5 Experience Predictions for Retail in 2019
In the retail industry, one that’s known for its ability to continually reinvent itself and find new ways to connect with consumers, the huge shift in consumer behavior from physical...
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Many of us assume that mobile is essentially business as usual — just on a smaller screen. But often, it’s not. The business impact of the switch to mobile can be counterintuitive and difficult to anticipate.
I’m working with several of the world’s largest hotel chains to help them generate guest feedback, which we’ve traditionally done through the desktop PC. With an increasing number of guests now using mobile devices, we created a mobile-native feedback process, allowing customers to more easily join the conversation on their mobile device.
You might think — we certainly did — that improving the experience in this way wouldn’t affect overall feedback about the hotel stay very much. We anticipated a slight positive bump by making the survey easier for customers, but overall, a minimal impact.
The opposite turned out to be true. The improvement in the survey experience caused a sudden drop in customer ratings.
This caused quite a bit of consternation among the hotels — whose performance ratings (and, in some cases, compensation) are tied to their guests’ experience. We explored a range of different hypotheses: Are we getting faster feedback? Is faster feedback more negative? Are people on mobile devices psychographically different — are they in a different frame of mind, less positive, more likely to leave negative feedback? Are we hearing from different customers? Wealthier? Younger? More business travelers?
After spending a lot of time with the data, we found only one thing these customers had in common: they were less engaged. We’d made it easier for people who weren’t as interested in or loyal to the brand to be heard. Previously, they’d see an email requesting feedback, they’d click the link… and their mobile device would show a desktop survey. It didn’t fit on their screen particularly well, or it took too long to load. They had had a neither particularly good nor bad experience, and the effort required to provide feedback was just more than they cared to give. It was only the folks who felt strongly about their experience — either positively or negatively — who would complete the process. Now that it was easier to provide that feedback, we began pulling in less engaged customers, and their “average” experiences resulted in lower scores.
In general, declining metrics don’t inspire optimism. But in this case, the hotels were getting feedback from customers who previously hadn’t even bothered. Lowering the friction of communication by becoming more mobile-friendly helped these hotels identify frictions elsewhere in their business. Guests who would have silently never returned because of an entirely fixable problem could be contacted with an apology and resolution, which turned many into loyal customers.
There’s an instructive lesson here as the mobile paradigm shift — more smartphones are shipped annually than tablets, notebooks, and desktops combined — continues. Mobile, especially an experience designed for it, makes it easier for people to do things they might not have done otherwise: offer feedback, make a purchase, check sports scores. But you’re not just getting more of the same customers you already had — you’re adding new ones who represent not just a demographic shift, but have fundamentally different engagement levels.
The distinction may sound subtle, but precisely whom you draw in via mobile has very important ramifications for the way you design your experience… and the way these new customers will — or will not — interact with your business.