Home Depot and Wayfair take leading spots

You already know Forrester for its iconic Wave graphic that ranks technology vendors on their strategy and capabilities to serve industry clients. Starting today Forrester is introducing new kind of research document called a Forrester Industry Wave that evaluates digital experiences of firms that serve end customers. The new series of Industry Waves (stay-tuned for more industry waves in retail, airlines, insurance and banking, among others, in 2018) are designed to detail digital best practices from leading firms and help our clients better understand what digital strategies will best win, serve and retain customers.

We decided to evaluate retail mobile web for the first Forrester Industry Wave because retailers are badly in need of inspiration for this pivotal channel. Mobile web is retailers’ most visited digital channel, yet it converts at an average of just 1%, less than both desktop and mobile apps. To increase mobile web conversion, retailers can no longer hope for the best with passive solutions such as responsive design. We selected twelve top US retailers, including both traditional retailers with brick-and-mortar locations as well as digital-native pureplays. For each retailer, myself and Senior Analyst Jennifer Wise evaluated both the online shopping functionality and usability offered by the mobile website.

We found a wide gap between our Leaders – The Home Depot and Wayfair – and the rest of the evaluated retailers in such areas as:

  • Checkout experiences. Many retailers put too much cognitive load on their customers or spark buyer frustration by not offering a clear process, easy form filling, and digital wallets. Other offenses included requiring customers to type out non-essential information, like a phone number, on their mobile device.
  • Customer support. Too few retailers offer adequate, real-time levels of support in their mobile web experience. Instead, users must search for help, often by scrolling to the end of a long page and trying to tap miniature text.
  • Omnichannel integration. Smartphones influenced more than $1 trillion in US offline retail sales in 2016. These mobile shoppers are on the go and often want to know if you have the right product at the right price at their local store. On some retailers’ sites, we struggled to complete simple tasks like getting store locators to tell us which local store has the product we need. And too few retailers offer a range of fulfillment options, such as reserving a product online and paying in-store.
  • Browsing experience. Too few retailers provided the site search and navigation features to allow the user to easily browse, find, and narrow their product searches. First, users had to navigate through missing search criteria (ex: delivery options) and unclear product categories. Then if they landed on a product they didn’t want, the user would be stuck with no other than to press “back” to see something else, or face the dreaded “select-one-filter—for-each-screen-reload” filtering option.

Where should retailers focus? Fix simple glitches first, focus on creating clear user paths, then move to more complex development issues in 2018. Stay focused on features that add customer value and design for great usability with a streamlined checkout, mobile-friendly content, boost cross selling effectiveness and personalization. If you are a Forrester client, get the full report here.