Don't Get Me Lost And Don't Make Me Wait

How much of the effort you've put into improving your mobile commerce site has been misdirected? Probably a lot, according to the results of a recent survey by mobile analytics firm Maxymiser, which found that 45 percent of mobile shoppers said ease of use was their top priority and another 20 percent tagged loading speed as most important.

Top priority for what? Deciding whether to keep shopping on the m-commerce site.

Let that sink in. All the beautiful design, all the clever and inventive approaches to convincing customers to buy—they're all wasted if mobile shoppers decide to leave. They're wasted because no matter how great they may be, if shoppers walk out the door, they'll never see that beautiful design or those great ideas.

Give shoppers an unsatisfactory experience and 30 percent will leave for a competitor—and 9 percent will never come back. And 65 percent of those shoppers say their top priority, the thing you really don't want to disappoint them on, is ease of use and loading speed.

Don't get me lost and don't make me wait. That's the message. For retailers developing mobile commerce sites, it should be a mantra. It should lead everything else a site's developers do.

And that probably sounds pretty boring. Slavishly squeezing out that last bit of loading time, dumbing down the site so it's simpleminded and utterly unsurprising—what first-rate development team wants to do that? Yours almost certainly doesn't. And your team members are right—dumbing down and squeezing nanoseconds is not what they should be doing.

They should be working to delight customers. And delight them in ways that make them want to buy.

But there's nothing delightful in getting lost. Frustration is the opposite of delight. So is boredom. Those are the things that customers really want to avoid. They're also the things developers should avoid.

That's the challenge. Cracking that challenge requires two things: a little psychology and a big stick.

The psychology is for dealing with mobile shoppers. They don't want to get lost and they don't want to wait. But what makes them feel lost? Not finding what they want and not being able to get back to familiar ground. Making search easier may solve both those problems. Or maybe you should add your own go-back buttons. Maybe a split screen is the way to go. Keeping shoppers grounded is the kind of challenge developers love, because they hate getting lost too.

Then there's load time—or rather, loading wait time. What makes mobile shoppers feel like they're waiting? Nothing to look at, nothing to do, and a site that won't work correctly until that last image or script has loaded. That's easy to avoid: Make sure the site starts being functional as soon as the first image or navigation button shows up. Then shoppers in a hurry can begin a search or move into the site without waiting for every last home-page image to load. Getting that to work correctly is a technical challenge, not drudgery—and again, it's what both shoppers and developers want.

That's the little psychology. The big stick? You need that to threaten marketing people who are sure that high-resolution images, dazzling videos and beautiful designs are the most important thing. Yes, they are important. But not as important as not getting shoppers lost and not making them wait.

Defining that as the top (but not by any means the only) priority will require some negotiating and tradeoffs. Sometimes marketing will have to get its way and slow the site down a little, or make it a little harder to use. But then, those same marketing people may come up with clever ideas of their own in response to the Don't get me lost, don't make me wait mantra.

And if mobile site designers and marketers are both pulling in the same direction, that effort is going to be doubled—and almost never misdirected.