Engagement Blog

Conversion Crisis: Are Your Mobile Shoppers Web Floppers?

Mobile Shopping Conversion CrisisIt’s not what you’re thinking. This is a tale of customer experience in a time of remarkable change. It begins with showrooming, the despicable term that brick and mortar retailers utter with a sneer much like Jerry Seinfeld’s every time he greeted Newman. I bet you can picture a showroomer right now roaming your store. (Sneer) Showroomer.  

Soon, our sneaky showroomer flags down a sales associate. She engages in friendly conversation, asking a few questions about items that caught her attention. Discretely, she draws her smartphone and does an online price check. It’s retail arbitrage. Your store and your sales associate just got used.

This showroomer was shopping on price, and it probably cost you a sale. But today’s digital consumers are taking this showrooming-like behavior to a new level.

Showrooming Shopper 2.0 – The MoBrowser

Digital consumers, from Millennials to Baby Boomers, already exhibit new patterns of behavior. A valuable currency rules their lives, but it’s not price. Many studies have been published that establish the healthy growth rate of e-commerce revenue, but this little chart got my attention:


Consumers visiting retail sites behave very differently depending on whether they’re on a mobile or a desktop. Consumers spend nearly twice as much time visiting retail sites on their mobile, but they’re buying eight times as much from their desktop. That’s right- they’re MoBrowsers. They browse and shop a lot on mobile, but they buy mostly on the desktop.

From one angle, this resembles showrooming. It’s a shop & hop. The consumer shops in one channel then hops to another to make a purchase. In the case of showrooming, they hop so they can get a better price.

But from another angle, this behavior isn’t like showrooming at all. Consumers shop with one device and make most of their purchases on another, but they could just as easily check prices on either device. There’s no reason to switch devices to get a better price, so this isn’t a simple matter of retail arbitrage.

We’re Talking Sofa, Not Just Sidewalk

We know from other research (get it here) that a lot of this mobile shopping isn’t even mobile. As many as 85% of mobile shoppers prefer to do their mobile shopping at home. We’re talking sofa, not just sidewalk. Chances are, most of that mobile shopping is happening just steps away from the desktop. Now that’s interesting when you start thinking about how you might convert more shoppers to buyers.

If digital consumers are MoBrowsers who shop frequently on mobile, why do they tend to shift to a desktop (or laptop) to make most of their purchases? If you’re aware of any research on this, please comment on this post. I’m not, so I’ll exercise the author’s right to speculate.

  • Maybe consumers switch because they think the buying experience is better on a PC.
  • Maybe a PC at home feels more secure to consumers, so they feel more comfortable making purchases.
  • Maybe it’s about mood. Consumers in the mood to browse and explore may reach spontaneously for their smartphones, while consumers in a more purposeful buying mood tend to get down to business with their PC.

The Reason Doesn’t Matter. The Switch Itself is the Threat.

The reason really doesn’t matter. The fact that a switch to a new device often interrupts the shopping moment before it can convert to a buying moment is what threatens the retailer. This chasm in time, which could be minutes, hours, or days, not only kills the moment and jeopardizes a sale—it also opens the door to savvy competitors. And the new behaviors of digital consumers make them especially vulnerable.

Digital consumers, from Millennials to Baby Boomers, are incredibly busy. They live their lives at a rapid pace enabled by and anchored to the smartphone and other digital communications. They almost never sit down to complete a task from start to finish without being distracted or interrupted. They’re always multi-tasking, trying to keep up with a full set of mental to-do lists. Digital consumers live their lives in a series of micro-moments as they juggle tasks throughout the day. They take any chance they get to cross something off one of their lists or even merely to advance it one step in the right direction.

The Currency of Micro-Moments: Time and Attention

The most valuable currency for the digital consumer isn’t price, it’s time and attention. Every time they switch from one task to another, you have to compete for their attention.

You can win a consumer’s attention when they shop your site on their mobile, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to keep their attention all the way to the point of sale. Whether it happens minutes or days later, the digital consumer is eventually going to cross paths with a PC, where they buy eight times as much. If you lose their attention between shopping and buying, you may not get it back. Your mobile shoppers could turn into web floppers.  They might as well be showrooming if they end up buying from someone else.

What are you doing to own the buying moment, even if the consumer switches to another device?

And that’s why this is a tale of customer experience in a time of remarkable change. A customer experience that offers true digital engagement can help you turn that mobile shopper web flopper threat into an opportunity to capture more revenue. If you create the right digital buying experience, you can keep the customer’s attention and own the buying moment regardless of when or if they switch devices.

To do this, you’ll want to attack the problem from two angles.

Mobile-First Shopping Assistance

First, you can do more to keep the customer’s attention when they’re shopping on a mobile. As soon as a customer needs assistance, most shopping apps and mobile web sites notoriously kill the potential buying moment. The customer has to stop what they’re doing, find a “contact us” page, bail out of the site, and call or email the retailer. I call this a fractured experience, and it’s deadly for the buying moment.

Instead, make sure customers can get all the assistance they need to make a purchase on their mobile- without leaving the app or your mobile site. I call this mobile-first shopping assistance.

  • Make proactive, context-sensitive help available throughout the site
  • Provide a seamless transition from self-service to live customer assistance

Mobile-First shopping assistance can help you keep the digital consumer’s attention as they transition from shopping to buying.  

Persistent Conversations that Cross Digital Channels

Life is full of interruptions, and sometimes you just can’t avoid them. Digital consumers will switch devices, sometimes even in the middle of a transaction. When your customer does switch to a different device, you’ll want any conversations and context to persist across channels. The customer should be able to start shopping on a mobile, stop for any reason, then pick up right where they left off on a PC hours or even days later. This continuity of experience helps recapture the moment, particularly if they were in a conversation with a live associate who was helping them transition from shopping to buying.

This has to be more than just a cookie that passes some contextual information to an associate when a customer crosses channels. The idea is to create the feeling that you never got interrupted. You need to capture the full conversation or transaction history so it persists from channel to channel and feels like the interruption never happened.

So don’t let your mobile shoppers turn into web floppers that buy from someone else. Engage your MoBrowsers as they overwhelmingly like to shop on their smartphone, then do your best to keep them engaged by offering mobile-first customer assistance. If they do switch devices before making a purchase, make sure their conversations persist across channels. Create the feeling that they never got interrupted. Your digital consumers will appreciate this continuity because it simplifies their lives. Do it well, and they may reward you with their loyalty.

Learn more about cross-channel persistence  >


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Topics: Customer Engagement Digital Commerce