Mobile Product Discovery: The Next Ecommerce Battleground

Yes, we’re glued to our devices, making mobile product discovery that much more critical (credit: camilo jimenez on Unsplash )

Inflation may continue to impact overall ecommerce shopping volume, but mobile shopping is here to stay, and mobile product discovery will be at the forefront.

Forrester predicts a staggering 20% annual growth in retail sales made on smartphones through 2024, with an estimated 84% of U.S. online buyers using mobile devices to make purchases. However, recent studies show that despite the surge in mobile usage, nearly one-third of American adults will opt out of purchasing from their mobile devices due to an unsatisfactory shopping experience.

That’s a lot of money left on the table, and that’s why it’s critical for retailers to lean into mobile product discovery as the next step in their digital transformation.

Here are three key steps your organization can take to wow your customers at every step of the journey — and drive more ROI from your mobile experience.

Strategically differentiate omnichannel experiences

To create a great mobile shopping experience, you need to first understand how it strategically fits within your omnichannel ecosystem. How are shopper behaviors and expectations different on mobile devices from expectations in person or on a desktop? And across channels, how can you meet each individual shopper’s needs?

The strategy that works for one marketing channel can become a potential liability for another. The challenge for retailers is to figure out how to make mobile shopping a seamless yet differentiated part of their overall shopping experience.

For example, compare the experience of walking into your local grocery store with that of shopping on your phone. When you shop online, those carefully organized in-store shelves and endcap displays transform into long, scrolling lists of search results and never-ending category pages. While you may be willing to walk from one end of the building to another for organic flour in store, you’ll likely close out of a tab if you can’t find a product within a few clicks online.

By thinking strategically about how to integrate mobile as its own channel, retailers can better reach customers who prefer mobile shopping and increase their chances of making a sale.

As another example, a pet supply store might find that store customers are interested in value, while mobile shoppers are primarily driven by convenience. Providing the best experience in both situations will require different approaches to mobile product discovery. While in-person customers could be greeted by rows of enticing deals and discounts to increase the size of their (literal) shopping carts, mobile shoppers might need an app that’s easy to use and has all the essentials just a click away.

Create a hyper-personalized mobile experience

According to a Boston Consulting Group survey, 66% of consumers say they’re willing to provide some personal information to brands in exchange for personalized experiences, as long as they have control over what data they share and how it’s being used. Building a shopper’s trust by personalizing in a way that helps them is good for customer lifetime value.

Say a cosmetics company creates an app that lets users answer brief surveys or quizzes to find the best products for their skin type. A shopper will only input this information if they expect the retailer to personalize recommendations based on it. If the retailer then makes good by using the information to immediately suggest and show desirable products, it benefits both parties.

I call this “thinking outside the product grid,” which is ideal on mobile devices. Who wants to scroll through hundreds of products when you can only see two at a time on your screen? The experience of asking a few questions and getting personalized assistance is much more conducive to mobile shopping.

And it’s not only a better experience in the moment. When shoppers share their preferences, brands can leverage machine learning to create a more personalized experience throughout the entire journey. For instance, if you know to not show whole wheat bread or pasta as a gluten-free shopper searches or browses category pages, it’s a win-win situation. The customer gets a more customized and useful shopping experience, and you retain a happy, loyal customer.

Show shoppers attractive products, not just relevant ones

Every brand strives to offer customers the right products at the right time. But too many companies rely on legacy search technology that only enhances product discovery based on semantic relevance. A search for “shirts” can yield 300 different results in an unoptimized order. Would you call that a success?

To provide the best mobile experience, you need to show shoppers products that are actually attractive to them, not just loosely relevant to their general search. No mobile shopper is willing to scroll through 300 shirts until they find the one they like. It’s critical to put the most attractive shirts based on their preferences toward the top of the results to create a good experience.

Mobile consumers are giving you clues about the products that interest them on every tap and swipe. Instead of ignoring this valuable information, AI-powered software crunches the data instantly and illuminate patterns and intent, using it to personalize mobile search results in real time.

For example, if I live in Miami and search for “dress,” my idea is likely different from that of someone doing so in New York. Starting with location-based data, then verifying my shopping preferences based on what I click on, where I spend the most active time and what I add to cart and purchase, shows you what I’m actually more likely to buy.

For busy customers shopping from their phones, the best time to show them the right product is right away. With shorter attention spans and smaller mobile screens, this is absolutely critical, driving KPIs that matter.

Treating mobile like any other shopping channel is a missed opportunity. At a time when shoppers’ ecommerce expectations are higher than ever, providing a better mobile experience translates directly into dollars and cents.

Courtney Austermehle is CMO at Constructor