Last updated: B2C and B2B merchants: Do you suffer from Desktop Only Disorder?

B2C and B2B merchants: Do you suffer from Desktop Only Disorder?


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Folks, I need to talk to you about something very serious. There’s a sickness that’s been going around businesses and it needs to be addressed. If it goes ignored for much longer, we may see some major challenges bigger than we’ve ever seen before, particularly within e-commerce operations. If left unchecked, this ailment could possibly cause some businesses to shrivel up and die.

The disease I’m talking about, of course, is Desktop Only Disorder (DOD). This affliction applies both to companies that do not yet have mobile optimized web sites, as well as those that ‘check the box’ on having a mobile or responsive web site, but don’t yet have mobile-centered processes, reward systems, or the culture necessary to deliver world class experiences on smartphones.

It is 2017, and we’ve had mobile and responsive design websites for some time now. And yet, many companies still suffer from this affliction. According to a survey conducted in spring 2016, approximately 40 percent of small businesses do not have a mobile-optimized website.

This is despite the fact that mobile use among consumers and B2B buyers continues to grow dramatically. Gartner Group, a leading research firm, expects that over 50% of e-commerce transactions will occur on smartphones in 2017. On the B2B side, recent surveys find a majority of B2B buyers consider their cell phones “essential” to their work.

This is heavily supported by other findings: 48% of all mobile users (B2B and B2C) begin their search on search engines; the rest typically either use a mobile app or go directly to the site they want. And conversion rates for smartphones are much lower than traditional or tablet, which is not surprising when you consider that some companies still don’t have a website designed for mobile access, and of those that do, many aren’t paying enough attention to their mobile experience.

This issue stretches beyond simply how a company’s website looks on a mobile device. It also touches on how users engage with customers as a whole (or, in some cases, fail to engage), how merchants measure success, and the level of attention paid to the mobile experience (or lack thereof).

We often hear industry practitioners talking about ‘mobile first’ – but in practice, web merchants and marketers are sitting in front of their desktop computers doing their work, and not even looking at how the digital experiences they are building show up on smartphones. At best, a QA person reviews the experience for technical compatibility, but not a business user that thinks like a customer. Not good.

I say take away the desktop computers and make merchants and marketers do their work on their smartphones!  Then watch how quickly this would adjust behaviors. This is a bit of a joke, but you get the point.

Where did this business-busting disease come from?

Think back to the late 90s, to the people who led the original e-commerce revolution (at risk of betraying my age, I was dwelling amongst these folks). We thought pretty highly of ourselves at the time – we were innovators. We developed new processes to optimize web traffic and conversions because they didn’t exist. We determined the set of core competencies needed to sell products online, from product photography and merchandising to checkout design.

We were the rule breakers and the disruptors, changing retail forever.

And we did everything on the desktop. In fact, we still do. And that’s the biggest source of this problem: We’re still tied to a 20-year old way of doing things. The innovators need to be innovated!

But, is there a cure?

I’m happy to tell you that there is a cure, though it’s not an easy one. It is not as simple as slapping a mobile template on your site and calling it a day. It is not as straight-forward as paying a development firm to launch a mobile app for you that basically does everything your website does (and then only gets downloaded by 100 customers, and deleted by most of them because they never use it). The cure requires companies to take on digital transformation, centered on mobile – and put digital at the heart of everything the company does.

This doesn’t mean just e-commerce. There is content, advertising, lead cultivation, sales, back-end order processing and fulfillment; the list goes on and encompasses every single business process your company goes through. Jeff Bezos very famously said that Amazon needs to remain a “Day 1” company, meaning that Amazon, as an organization, should behave as though it were in its first day in business—every single day. He went on to outline the philosophy, saying:

“The outside world can push you into Day 2 if you won’t or can’t embrace powerful trends quickly, if you fight them, you’re probably fighting the future. Embrace them and you have a tailwind.”

We are at a point in technology and culture where B2C and B2B sellers MUST become Day 1 companies, meaning they need to embrace change and innovation in order to survive and remain relevant to their customers. This applies to mobile in a big way.

Your customers have clearly expressed their preferences, are you ahead of them and meeting their needs?

Here are some specific antidotes to avoid Desktop Only Disorder:

Break the process and re-innovate around mobile: Literally remove your business processes and come at your customers’ problems – not your business’ issues – as though you were inventing the process from scratch, which is exactly what you’ll be doing.

Have your web merchants and marketers review and sign off on any new campaigns specifically on mobile devices. Measure mobile-specific results – and put them first on the list of things you look at. Have reports prepared looking a device-specific behaviors – breaking out desktop from mobile. Don’t settle for an aggregate view.

Change the culture and rewards structure: Instead of rewarding your web team only based on single channel, traditional e-commerce desktop focused metrics like clicks, website visitors, online conversions, etc., restructure your rewards to put digital at the center of everything – breaking out mobile, and reflecting its influence on cross channel sales.

Are your in-store sales going up in a specific category?  Look at how your mobile site is influencing this, and reward your web merchants. Got a new mobile app for your sales force?  Reward them for using it.  Did your top salesperson post a selfie with your biggest client? Reward them. Did your intern send a tweet that got 50 re-tweets, one by your top competitor and one by your top prospect? REWARD THEM!

Embrace democratization: Thanks to technology today, even entry-level employees can have a huge impact on your business. Web merchants and marketers executing campaigns at the micro level are on the front lines of how your product and digital experience is conveyed across all device types.

The sooner you embrace this, the sooner you will find ways for your employees to innovate upwards through your organization instead of slavishly following a top-down process. Encourage them to think, bringing ideas for business improvement and customer connections, and reward accordingly. The innovators in our market – Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc. – encourage employees at all levels to bring new ideas, provides structures for this to occur (e.g. ‘hack a thons’), and celebrate and reward when ideas become business actions.

Understand influence across channels: The old adage ‘I know half of my advertising is working, but not which half!’ has taken on new meaning with our fractured media and marketing landscape.

The number of customer touchpoints is has expanded dramatically with the advent of digital marketing. Understanding how a Tweet affects a Facebook post, which affects a Buzzfeed article read on a mobile device, which affects a Time magazine article, which affects where your customers see your ads, which may ultimately end up in a sale…(whew! That was a mouthful)…is integral to being a digital-first company. New technologies are enabling this tracking, and even Google Analytics’ free tools give you pieces of this. Remember that mobile is now the center of the customer journey, and your largest billboard.

Test your way to success: Here’s the cool thing about digital: It’s highly testable, and very measurable.

You can segment email lists and test subject lines; you can segment web traffic and test landing pages; you can test Tweets and Facebook posts against each other, and see which ones perform best. If you don’t have a testing mindset, you are likely not going to make the best business decisions. Don’t let your gut lead the way when data can guide decisions. Forrester Research reports that almost 90% of companies that have a disciplined testing approach see improved conversion rates across selling channels. Market leaders such as Netflix and Amazon have a culture of testing, and this applies to mobile platforms above all.

Don’t look only for direct results: In the good old days, you used to put $X into Google AdWords, and ultimately you’d find that you got $Y in sales transacted online via e-commerce. While that formula is still true to some extent, it’s not the whole story any more, particularly when the customer journey starts on the mobile device. Not all activities will directly result in a sale, and it may be challenging to see its impact on the bottom line (which is why you need to reward employees for mobile-first thinking and behaviors).

Accept and embrace change: The digital world changes dramatically and quickly. The faster you recognize and embrace this, the better off you’ll be.

Be nimble: The only thing constant today is change and being a nimble, flexible organization is the solution. Empower your employees and your organization will become more resilient when digital shifts, which you can be certain it will. Yes – easier said than done, but it is clear that if you cannot enable change in your organization, you are a considerable risk.

So, is there any hope for companies suffering from DOD? I believe there is. Now it’s up to the leaders of organizations to find the cure.

This post was originally published on Brian’s LinkedIn page, and was republished with permission.

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