Design & Development Exec on Lessons from Mobile Website

Staples, the office supply retailer, recently launched a new mobile-optimized ecommerce site. The company designed the site to drive product sales across multiple channels, as well as to offer shopping tools to its small business customers. It’s the second mobile site from Staples; the first one launched last year.

Brian Tilzer

Brian Tilzer

The Staples executive in charge of the new mobile site is Brian Tilzer — vice president, ecommerce and business development. We asked him about the goals of the new site, and mobile lessons that Staples learned along the way.

His seven “lessons” follow, below.

1. It’s Not Just for Product Sales

“One of the first distinctions we made, and that any business should make before launching a mobile commerce site, was that the focus of would not be purely transactional. Instead, we saw it as a way to become an integral part of customers’ shopping experiences. We want to help them make informed buying decisions; so we really focused on product content. Our site has rich product details, as well as ratings and customer reviews. We know that a segment of our shoppers would like to read a review from a fellow customer in addition to talking with a store associate. In addition, our mobile site features a synchronized cart, so shoppers can add items to it while they’re in one of our stores trying out a product, but don’t have to buy until they get home and log on if they want to.

“Of course, sales are always a good thing, and we’re encouraged by the sales numbers we’re seeing with mobile. But we think it’s more important to focus on providing the customer with good content first, and then sales will follow.”

2. Remember Mobile Bandwidth

“An important thing for any e-tailer looking to do a mobile site is to prioritize your content. What are the most important tools and features to include and how many of them can you implement without affecting the overall mobile experience. Having a lot of features may seem like a good idea, but if they affect the overall site performance, it can worsen the experience for the user. While some things may be out of your control, like the shopper’s mobile network coverage range, you can control your own site and make sure it’s optimized for a positive customer experience.

“All of our Staples locations are equipped with free wi-fi, so customers with wi-fi enabled smartphones can easily access our mobile site. For cross-channel companies like ours, that’s one more thing you can control in your mobile experience.”

3. Provide Tools to Help Shoppers

“We did extensive research on what was giving our customers the most difficulty in their shopping experiences — not just in mobile — and then tried to find ways to solve those problems with our mobile website. For example, we knew that customers often have a hard time finding the right ink or toner for their printer. Sometimes they’ll forget the name or number of the cartridge or are overwhelmed by the hundreds of choices available online. To simplify that process, we included an optimized one-click ‘Ink & Toner Finder’ that easily lets users find what they need — either by printer, cartridge product number, or brand.

“We also included enhanced search capabilities with an auto-suggest feature, so our customers can spend less time searching for products and more time researching the products they’re actually interested in.”

4. Don’t Force a Technology on Your Customers

“With all of the new technology out there, it can be easy to fall in the trap of trying to implement a high-tech solution just because it’s the latest thing. Instead, keep the focus on your customers and try to understand what they want from your site. Then see if there’s a new ecommerce tool that can bring it to them. There’s no quicker way to drive away customers than to have a mobile interface that they can’t understand and don’t need.”

5. Localize, Localize, Localize

“One of the many advantages of smartphone devices is the built-in GPS feature, which allows for some localization with your mobile site. has a store locator with built-in GPS and also lets users check the inventory of their nearest store — before they head out of their office or home. Any personalization you can add to your mobile site based on location increases the likelihood that the user will come back to your site again and again.”

6. The Mobile Experience Isn’t Just Mobile

“As we designed our new mobile website, we were constantly thinking of how it would fit into our overall digital offering. A company’s mobile site doesn’t exist in a vacuum — it’ one part of a whole that could also include an app, your social media sites — such as Staples’ Facebook Fan page and our Twitter feed — your traditional web page and even your physical locations, if you have them. Today’s customers are shopping on Facebook, reading Twitter comments about your brand, and doing price comparisons, all on their smartphones, sometimes while in your store. You have to pay attention to all of your customer touch points because they all play a part in the buying process. That’s why we included social media integration in this generation of our mobile site.”

7. Think Multi-Channel

“At Staples, we’re always looking to bring easy shopping to the office by providing a pure multi-channel offering — online, in our stores, and through our mobile website and applications. With our mobile website, customers can use their smartphone devices to check their accounts or look at things they’ve previously purchased, when and where they want, including in a Staples retail location. We also offer in-store kiosks, so if customers can’t find exactly what they’re looking for, they can order it before they walk out of the store. Think of your mobile website as a cross-channel tool, and you can better ensure that you won’t be left out of the buying process.”

PEC Staff
PEC Staff
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