Key Retailers’ Mobile Sites Don’t Support Gift Card Buyers

As we enter into the heaviest shopping period of the year, I have two questions for retailers: How difficult do you want it to be for your customers to give you money? How important is your mobile experience to your ongoing success?

Spending money with retailers via a mobile phone isn’t as easy as it should be, according to Temkin Group’s recent research. In fact, six out of 10 mobile purchasing experiences weren’t even good enough to be called mediocre.

In the Temkin Group report “Evaluating Mobile eGift Card Purchasing Experiences,” we examined the experience of purchasing a gift card on the mobile websites of 10 large retailers: Best Buy, CVS, Dunkin’ Donuts, Home Depot, Lowe’s, RadioShack, Starbucks, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart. Let me start with the overall results: Home Depot was the best (by far) and Lowe’s was the worst (by far). Only two other retailers crossed into the “good” rating: Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks. Six of the retailers were either “poor” or “very poor.”

Here’s the specific scenario we tested:

Our customer was a middle-age woman looking to send her niece a $25 electronic gift card to help her get settled into her new apartment. While she is reasonably proficient at operating a smartphone, she finds entering a lot of information to be difficult on the small keyboard. She has an iPhone 4s. She does not have an app for any of the companies being evaluated and does not know whether they sell $25 eGift Cards.

We used Temkin Group’s SLICE-B experience review methodology to evaluate the experience across six categories:

  • Start: The extent to which the customer knows where to begin and feels confident that she will succeed.
  • Locate: How easy or difficult it is for the customer to find what she’s looking for.
  • Interact: How easy or difficult the site is for the customer to use and understand.
  • Complete: Whether the customer can complete her goals and receive clear feedback along the way.
  • End: How easy it is for the customer to start her next set of goals.
  • Brand Coherence: Whether the branding is consistent across the scenario and the experience reinforces the brand’s promises.

The Temkin Group’s approach looks for flaws in the experience that would either slow down the customer or completely stop her in her tracks. In several cases our target customer ran into serious functional roadblocks:

  • The customer could not send the gift card via email.
  • The customer could not send exactly $25.
  • The customer could not add a personal message.
  • The recipient could not redeem the coupon online and in a store.
  • The recipient could not redeem the coupon using her mobile phone.

The research also uncovered other common problems with the experience across the retailers’ mobile sites:

  • None of the mobile sites displayed any type of gift card on the home page.
  • Some sites lacked a prominent search bar.
  • Some mobile sites don’t distinguish between eGift Cards and gift cards, confusing the user about whether she’s on the correct path.
  • A few of the mobile sites had logistical issues, such as problems transitioning between pages, problems entering information, and unformatted pages.
  • Some confirmation emails don’t offer customer service support or links back to main websites to continue shopping
  • Many sites don’t tell the user what communications she will be receiving next (e.g., order confirmation, gift card shipped, gift card viewed)
  • Complex and frustrating gift card purchasing processes oppose some companies’ claims that they provide “customer-valued solutions,” “exceptional guest experiences,” or “convenient” or “innovative” services. 

The bottom line: Make it easy for customers to buy gift cards on your mobile site.

  Bruce Temkin, managing partner and customer experience transformist at Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting company. He is widely viewed as a leading expert in customer experience.
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