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ESPN exec prioritizes in-app customer feedback for better mobile experience

LITCHFIELD PARK, AZ ? An ESPN executive at the Mobile Shopping Fall Summit pinpointed in-application metrics as a way for brands to understand what consumers are actually doing within apps to help build better mobile products.

Executives from ESPN, Lowe?s, SkyMall and OpinionLab spoke about how mobile is changing the ways that consumers are devouring content across multiple devices. The executives also spoke about different tactics and what is working for each of the companies with mobile.

?You have to have multiple channels of input from your customers,? said Jay Lee, senior director of product development at ESPN, Bristol, CT.

?What [your customers] tell you and what they actually do can be quite different, and so we?re working right now to find a lot of in-app solutions,? he said.

?Really getting into new behaviors within an application on mobile devices and understanding what those trends are, what those insights are based on what people are actually doing, what they?re actually tapping on ? that?s really difficult stuff.?

Streamlining cross-screen usage
ESPN has been investing in mobile for years and has developed content for multiple platforms. 

In fact, ESPN tried to create its own mobile phone in 2006. The company realized that it could not compete in the manufacturing business, but has translated the initiative into building out a mobile-dedicated team.

ESPN is now investing more in creating great platform-specific experiences instead of trying to roll out content across every mobile platform.

For example, the ESPN exec said it was more important to create a great iOS experience than to push out a mediocre iOS and Android experience.

With this comes a big challenge in creating seamless, cross-screen experiences since consumers are increasingly expecting to interact with content that is tailored to specific devices simultaneously. 

To back up this point, the ESPN executive cited research from Google finding that 90 percent of consumers move across multiple screens to complete a task.

?Our fans are starting to expect the consistent experience of a user across desktop to mobile or even when they are watching something on TV ? sports on TV have to resonate with sports on your mobile device,? Mr. Lee said.

?The days of people just interacting with one medium are gone,? he said. 

One way that marketers are dealing with cross-platform users is through responsive design tactics.

Although responsive design has generated some pushback from marketers since content is not designed for specific platforms, Shea Beck, director of ecommerce at SkyMall, Phoenix, said rolling out a responsive site caused the average order value to spike 54 percent.

?I think it?s a combination of a better experience and easier to manage from a marketer?s standpoint,? Mr. Beck said.

More than mcommerce
According to Sean Bartlett, director of mobile strategy and platforms at Lowe?s, Mooresville, NC, retailers should be focused on doing more with mobile than simply driving transactions.

Instead of solely fixating on a conversion rate, retailers should be focused on creating a solid mobile experience, which in some cases means that mobile may mean that commerce will not fall into place for a couple years after rolling out a mobile site or app.

For example, the in-store experience plays a big role in how Lowe?s not only helps consumers shop, but also how the retailer connects associates with consumers to provide in-store service.

A store locator on the mobile site helps consumers locate a nearby store, and associates can pull up past purchase behavior from a consumer that is looking for something specific in-store.

At the same time that mobile is playing a bigger role as part of the overall shopping journey, consumers are also expecting more from brands.

In Lowe?s case, the app?s ratings in Apple?s App Store have decreased a bit because consumers want things such as Passbook support.

?At the end of the day, when we look at what we?re delivering, it?s being useful,? Mr. Bartlett said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York