Exclusive to Paybefore. May 2013.
In every technology shift, users are confronted with interfaces that were designed for the previous generation. For example, early PCs rendered graphics of Rolodexes, clocks and other analog desk accouterments. In this tradition, users of today’s smartphones are often presented with a shopping experience that was designed for the previous generation of technology - the large screen web browser. A great mobile commerce user experience must be designed to leverage the inherent advantages of the mobile phone, but avoid the mistakes of the past that distract and frustrate users.
Let’s look at two such user experience design mistakes many retail apps are making as they try to lure mobile shoppers into their carts.
1. Location, Location, Location
A smartphone has a GPS, but many apps still aren’t using this functionality in the shopping experience. Best Buy, for example, doesn’t use the GPS to populate the nearest stores for product pickup. Instead, the user must enter a ZIP code. While this may seem to be a reasonable substitute, what if a user needed a replacement battery on a business trip to Omaha? Would it be reasonable to expect the user to know his current ZIP? Even if he does, the GPS would reduce key strokes, saving users from additional error-prone touchscreen typing.
The Best Buy app does use the GPS in the store-locator tab. This a great example of how mobile shopping carts still are being treated as an afterthought. The code for using GPS locations exists in the same app but isn’t shared with the shopping cart. This sort of decision making creates a poor user experience, and likely costs Best Buy m-commerce sales.
2. Gimmicks Don’t Help Mobile Shoppers
Walmart and Dunkin’ Donuts are both retailers that, overall, have decent mobile apps. But both apps suffer from using user interface gimmicks that have no positive effect on the user experience.
In the case of Walmart, the section for the weekly sales flier draws inspiration from early Flash websites that used graphics trickery to simulate realistic page turning of print materials. Walmart’s weekly flyer has no navigation to go from page to page except to tap on a miniature--far too small to read--rendering of a page and drag it right to left. This “turns the page” and refreshes the list of items displayed below in a normal, column format for a mobile device. Unfortunately, this page-flipping gimmick takes half the screen on a phone for unreadable material that isn’t self-evident as a navigation method.
The Dunkin’ Donuts version of a “form over function” user experience mistake is in the critical area of reloading the user’s m-commerce account. If users would like to add money to their account that is not a standard amount—a minimum of $25—they are greeted with a text field and a full screen rendering of a dial like those commonly found on locks of high school gym lockers. The text field is inoperable, and instead users must tap and drag the dial graphic to adjust, in dollar increments, the amount they want to add to their accounts. This element has no meaning to the brand and, more importantly, doesn’t help the user reload quickly.
User experience is critically important to m-commerce, as a well-designed shopping process in an app gives shoppers confidence and quickly moves them from decision to completed transactions. Gimmicky design tricks that were bad ideas on Web pages and failure to leverage the inherent advantages of smartphones fall short on delivering a great experience and ultimately in converting mobile app users to repeat customers.