The percentage of browsers who actually complete their purchases when shopping on mobile devices is little more than half that of those who do so on desktop computers, according to Criteo, a provider of advertising technology for display, email and search.
Yet mobile commerce news isn’t all doom and gloom. Companies with mobile apps convert three times more product viewers into buyers than companies that rely only on mobile websites. That’s according to Criteo, which also found that new app users are twice as likely to return to a site within 30 days, compared with mobile web users.
Most retailers looking to grow their mobile business will need to incorporate apps that are engaging, easy to navigate and reliable.
“Building a great mobile user experience is challenging,” says Eddy Lu, co-founder and chief executive officer of GOAT, an online marketplace for sneakers that boasts more than 35,000 sneakers in its database.
“Users have high expectations about every part of the app,” he says, and many app developers struggle to balance features and performance.
Company co-founder Daishin Sugano started GOAT after he discovered the Air Jordan 5 Grapes he’d purchased from an online marketplace were counterfeit. Efforts to get his money back from the seller dragged on, and rather than continue down an increasingly futile path, he started GOAT with the goal of making the sneaker resale market both safe and hassle-free.
GOAT estimates that more than 10 percent of re-sold sneakers are counterfeit. Lu says the “staggering” number is very concerning for consumers looking to purchase rare sneakers like the Yeezy Boost 350 Turtle Doves, which can sell for upwards of $2,500.
GOAT requires sellers to ship their sneakers to the company’s warehouse for verification. If the sneakers are found to be replicas or different than described, the buyer is issued an immediate refund.
Since launching GOAT’s iOS and Android apps in July 2015, nearly 1 million members have joined the service. The typical order value tops $300, Lu says, and the company is averaging 40 percent month-over-month revenue growth.
GOAT uses a content delivery network, which stores content as multiple copies on strategically dispersed servers. A large network can have thousands of servers around the globe, allowing the provider to efficiently and reliably send the same content to many devices.
Looking for ways to improve its mobile user experience, the company decided to work with PacketZoom, a firm that improves customers’ experiences on mobile apps by eliminating performance roadblocks in the mobile last mile. This accelerates and improves the reliability of mobile content delivery.
“PacketZoom was interesting because their approach to performance was very different than the optimizations we were already doing,” Lu says, “but didn’t require much effort to try.”
PacketZoom helps get apps to “the mobile express lane,” says John Joseph, chief operating officer.
Mobile apps can encounter problems that have nothing to do with the app itself, such as network glitches or dead zones, he says. PacketZoom’s cloud service creates “Mobile Expresslanes” that are customized for each mobile app user through mobile networks.
Latency — the time it takes for a packet of data to travel from a server to a device — is the primary killer of speed on mobile apps, according to PacketZoom. The company’s solution reduces the number of round trips to the server, cutting the potential number of slowdowns.
It also reduces the metadata and networking information, and eliminates the slow starts and aggressive backoffs that are characteristic with transmission control protocol. The result is greater use of available bandwidth, which means faster content downloads from the cloud.
Since launching GOAT’s iOS and Android apps in July 2015, nearly 1 million members have joined the service. “We saw an immediate return on investment and an increase in user engagement.”
— Eddy Lu, GOAT
Moreover, cellular and Wi-Fi networks routinely drop a small percentage of data packets. PacketZoom actively monitors the network condition and can react more intelligently when this occurs.
“We realized that a lot of activities that used to be done on the web were moving to mobile apps, but the technology that existed to support it was designed decades ago,” says Shlomi Gian, PacketZoom’s CEO.
While content delivery networks do a great job speeding up the traditional web, they don’t impact the last mobile mile, which is where the majority of the problems occur with mobile apps, Gian says.
“What we’re doing is retrofitting the pipes of the Internet,” Joseph says.
Retailers that can boost performance of their mobile apps through faster and more reliable content delivery enjoy significant improvements in key performance measures like searches, Gian says, and the number of product views and conversions.
PacketZoom’s solution is geared toward retailers of all sizes and types; the common denominator is that they “care about and understand the mobile opportunity,” Gian says.
“These are the ones who have had the forethought to invest in and build great mobile app experiences for their shoppers.”
Whether they’ve focused on search apps, coupon apps or others, he says those retailers understand that mobile commerce is a different animal than the web commerce, and recognize it’s become an effective way to reach some of their most valuable customers.
Implementing the PacketZoom technology tends to be straightforward and rapid; GOAT finished its integration in less than an hour, Lu says.
“A lot of software development kits will say that their integration is simple,” he says, “but with PacketZoom, it was actually true.”
The installation didn’t require additional hardware or software installation. “Other than adding the SDK into our app, there were no changes we needed to do on our end,” Lu says. “We kept our CDN infrastructure exactly as it was, but have full control over how our app uses PacketZoom.”
Similarly, no employee training or changes to existing processes are required, Gian says. “You can think of us as a little engine in the app that makes it work better.”
PacketZoom charges based on actual usage; if a shopper benefits from its Mobile Expresslane, PacketZoom charges the retailer a fraction of a penny.
PacketZoom can increase app speeds by two or three times, and can prevent about 80 percent of disconnects, Gian says. Of course, the goal isn’t speed just for the sake of speed: Joseph says customers also see increases in purchase volume and the length of time users stay in an app.
Most also see jumps in the length of time shoppers use the app at any one time. Consumers also tend to conduct more searches and see more search results, Joseph says. Many clients also achieve an ancillary benefit of lower content delivery bills.
Retailers that conduct A/B testing with PacketZoom — that is, they place the technology in half their copy and then compare activity with the other half — often see a 10 percent increase in such activities as the number of product images browsed or searches performed, Gian says.
That was the case at GOAT.
“We saw an immediate return on investment and an increase in user engagement,” Lu says.
In addition, because PacketZoom can cache content in front of GOAT’s content delivery network and on the user’s device, GOAT makes less use of its network and sees lower bills.
Finally, PacketZoom’s “customer success engineers were great to work with,” Lu says. “They were very responsive and easy to talk to, which helped a great deal with the process.”
Karen Kroll is a business writer based in Minnetonka, Minn.