October 01, 2012 | JJ Cramer

Nice Trowsers: t.dots and the Rise of Tablet Browsers


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Tablets are moving towards the forefront of “Mobile First” thinking.  These devices are playing an increasing role in your customers experience and critical patterns are starting to emerge. More and more companies are considering developing their digital user experiences for the tablet first then scaling up for the big browser and down for the mobile handset browsers. So, what are we seeing?

ForeSee has a front-row seat to the massive impact mobile is having on digital strategy.  With more than 100 measurements of mobile experience spanning tablets, apps, and m.dot sites we have unique and intimate knowledge on critical trends of why, where, and how customers engage using mobile devices. For the record, we define mobile inclusively – handset and tablet experiences across web and apps. To us, it doesn’t matter if it is “optimized” or not. The reality is that while many are optimizing their handset experiences, a good amount are still hybrid experiences (some parts mobile-optimized, some not) and well over 90% of our 600 clients are serving their traditional website through to the tablet audience. What are you doing or planning on doing?

ForeSee - mobile measurement across channelsMost notably is the increasing impact of the tablet experience.  More and more of our clients say they are starting to see higher conversion rates of tablet visitors over desktop as well as spikes in evening traffic when the majority of site visitors are coming from tablet devices.  These trends are easily spotted with basic web analytics (behavioral data).  However, the real insight comes from measuring what you cannot see; it comes from understanding the customer and their wants, needs and (most importantly) expectations.

The mindset of the customer visiting your tablet is decidedly different than a web visitor or a mobile phone visitor. Customer expectations of how a site works in tablet are increasingly diverging from the expectations on the web. The form factor of tablet is closely aligned functionally with the mobile phone world (touchscreen, portable) but the customer expectations are rooted in the full-featured experience from the web. Sure, it is the same content but it is a different experience. Same content, different experience. Will this change over time? Maybe. But it is this way now and for the foreseeable future.

We see a lot of companies pushing their desktop website experience to tablet visitors because it offers them presence at virtually no cost. Thus, why optimize the web experience for tablet when it “works” already? Further, many of our clients are seeing tablet conversion rates higher than desktop and traffic growing amazingly. This beguiles us into thinking that a winning strategy is afoot. It might work for a little while but just because traffic numbers are high doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best long-term strategy. It could just mean that more people are using mobile as a preferred tool of engagement. That is part of the problem with behavioral data; you miss a big chunk of the full picture. And from what we see from our front row seat is mobile being used not only because it is the best available screen but because customers expect that it will be closer to their ideal experience.

What we do not see in traditional analytics is who our audience is, where they are engaging via mobile (on their couch, in store, a competitor’s store, home, train, plane), and why.  This intelligence begins to paint a different picture and is essential in leading your mobile strategy forward.

In our experience, and comScore backs it up, tablet audiences skew higher on affluence, education and are more tech savvy than a desktop audience. So shouldn’t we expect higher conversion from an audience with more disposable income?  How much higher should “t-conversion” (tablet conversion) be?  Also, tablets are increasingly becoming the preferred point of internet access within the home and at night.  So, we’re seeing customers bring a different engagement persona when coming from a tablet experience.  Their mindset is different. We don’t want to call it the “lean back” effect; but we can say that tablet engagement is not characterized by the micro-tasking persona that is typical of handheld mobile.  Customers desire a more engaging experience on tablets and tablet strategy is lagging behind on capitalizing within this medium.

Desktop web usability breaks down when customers are “trowsing” (tablet browsing).  Orientation preferences have tremendous impact on tap-ability of top navigation and 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 by no means optimal. Most times, you need to tap thrice to get to the next page (tap to engage the menu, tap to open the submenu and finally to get to your page). In fact 70% of the 20 retailers measured in both web and mobile in the ForeSee Mobile Satisfaction Index, Retail Edition recorded lower customer satisfaction scores in their mobile experience than in their web experience.  When we compare tablet against handheld mobile experience we a see similar trend – tablet experiences score lower than handheld site experiences, according to the ForeSee Mobile Benchmark analysis (see chart below).

Mobile customer satisfaction lags behind traditional sites

Simply stated, companies are failing to recognize that tablets are a different experience that provides a unique medium to engage with customers.  Just observe how kids are with touch-screen devices (tablet or iTouch) versus a laptop and you will clearly see what true engagement is really about.

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

ForeSee Satisfaction Analytics for Mobile: UniqueWe’re lucky, we know. Because of the vast experience ForeSee has in measuring customer interactions across mobile apps, tablets, and m.dot sites, we approach each of these environments with a customized measurement using the ForeSee methodology. The experiences are different. One size does not fit all. Handset vs. Tablet. iPad vs. Android tablets. Larger tablets vs. mid-range tablets. Portrait vs. Landscape browsers. In today’s competitive landscape customers have a plethora of choices of how to engage with you and, scarily, very easy ability to seek out your competitors when their expectations are not met. This is what makes their experience so important to a company’s future success.

Only customer satisfaction has a proven relationship to a company’s financial bottom line.  In order to provide our clients with a reliable, accurate, and precise measurement of mobile satisfaction we apply tablet-specific elements in our modeling techniques, appropriate phrasing on our questionnaires, unique custom questions and tablet-optimized survey presentation.  These enhancements ensure ForeSee clients get the right insight into understanding the customer experience across their mobile offerings of apps, tablets, and mobile sites.

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About the Author

As ForeSee’s Director of Sales, Mobile, JJ Cramer contributes to the development of institutional knowledge about the mobile customer experience, influences product innovation for ForeSee’s mobile solutions, and collaborates with ForeSee’s sales team to support clients. JJ has over 10 years of experience in digital research and is an expert in online custom research and customer analysis. JJ holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master’s degree from Springfield College. He is a former professional tennis player and has been with ForeSee since 2010.

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