Eric Feinberg, senior director of mobile, ForeSee
Eric Feinberg, senior director of mobile, ForeSee
A view from Eric Feinberg

Think BR: Brands need to wise up fast to how they look on tablets

Trowsing (tablet browsing) is on the up, and firms need to factor it into their 2013 digital strategies, writes Eric Feinberg, senior director of mobile,...

As reported here last month, more than 10% of UK consumers now own a tablet (Ipsos). What does this mean for companies in terms of optimising their websites for the 'tablet experience'? Do many companies even have a tablet-centric digital strategy? If not, they should devise one - sharpish.

Our own research shows customers have specific expectations when 'trowsing', which if properly addressed can create huge marketing and sales opportunities. Conversely, if due consideration is not given to what customers expect, the experience can be very disappointing and result in a lost sale.

Despite the exponential rise in global tablet sales, over 90% of our 600 customers still serve their traditional website through to the tablet audience. Yet in terms of impact and contribution to sales, clients are starting to see higher conversion rates of tablet visitors over desktop.

They have also identified spikes in evening traffic, when most site visitors are coming from tablet devices. These trends are easily spotted with basic web analytics (behavioural data). However, real insight comes from measuring what you cannot see; it comes from understanding the customer. 

To gauge expectations and assess resulting satisfaction rates, we measure customer interactions across mobile, tablets and sites, giving us great insight into just how different the experiences are. In today’s competitive landscape, customers have a plethora of choices about how to engage with you - or not, so it’s critical to develop an understanding of their perceptions and experience. 

Our recent mobile customer satisfaction research reveals expectations of trowsing are diverging markedly from the experience itself. For example 70% of those measured recorded lower customer satisfaction scores in their mobile experience than in their web experience. Tablet experiences also scored lower than handheld site experiences. Why might this be?

Tablet form factor is most closely aligned functionally with the mobile phone world (touchscreen, portable, handheld) but the customer expectations have been found to be rooted in the full-featured experience from the web. They don’t want to have to compromise in terms of the visual or functional experience they are accustomed to.

However desktop web usability breaks down when customers are trowsing. Orientation preferences have tremendous impact on tap-ability of top navigation, plus content above the fold changes for tablet screen size, greatly impacting customer engagement. 

Cascading navigation has been the preferred navigational scheme in the web for some time but even though it works in tablets, it is not optimal. You often need to tap three times to get to the next page. 

Despite this, we see a lot of companies still pushing their desktop website experience to tablet visitors because it offers them presence at virtually no cost, and they are already enjoying high traffic and/or sales from tablets. This leads many companies into a false sense of security - why optimise the web experience for tablet when it works already?

This is a short term strategy, the success of which cannot be judged purely on traffic or even sales figures. It could just mean that more people are using tablets as a preferred tool of engagement.

For now, they are accepting that your website looks a little clunky and there are a few frustrations, but they’ll soon come to expect more, as they will compare your site to your competitor’s, whose works perfectly already on their tablet device. Theirs is not to question why - they just want a good trowsing experience, and in time they will go elsewhere to find it.

By delivering desktop web sites to tablet visitors we are failing to fulfill the high expectations of customers, and the potential to deliver a better, more engaging experience.

Understanding who your tablet audience is, what stage of a sales cycle they are in, and where they are located when using their tablet are integral to improving the customer strategy for tablet and other mobile interactions.

Customer satisfaction has a proven relationship to a company’s financial bottom line.  Understanding what your customers want while trowsing is business critical. Increasingly, smart companies will develop their digital user experiences for the tablet first, then scale up for the big browser and down for the mobile handset browsers.

If you’re adopting the one size fits all approach for 2013, it’s worth checking whether your customers are happy with a less than perfect fit.

Eric Feinberg, senior director of mobile, ForeSee