American Marketer


Tips on simple and personalized mobile design

March 11, 2014

Bill Loller is vice president of IBM Smarter Commerce


By Bill Loller

The old adage from the early days of desktop browsing went something like, “If a user can’t find something within two clicks, they never will.” Much has changed since the first days of the World Wide Web, but the notion of delivering customized, easy-to-navigate solutions for customers has not.

The increasing use of mobile has put pressure on marketers to understand the mobile experience and design their mobile marketplace to appeal to today’s shoppers.

No tooling around
Creating a compelling mobile experience is a trend that cannot be ignored as mobile continues to be a popular medium for online browsing and shopping.

For example, take recent data from IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark which captured online shopping trends during the week leading up to Valentine’s Day 2014 (Feb. 7—13).

The Digital Benchmark revealed mobile traffic accounted for 36.8 percent of all online traffic, up nearly 40 percent compared to the same time last year. In fact, mobile sales were up nearly 43 percent this year over 2013.

With the growing shift to mobile shopping, marketers need to know how to build a streamlined, customer experience that makes sense to mobile users.

Today, people have their phones within an arm’s reach nearly 24 hours a day. Consumers feel a personal connection to their mobile device instead of simply viewing it as a simple communication tool – it is an extension of who they are.

For marketers, mobile cannot be viewed as an independent channel. Instead, the mobile experience must act as an extension of your entire brand.

In fact, a recent Harris Interactive study shows that 63 percent of consumers who encounter a bad mobile experience from a brand also believe that company will not meet their expectations across all channels beyond mobile such as Web and bricks and mortar.

Marketers need to understand the connection that consumers have to their devices and design a mobile experience that is clean, simple and intuitive.

Here are a few key tips for marketers to design a simple and personalized mobile experience.

Make it easy. Mobile users are task-oriented – they want to find what they are looking for and be on their way.

In addition to easy search, your mobile experience should promote usability and accessibility to close the sale.

Terms such as “single click to buy” or “thumb enabled” are now top of mind when it comes to mobile strategies. Today’s consumers have more choice and little patience, so marketers need to make a quick connection with mobile consumers.

Personalized push notifications. To mobile users, push notifications can be extremely useful or extremely annoying. The difference between the two is personalization.

Mobile notifications provide organizations with a unique way to interact with their customers, but they will be easily ignored if customers do not see a benefit.

Marketers need to make sure their push notifications are personalized with relevant content and appear at times useful to the customer.

With permission, marketers can leverage geo-location services to send a personalized promotion to a customer as she is walking past the store.

Understand the experience. Overall, you need to understand how consumers engage with your brand., the largest online retailer in the Netherlands, uses analytics to monitor exactly how customers use its site.

With this data, can identify any design flaws that may deter the consumer from making a purchase and then design a better layout to match customer use – whether it is including a pop-up notification, moving a button to the upper right hand corner versus left, or moving a tab from the left column to the top of the page.

By understanding the customer experience, the online retailer adjusted design flaws and sold more than 15.6 million products in 2012 alone.

Although focuses on its Web site, this can be successfully applied to understanding mobile use.

THE EASIEST WAY to develop the ultimate mobile experience is to ensure that the customer is at the center of your design.

Whether it is a native application or a Web site with mobile functionality, the consumer needs to feel comfortable engaging with your brand through his or her mobile device.

There are profound implications to a bad mobile experience, especially when a competitor is only a click away.

Bill Loller is vice president of IBM Smarter Commerce at IBM, San Jose, CA. Reach him at