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Failed mobile transactions drive consumers to competitors: survey

March 29, 2011

Chipotle enables credit-card transactions via its iPhone app

Businesses may be losing customers due to poor mobile experiences, as 63 percent of all online adults surveyed said they would be less likely to buy from the same company via other purchase channels if they experienced a problem conducting a mobile transaction.

That is according to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive that was commissioned by online customer experience management software provider Tealeaf Technology. It found that more than four in five adults in the United States who have conducted an online transaction via a mobile device in the last year report experiencing a problem.

“There are interesting types of challenges related to mobile transactions, struggles that consumers have when they are surfing the mobile Web,” said Geoff Galat, vice president of worldwide marketing at Tealeaf, San Francisco.

“The rapid growth of smartphones and increased adoption of the mobile Web and apps made us want to gauge the opinions of making transactions via mobile devices,” he said. “The challenges and struggles that people have when they are online are not dependent on platform.

“Usage is shifting to mobile, but the primary issues remain similar.”

This survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of Tealeaf Feb. 9-11. It surveyed 2,469 online U.S. adults ages 18 and older, of whom, 410 have conducted a mobile transaction in the past year.

User experience paramount
Regardless of the platform shift from traditional desktop or laptop computer to mobile device, consumers are still having challenging experiences and encountering struggles when conducting transactions online, according to the survey.

The survey found that more than 84 percent of consumers—that is, online adults in the U.S. who have conducted a mobile transaction via smartphone or other mobile device in the past year—have experienced problems.

Despite the hyper-growth of the mobile Internet, one fundamental truth remains, according to Tealeaf: regardless of whether the platform is a mobile device, tablet or computer, online customer experience is still fraught with issues.

How successful companies are with their mobile channels will depend largely on their customers’ ability to complete transactions and their willingness to return to the retailer’s mobile Web site or application.

Mobile devices are set to become the No. 1 medium for digital commerce, per Tealeaf.

According to ABI Research, U.S. mobile commerce sales will reach $4.9 billion this year, and will account for $163 billion in sales worldwide by 2015.

Mobile consumers are trying to conduct transactions—from shopping to travel to banking and insurance—and time after time they are frustrated by poor Web site experiences, leading to site abandonment and brand damage.

Beyond basic connectivity, the mobile experience is fraught with issues that prevent users from accomplishing their goals struggle-free, per Tealeaf. 

Forrester Research Inc.’s July 2010 independent report, “Making the Case for the Mobile Internet,” found that “the era of the mobile Internet isn’t around the bend but already here.”

Businesses looking to develop destinations for their smartphone users need to approach the space with high utility, good design and frequency of use in mind.

Retailers, financial services and hoteliers are successfully driving revenue and increasing consumer engagement through well-designed and highly functional mobile Web sites, per Forrester.

According to the new mobile consumer behavior survey commissioned by Tealeaf, of those who struggled while conducting a transaction via their mobile devices 34 percent received an error message; 29 percent said the app/Web site was difficult to navigate; and 25 percent were unable to complete a transaction due to an endless loop.

Meanwhile, 23 percent of consumers had trouble logging in and 16 percent said they encountered insufficient, incorrect or confusing information via the mobile site or app.

Previous online consumer behavior surveys conducted by Harris Interactive reported similar customer struggles.

The new mobile survey highlights that, while the platform for conducting transactions is shifting, consumer struggles continue. 

Expectations for mobile shopping experience are very high
Almost half—47 percent—of consumers who have conducted a mobile transaction in the past year expect the experience on their phones to be better than the experience in-store.

Eighty percent expect the experience to be better or equal to in-store and 85 percent expect the experience to be better than or equal to online using a laptop or desktop computer.

Businesses must beware of mobile struggles
If consumers experienced problems attempting to conduct mobile transactions, many of them would abandon their transactions and take their business elsewhere:

• 43 percent would abandon the mobile transaction and try later on a computer

• 16 percent would become more likely to buy from a competitor

• 14 percent would email or log a complaint with customer service

• 12 percent would abandon the transaction at the app/site and try a competitor’s app/site

Most importantly, customer struggles on a mobile device would drive consumers away from doing business with a company entirely, per Tealeaf.

Sixty-three percent of all online adults surveyed said that they would be less likely to buy from the same company via other purchase channels if they experienced a problem conducting a transaction on their mobile phones.

Customer struggles lead to frustration, disappointment and anger
Just how frustrating are customer struggles on a mobile device? The survey found that more adults would be extremely or very frustrated by experiencing a transaction problem on a mobile device (58 percent) than by going to the DMV (50 percent) or being stuck in traffic (56 percent).

The survey also found that mobile consumers often resort to unpleasant ways of venting their frustration – among those who experience problems conducting mobile transactions 23 percent have cursed at their phones; 11 percent have screamed at mobile devices; and 4 percent have thrown their mobile devices.

“Mobile is a hot area that people are putting a lot of emphasis and focus on,” Mr. Galat said. “The retailers that are really focusing on improving the customer experiences on mobile devices are leapfrogging ahead of competitors.

“You need to deliver a very good mobile experience early on, because it can end up harming your brand if you don’t do it the right way,” he said.

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Dan Butcher is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach him at

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