Mobile personalization receives more and more attention, although retailers and marketers don’t seem to quite get the hang of it just yet. A study published recently found that six in ten consumers do not feel that their mobile experience expectations are completely met. One of the top areas of concern is user experience where only 24 percent are completely satisfied and only 23 percent feel that there is continuity between the mobile and web experiences.
Last year, when mobile browsing surpassed desktop for the first time, we’ve experienced a milestone the consequences of which affect all online businesses to a large extent. It is crucial for companies to establish a solid mobile presence. This, needless to say, goes well beyond creating a responsive or adaptive website design.
Recommender systems and other solutions that aim to create personalized experiences for customers are undoubtedly and deservedly an area of focus on desktop. However, tailoring user journeys to the customer’s needs and preferences is even more important on mobile for a number of reasons and mobile personalization requires a slightly different approach.
Let’s take a look at the main challenges and opportunities the mobile medium poses and how these can be effectively tackled and leveraged by means of mobile personalization efforts.
The above graphic is taken from Sitecore’s recently published report titled “Mobile is eating the world”. It presents the main areas of focus for mobile personalization. Let’s look at some of these areas separately and in greater detail.
The increasing size of mobile screens was a salient tendency of the past couple of years. However, usability and convenience establish very clear limits to this trend. Limits that we’ve most possibly reached – or even surpassed, as someone who ever tried to type with one hand on a 6-inch screen phone might argue. However, even on these large screens, size is still a non-negligible factor when designing mobile experiences and interfaces.
Screen size poses two major challenges that mobile personalization techniques can effectively tackle. Firstly, and most obviously, you simply cannot display as many items on a 5-inch screen, as on a desktop device. Coupled with the fact that website navigation is still somewhat cumbersome on mobile devices, this makes the relevance of items featured on a page particularly important on mobile.
Also, due to the navigational limitations of the medium, the main purpose product recommendations should serve on a mobile site is to always provide a “next step” for browsing customers. For instance, in the form of related or similar content boxes. On desktop, there is a much wider playing field for such systems. Netflix recently said that they deliberately incorporate some recommendations that don’t fit the user’s profile for diversity and discovering latent preferences. However, on mobile, it is perhaps wiser if personalization efforts are aimed at creating a relevant and continuous experience in a narrower sense.
Time and place are crucial to creating relevant and truly personalized experiences on mobile. While classical geo-location based applications and practices exist for a relatively long time, a new breed of micro-location tracking tools can break new ground for mobile personalization.
iBeacon, a technology introduced by Apple in 2013, holds tremendous potential in this area. iBeacons are very small, Bluetooth-enabled stations that sense nearby mobile devices. They transmit a unique identifier (much like a web cookie) to a compatible app or operating system. The technology itself is similar to the GPS based Geopush, but it’s much lighter on the batteries and operates with far greater precision.
iBeacons can track customers, or trigger location-based actions on the device such as check-ins on social media, push notifications or delivered personalized messages. Several companies started using the technology in the last couple of years and the most creative applications continue to yield excellent results.
It is absolutely certain that desktop is still the main means of conducting in-depth product researches. But if users want to obtain a piece of information fast and on the go, like what is the nearest store to purchase a product that they’ve already researched and decided to buy, mobile is definitely most people’s top choice.
Search is an excellent approach to making the most relevant information available in the fastest way possible. It is also a cornerstone of mobile personalization. Because typing is still quite cumbersome on mobile, adding a simple autocomplete function can greatly increase usability. However, the experience can be greatly improved further if the system completes the phrases according to what it deems to be most relevant to the individual customer. Or, if the content of the result page is ordered and filtered based on each customer’s separate profile. Such applications are robust on desktop as well, but their effects on mobile are much more dramatic.
Needless to say, the content formats that best fit mobile interfaces are quite different from those that are convenient on desktop. The top content format for mobile is without question the chat. Some companies, like Uber co-founder Garret Camp’s Operator already started leveraging the popularity of the medium for commercial purposes.
Incorporating a live chat function into your website can yield great results but employing operators is not cheap. With the advances in related technologies, such as natural language processing, chatbots can soon present a viable alternative to costly support employees and they have the chance to get to mobile users in their most fancied format.
Some say, that bots will represent the third major paradigm shift in user interfaces – as websites became apps, apps will become bots in the future. While this assumption might seem far-fetched, chatbots could mean a large leap ahead in mobile personalization technologies. It probably won’t be long until we start to see them appearing on eCommerce sites in narrow roles, such as answering FAQs.
It’s easy to see why every online business should invest in mobile personalization. One doesn’t necessarily have to think of an enormous investment right away. Simply taking the time to scan through your site on your phone and making some notes as to how the experience could be more convenient is a good place to start. After that, based on your available time and resources, you can start implementing some basic solutions and see how your customers react. Cleverly placed, mobile friendly recommendation boxes and logics can already create very visible improvements in your mobile sales.
Sources and further reading: http://www.sitecore.net/about/press-and-media/press-releases/2016/02/mobile-experience-research.aspx  http://www.sitecore.net/learn/resources-library/white-papers/brian-solis-mobile-is-eating-the-world-ebook.aspx  http://finance.yahoo.com/news/netflix-lifted-lid-algorithm-recommends-135347076.html  http://www.ibeacon.com/what-is-ibeacon-a-guide-to-beacons/  https://operator.com/  http://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2016/02/23/chat-bots-facebook-telegram-wechat/#61724fb62633