Apple Flunks Mobile Marketing

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Source: Lara604 via Flickr Creative Commons
Source: Lara604 via Flickr Creative Commons

A study of 100 leading retailers' mobile websites released today by The Search Agency placed Apple dead last with a score of 0.68 out of a possible 5.0 for user experience. Bringing up the rear with iPhone's maker were Zales, Restoration Hardware, and Burlington Coat Factory.

Outdoor clothing and equipment retailer REI got the highest rating at 4.74 and was joined at the top by Toys "R" Us, CVS, and Menards.

Nine of the bottom 10 finishers—a group that included Costco and Crate and Barrel--received 0's for length of load time, which is considered the most crucial factor to user satisfaction for e-commerce sites. Eight of them also put up goose eggs for their site formats, the second most important factor. By contrast, the top 10 retailers scored 4's or 5's in both categories.

The Search Agency examined the mobile sites of the 100 largest multichannel retailers in the United States, rating them for other factors such as social media presence, store locators, search boxes, and click to call features. While Google has ordained responsive design as the favored format for mobile website iterations, only one retailer among the 100, Carter's, employed the device-flexible design technique.

“Mobile-only sites can be easier to do. It's cheaper. There are plenty of outside sources that will do it,” says Grant Simmons, director of SEO and social products at The Search Agency. “And while responsive design offers a better experience for users, a lot of retailers are not seeing an opportunity or advantage to doing it.”

One of those, clearly, is Apple, which has the distinction of claiming the mobile marketing booby prize while being the only manufacturer of mobile devices on the list. Simmons notes that Apple makes an effort to direct people to its app instead of its website on mobile devices. “Their app has a better user experience that they have more control over,” he says.

Yet Apple's app also scored a 0. “That's because it's solely transactional,” Simmons says.

REI, meanwhile, got high marks across the board by exhibiting consistency across all devices and by focusing on delivering customers information that was useful and easy to access. “Consistency among devices is paramount,” Simmons says.

He also had praise for No. 15 Home Depot, which he said has long done a good job in transferring information about its many and varied product line to mobile. Yet another hard goods retailer, Ace Hardware, bested Home Depot by landing in the No. 10 spot. That, says Simmons, is a testament of the pressure that can be brought to bear on a franchised brand by franchisees. “When there are many stakeholders, you have to justify your value,” Simmons says.

Crate hit the bottom of the Barrel for a common reason—lack of speed. “It's slow to open and it's really hard to find things on their site,” Simmons says.

Google recommends that mobile sites should load in under a second for optimum user experience. Only 16 of the 100 retailers in this study met that criterion. The average load speed was 3.62 seconds.

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