We caught up with Tim Ash, CEO of SiteTuners and a contributor to the Monetate blog, to get his input on integrating the customer experience—and staring down the latest paradigm shift in marketing.

Tim Ash, SiteTuners
Tim Ash, SiteTuners

Q: A major trend for 2013 will be integrating the customer experience across all touchpoints (such as mobile, tablet, app, etc.). Why has that become so important, and how should companies respond?

A: Two things are really driving that home. The first is sheer volume—close to one out of every five visitors to ecommerce sites are from some type of mobile device, and those visitors are typically at the comparison stage rather than the research phase, so they are basically closer to the sale. And, well, visits close to the sale are good.

The second is more behavioral—the rise of context and personalization. It’s the explosion of systems that “know” who you are—or at least, know certain things about you. There was a point when people were okay with filling out forms again when using different machines, or expecting less from machines when they are not the “primary” web consumption device. That period is over. Several companies, led by Apple and Google, trained people into expecting things to work not around devices, but around people. So it doesn’t matter if I’m using my phone, my tablet, or my desktop to access your site. If you don’t remember my account details on the tablet, I’m gone. If your touch experience is broken when I visit with my phone, I’m gone.

How should companies react? Well, they should react like the disruption has already started, because it has. You can’t stare down a paradigm shift.

Q: What’s the one step companies must take now in order to deliver an integrated customer experience?

A: The one thing everyone has to do is stop thinking about “sites” and “pages” and start thinking about “people” and “tasks.” Pages were a good enough concept to wrap your head around when the web was starting out, but the web’s all grown up now. To deliver a consistent, relevant experience across all touchpoints, you have to stop thinking about how your site is built, and start thinking about what your visitors are trying to do.

On a laptop, if visitors are researching your category, you should provide a great research experience. On a tablet, if people are conducting comparisons, you should have a functional comparison tool. On a mobile device, if they are trying to transact with you via a call, you should have one-touch dialing.

Understanding tasks and conversions will be even more important in a multi-device world.

Q: What’s the one mistake companies should avoid when it comes to integrating customer experience across devices?

A: The one mistake is thinking there’s a one-size-fits-all solution to multi-device experiences. For instance, there are some in the space who are touting Responsive Design (RD) as some type of messianic system for all things web. For those who are not familiar with the term, it’s layout that adapts to the size of the screen. Don’t get me wrong, I like Responsive Design—for certain sites. For small sites, a mobile version might work better. For sites where people have significantly different tasks between desktop and mobile, launching task aids for the mobile tasks might be more important. For content sites trying to maintain a consistent experience, Responsive Design might be a great option.

The point is that companies can’t jump to the “solution” step. We all need to figure out what people are trying to do, first.

Q: Which companies are excelling at delivering a fantastic customer experience across devices?

A: Let’s talk a little bit about Google, acknowledging that that’s sort of cheating because they are one of the largest companies in the world and they own one of the two major ecosystems right now.

When you’re signed in to Google on several devices, the devices know how to communicate. Your configurations on the desktop web app are carried over to your mobile device. On your laptop, you taught the technology what you like to read; the machine learning benefits are still there when you are on your tablet. And you didn’t have to think about how they all work together, though you can set preferences—for the most part, the “seamlessness” just happened.

While there are very few players who can serve that kind of experience, you need to build that type of “seamlessness” where your business demands. At a minimum, someone needs to constantly be studying what visitors are attempting to do on your site across a range of devices, and serving conversion aids for those tasks.

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