In 2012, Foolproof conducted a study which indicates that nearly half of mobile consumers ditch a brand after having a poor mobile experience. This shows that a negative mobile user experience can no longer be undermined if businesses want to attract and keep customers.
On the other hand, a study by Google shows that positive experiences are rewarding, as 74% of users will revisit a mobile-friendly website, while 67% are likely to make a purchase.
Consumers expect the same quality of service on every digital channel and this is why businesses have to work hard to ensure that online and mobile experiences meet customer expectations.
Until recently, designing a better mobile user experience meant to make sure that users can quickly (and easily) access information that is relevant to their specific needs. The main focus was on stripping down content and ensuring a logical structure for both web and apps.
Changing consumer habits, as well as the wide variety of mobile websites and apps has led to an increase in mobile customer expectations. Today, consumers expect easy to use, useful, unique, authentic and memorable mobile experiences. But how do we achieve this?
The key is to learn more about how tourists, visitors or customers use your current products, and understand better their perceptions, reactions or attitudes.
Bill Loller, vice president of Tealeaf (now owned by IBM) recommends that businesses identify and prevent issues by employing a mix of qualitative and quantitative mobile tracking metrics. In addition, standard and new mobile user experience methods can be used. User experience research is a collection of tools designed to help you understand better the current (or future) user experience with your digital products.
The problem is that travel and tourism mobile products often target a very big audience with a wide range of characteristics, needs and requirements. There are, however, a number of techniques and methods that could be used to understand your audience better. Broadly speaking, we can distinguish between:
- Mobile Analytics Data
- Indirect Methods - such as expert reviews and competitive analysis
- Asking users their opinion - these include surveys, interviews, and focus groups
- Observation - observing how users use mobile products
- Usability testing - these can be conducted in laboratory or on the field
Location-Based Mobile Analytics
There are plenty of tools already available that offer tracking of mobile behaviour. Most companies that offer Web analytics, such as Google, Adobe, and comScore have included mobile in their mix of services.
For mobile websites, most tools offer monitoring and collecting data that is similar to standard web analytics. These include unique, new and returning visitors, bounce rates, and average visit durations.
Enterprise rent-a-car is a car sharing company which allows users to reserve a car through their mobile app. Using Localytics, the company noted than nearly all of its members were smartphone users and 50% of all vehicle reservations were coming from its mobile app. That translated to more than 300,000 daily active users, growing its wealth of user information exponentially. After the company’s initial integration with Localytics, it found that only 49% of users were able to successfully book car reservations.
The organisation discovered most drop-off was due to users not being able to find a vehicle location nearby. The brand then added more locations and watched its success in-app bookings jump to nearly 65%.
In addition to standard metrics, a number of additional data could provide a better insight about mobile marketing campaigns and the use of mobile websites. These include measuring specific actions, such as click-to-map, click-to-call, and click to view product.
There is a difference between the behaviour of consumers on desktop computers and mobile devices. Simple web analytics are often unsuitable for understanding the characteristics and behaviour of mobile users, as they cannot be used to track performance and use of apps and do not deliver offline use metrics.
App analytics vary among platforms. For instance, Google Analytics can collect data about the number of people who installed the app, current active users, number of sessions, top active screens, and platforms from which the app was launched. It also delivers live updates on the number of users currently using the app. Using this data, developers, marketers and designers can answer questions such as: Do users behave differently depending on the operating system, language, location or other characteristics? Where (which screen) do users leave the app most often?
The biggest difference between web and mobile analytics, however, is the ability to track and monitor location-based data. Location data can be useful for targeting your marketing and advertising and understanding who you are reaching. Unfortunately, the number of tools that offer this functionality is still limited. While Google Analytics has a section about Locations, they note that the data for mobile can be quite inaccurate on a city level. The biggest problem is the acquisition of precise positioning data. Companies, such as Placed, are working on implementing a mix of methods and techniques to make location-based analytics possible.
The main disadvantage of analytics data is that it is collected out of context and can tell only part of the story. For instance, imagine that you have discovered that there is a 90% bounce rate at the Register screen.
This clearly indicates a problem, but the data cannot tell you where this problem is. This is why it is best to combine analytics with data derived through user experience research.
Expert reviews and Comparative Benchmarks
An expert review is a user experience inspection method designed to identify (potential) usability problems in an online product or service. The method combines two standard human-computer interaction techniques: heuristic evaluation and cognitive walkthrough.
Essentially, one to three usability experts go through the product (website or an app) and identify potential problems individually. Once all individual reviews are ready, the experts discuss their findings, rank the severity of the identified problems and agree about recommendations for improvement. Their findings and recommendations are then combined in the final report.
The main benefit is that businesses are able to get fast, low-cost, objective and independent feedback at almost any stage of their mobile product or service development.
Like any research method, the expert review has been critiqued that it does not place enough value on the actual “context of use”, as the evaluation is often carried out in a laboratory. To address this limitation, we have designed a pioneering contextual expert review, which is carried out in the actual environment where your customers will use the product.
Despite all of its advantages, expert reviews predict user reactions and problems based on a number of assumptions about your target audience. This is why we strongly recommend that you follow up expert reviews with usability testing, which involves real users doing real tasks.
Asking users about their experience and preferences
Online surveys are often used to obtain customer feedback. Questionnaires and interviews could be used to collect background information about users or the current ways in which they carry out specific tasks and activities.
In 2010 Adobe carried an online survey investigating how people (in the USA) consume information on mobile devices. They found that users are mainly looking for maps and directions and only a quarter of consumers initiated travel bookings from their mobile devices.
Online surveys could also be used to evaluate the experience on mobile devices. Such questionnaires can be delivered either on desktops or on mobile devices. SurveyMonkey is one of the platforms that provides functionality to design and deliver mobile surveys to customers.
One of the main problems with interviews and questionnaires for understanding your audience is that, when away from the task, users may not remember what is it that they do, how they felt about it, or worse, the factors that influence their performance or information needs.
Mobile usability testing
Usability testing is one of the most common methods used to evaluate the experience (and usability) of a product.
A standard usability test provides insight on whether tourists are able to complete tasks successfully, how much time it takes to complete these tasks, how satisfied participants are with the mobile website or app. The results from a usability test also provide direct insights on the problems that users experience and this allows companies to identify changes that are required in order to improve user performance and satisfaction.
Usability tests are especially useful early in the design stage, as they allows to fix problems before they are coded.
A usability test is often carried out in a laboratory. Typically, software installed on the mobile device captures the screen actions, while additional video camcorders capture the participant’s expressions, body movement (hands) and voice.
The main limitation of laboratory studies is that they are carried out in an artificial environment. This is especially problematic if we want to test location-based services. To solve this problem, researchers in the University of Munster have developed an immersive environment (video wall) that is used to simulate the actual context of use of mobile tourism apps and websites.
Field studies and remote usability testing
A usability test can also be carried out on the field, in actual context of use, and is then often referred to as "mobile field study".
During a field study, a researcher follows the user with a video camera in order to record aspects of the actual context of use. As an example, researchers at Nokia carried out a field study with 10 participants to investigate the usability of two different types of presenting information to tourists to help them navigate unfamiliar destinations: maps and landmark-based directions. The data was used to identify usage patterns and potential problems, which ultimately resulted in recommendations for improving the design of the platform.
Gathering complete and comprehensive data in a field study is one the main challenges. In an office environment, cameras and other sensing devices can be hidden discreetly. However, in a mobile context, moving cameras along with the person while still being able to capture the important aspects of interaction and the context is difficult.
Special equipment could be used to solve part of the problem. An excellent example is the mobile field usability testing equipment developed by Dr. Ioannis Delikostidis and Dr. Corné van Elzakker.
However, in general field studies take a lot of time and resources. This is especially problematic when we consider the fact that we need to target different markets. It would be very difficult to conduct field studies in different countries and cities.
Remote usability testing is one option that alleviates the problem. A good example of a remote usability test in the travel and tourism domain is presented by UserFocus. They recruited 360 users in three countries (UK, Germany and Spain) to test the mobile user experience of online booking on holiday websites.
Nine brands were tested, three for each country: Virgin Holidays, ebookers, and Travel Supermarket (UK); Travel Scout, weg.de, and ab-in-den-urlaub.de (Germany) and rumbo.es, logitravel.com and viajeselcorteingles.es (Spain).
Participants was asked to carry out two tasks: find a 4-star hotel for a city break and search for a 7-day Mediterranean cruise. The study results show that users experienced various problems, due to browsing difficulties, lack of filters for search and the lack of visibility of final prices displayed on the website.
ActualInsights provide a report of the various remote usability testing tools.
3 quick steps to get you started with user experience research on a low budget:
1. Test people that are involved with the project
Usability testing and field studies might be very difficult to organise and expensive, but there is a way around this. You can always ask people in the company, friends, or Facebook fans to carry out a few tasks with the mobile website or app. Observe their reactions and ask them to give you feedback about their experience.
Bare in mind that their characteristics have to be similar to your target market, otherwise their feedback won’t be too helpful. Also, let them know that you are not testing their abilities or skills, but only want to explore whether the website or the app works.
Our mobile experts are experienced with organising formal and informal mobile usability testing studies, so get in touch if you need help.
2. Use low-budget mobile user experience tools
There are low-cost tools that can be used to record how users perform with a website or app. UX Recorder allows you to record the screen of the mobile device and also the face of the user, their expressions and their comments. The free version allows you to record 30 seconds sessions. This is rather limited if we want to investigate more thoroughly a user experience with a website or app, but the unlimited sessions version is not that expensive ($60) if we compare it with the resources involved in setting up custom equipment to achieve the same effect.
3. Opt for an expert review or a benchmark
Expert reviews are considerably cheaper than carrying out an usability test. At the same time, they provide you a lot of information about the current state of your mobile products.
Depending on the product, out experts carry out expert reviews in a laboratory, as well as on the field.
This year, the DTTT team also develops an innovative benchmark approach which combines the power of comparative analysis, cognitive walkthroughs and heuristic evaluations. You can find more information about this here.
NEED FURTHER TRAINING?
If you would like to learn more about the most effective approaches to design and prepare a mobile strategy, check out our Mobile Customer Experience or Mobile Customer Research and Analytics workshops.
NEED HELP WITH USER RESEARCH AND ANALYTICS?
Our team can work with you to determine what your goals are and help you select, design, implement and carry out user research. Get in touch with us to discuss your specific needs.
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