Back to School: Optimized for the Mobile Retailer

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In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s that time of year again. My Facebook feed is back from vacation, filled with stories of parents’ struggles with their children to get them ready for the return to school with new clothes and the necessary supplies.

That probably helps to explain one rising trend of consumers increasingly turning to mobile and web applications to complete their shopping tasks. After all, if you can keep one eye on the kids while keeping another on your smartphone, why wouldn’t you just have everything sent straight to your doorstep? This trend represents both an opportunity and a challenge for retailers to capitalize on the shifting habits of consumers. 

The opportunity is clear to engage with consumers through multiple channels both physical and digital, and particularly when the digital channel offers all kinds of occasions for sophisticated targeting and engagement with notifications, deals, and discounts. The challenges, however, are also enormous because of the perils inherent to the digital channel. Consumers are even more fickle today, and they can compare and switch with the ease of a swipe or touch of a screen. In the digital channel, you spend endless resources fine tuning your customer acquisition, engagement, and conversion strategies. But if your apps don’t perform well, then all of those efforts are for naught.

The opportunity costs of a poor performing mobile application can be tremendous. Our research indicates that up to 84% of consumer would delete an app after a crash (insert link to study here). For even more data about the consequences of poor mobile and web application performance, check out this DZone article and infographic including this stunner that 63% of consumers “wouldn’t do business with a company via any channel after having transaction problems on [a] mobile device.”

Given the brutal nature of the competition in the mobile application market, it’s imperative for all enterprises (not just retailers) to provide a flawless, engaging, and delightful digital experience. While UI/UX certainly plays a critical role in that, many companies give short shrift to monitoring the technical performance of a mobile application in production in real-time. Performance is often taken for granted or just assumed or something that developers are responsible for, rather than being considered a key strategic requirement equal in importance to the other elements of the mobile application strategy.

But if the consumer has a poor experience as a result of a crash, and error, or even just a slow response time due to a back-end software problem with a payment, inventory, search, commerce, fulfillment or whatever other corporate business transaction system, then no amount of fancy UI/UX is going to rescue that customer interaction.

Even more importantly, it’s not just about the mobile and web apps, because those apps are just the front end to your core enterprise applications. What if slow performance on your web or mobile app is actually due to a back-end system problem with commerce, reservation, order, fulfillment, scheduling or some other system?

All your customer sees is that there was a problem or they waited until they switched to a competitor app instead. That’s why you need end-to-end visibility for every request that originates from the web or mobile app across the network and through to every line of code, database, message queue, and third party service that gets invoked in order the generate a response to the request that initiated from the web or mobile app.

You need to be able to tag and trace every business transaction as it propagates through your systems and be able to correlate them from beginning to end. Most importantly, you need to understand how the performance of your apps drive the business outcomes and KPIs for your business. If enterprises don’t have a fully thought out digital experience monitoring strategy, especially including mobile application performance monitoring, then they are going to have lower conversion rates, higher bounce rates, and poorer KPIs.

While it’s already too late to implement mobile application performance monitoring (APM) strategy for the back to school rush, retailers, and other enterprises still have time to deploy mobile APM in place for the upcoming holiday seasons if they start now.

Apropos, Gartner has just recently published the 2016 market guide for Mobile Application Performance Monitoring (subscription required). The guide provides an excellent introduction to not only Mobile APM, but also as a component of an overall Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM) strategy.

While retailers are currently in the throws of the back to school season, it’s important to start thinking about the learnings that can be derived and then there’s still time to put a monitoring strategy in place for the upcoming holiday season to address any shortcomings or deficiencies observed now. See how implemented a strategy to monitor their digital presence, reduce their mean time to resolution, and gain code-level context of their transactions with AppDynamics. 

Peter Kacandes

Peter Kacandes

Peter has over 16 years in the tech industry, focusing on mobile applications. He's worked for top tech companies including Actuate, Sony Ericsson, Adobe, and Sun Microsystems.