Companies are aware of the vast customer reach and revenue potential of the mobile Web, but many have been hesitant to dip their toes into these waters because of the complexity involved in delivering optimal Website display and application functionality for so many device types.
Viewing the market as fragmented and underdeveloped, companies have not prioritized performance for the mobile Web in the same way they have for the PC Web, resulting in mobile Web performance lagging significantly behind the PC Web in terms of speed, simplicity, and reliability.
When you take into consideration that two seconds is now considered the new threshold users are willing to wait before growing frustrated, abandoning a site, and going to a competitor, it’s not surprising to learn that only 14 percent of US Web buyers who own an Internet-enabled mobile device have actually used it to make purchases. In fact, almost half who haven’t yet used the mobile Web to make purchases said they would do so if it offered a faster experience, and/or if mobile Web content looked the same as content on a desktop PC.
Like the traditional Web 15 years ago, the first critical step in driving more widespread mobile commerce adoption will be the creation of more highly satisfying, convenient user experiences. To achieve this goal, companies must leverage existing and proven technologies and best practices from the traditional Web performance management world.
Here are some suggestions for companies interested in improving their users’ mobile Web experiences:
1) Know your users. Make sure you can answer the following questions:
- Where are your users located?
- Which ISPs do they engage?
- What times of day do they visit your site?
- What are their peak traffic times seasonally?
- What devices do they use to connect to the Internet?
- What browsers do they use?
Once you’ve answered these questions -- and others -- you’ll have a clear sense of which users, geographies, timeframes, devices, and browsers are the highest priorities for your business.
2) Ensure your mobile Website or application looks good.
You need to proactively test how your application renders on all the devices that your end-users carry. This testing needs to be conducted from the perspective of users who are at the outer edges of the Internet and whose experiences are subject to an extremely wide range of third-party services and network elements, including ISPs, carriers, content delivery networks, browsers, and devices.
3) Verify that your mobile Website or application is available and performing optimally. Take action to identify, diagnose, and resolve mobile Web, SMS, and application performance issues across devices, networks, and geographies, whether the faulty component is inside your firewall or somewhere across the Internet.
4) Check that your mobile Website or application performs at different levels of load. Too many visitors during peak times may degrade response time. Industry best-practices suggest load testing prior to major events like the holiday season to ensure that Websites can scale to handle peak traffic loads.
5) Be there for your users. Test mobile Websites and applications, not only before deployment, but frequently thereafter, in order to pinpoint and resolve problems quickly -- before they hit users.
6) Make sure your third parties are delivering the performance and availability you expect. Understand the performance of third-party partners and how it affects the user experience. And make sure that any cloud service providers you enlist can deliver consistently high performance to your users, by insisting on the right service-level agreements.
In order for mobile commerce to move to the next level, all members of the mobile Web ecosystem -- carriers, device manufacturers, industry consortia, and standards bodies -- must work together to address major challenges, including greater device diversity, conflicting standards and payment platforms, limited management tools, and a lack of established best practices.
Superior user experiences will capture an opportunity that’s too large to ignore and will help ignite the tidal wave of industry-wide change needed to unlock the full potential of mobile commerce.
— Imad Mouline is CTO of Gomez Inc. , the Web performance division of Compuware Corp. (Nasdaq: CPWR).