Talking with…mobile retailing expert and Eight by Eight CEO Amy Africa

1 Comment | This entry was posted in Events, Marketing, Merchandising, Mobile, Social Media

AS13_80x80Albert Einstein said that anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new. Not a problem for Amy Africa, CEO of Eight by Eight and a featured speaker at our upcoming Mobile Boot Camp at the Annual Summit. Africa’s not afraid of trying new things, and she’s the first to admit she’s made plenty of mistakes in her 15 year career in e-commerce. Those lessons and a vast amount of client successes have elevated her to a go-to consultant on web usability, consumer behavior, and the next generation of mobile retailing.

In advance of her presentation, “Eight of the Biggest Mobile Marketing Mistakes I Made And How You Can Avoid Them,” Africa gave us a preview, shared some insights on the quest to boost conversion rates, and updated us on her latest passion – neuromarketing.

Amy Africa, CEO, Eight by Eight

Amy Africa, CEO, Eight by Eight

There’s a lot behind the word “mobile,” from search to in-store to apps and mobile site design. As retailers increase their mobile investments, what advice do you have for determining where those dollars go?

Make your decisions based on your data, not what you’re reading and/or hearing. Last week, I spoke to a Top 10 retailer who had spent the last six months and a quarter of a million dollars on redesigning their checkout and adding new payment options. They came to me because they wanted to know why their conversion hadn’t increased (it had actually decreased almost two points.) I took one look at their stats and realized that the majority of their traffic was comprised of “find a store” folks. The quarter that wasn’t was coming from their email program and their adoption-to-cart was abysmally low.  This was most likely because they didn’t have buy now/add-to-cart buttons, only links, and they were buried on the second and third views.

I’m a big fan of improving your checkout but if nobody is putting stuff into their carts, it’s not going to make a difference whether or not you have the perfect checkout. Your mobile to-do list is never-ending. The key to success? Prioritize based on your data and information, not anecdotes.

At the Summit, you’ll be talking about some of your biggest mistakes in mobile (and, of course, what you learned from them). Can you give us a sneak peek?

I’ve been doing mobile work for a long time, so I have made more mistakes than I can count or frankly, remember. I realize consultants aren’t supposed to admit their screw-ups. The good thing is I’ve had more scores than failures so companies keep hiring us.

At the very beginning, I did what most people did and lumped tablets into the same bucket as smartphones and feature phones. Tablets bring mobile results up – often way up for e-commerce sites – and it really skewed the data I was looking at. Depending on the company, we now typically segment things into half a dozen different buckets. Granted some of the categories aren’t nearly as sexy as they were but they are a lot more accurate.

Overall, I underestimated how difficult it would be to get folks, especially B2B companies, to see the opportunities. I’ve been in the web world since the early 90s, and at the beginning people would constantly tell me that I was making a huge career mistake by getting into the Internet as it was going to be the “next CB radio.” Of course, we all know what happened there. Needless to say, the resistance I get about mobile is on par to that. It shocks me.

Do you think retailers are living up to consumer’s expectations for mobile?

That’s a tricky question because most retailers are still struggling to meet their users’ primary expectation – speed – which is partly out of their control. Plain and simple, if your cell service stinks, even the fastest, most highly optimized site isn’t going to make you happy. For the record, a lot of retailers still aren’t properly optimizing their images and page weight. Not to mention there’s a lot of video in places where it shouldn’t be.

The other big issue from a consumer’s perspective is being able to find what they want quickly. Many of the major retailers still aren’t even close to hitting that mark. Marketers love talking about how they’re using the latest and greatest in responsive design tactics, but they miss that just because your site looks acceptable on one of the more than 240 screen sizes out there, it doesn’t mean that your navigation is useful or, frankly, productive.

The interesting thing is that companies can solve a lot of their mobile issues immediately by getting their users to call. Too few people are doing that, in my opinion.

A lot of retail professionals can’t help but tend to obsess over improving conversion rates. What’s your number one piece of advice to them?

Don’t. Conversion is one of the most overrated metrics on the planet right now. If I want to double your conversion overnight, all I need to do is block the garbage traffic. Your conversion as a percentage will skyrocket and your sales will typically stay the same or decrease. Not exactly the ideal scenario. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in looking at conversion and then figuring out ways to optimize it but you need to look at it with other metrics, not just on its own.

It’s also important to keep your bottom line numbers in perspective when it comes to looking at conversion. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t see some company (consultants are also notorious for this) touting that they’ve improved conversion “632 percent” or something equally outrageous. When you drill down into the data, you see that the difference between the control and the test was very few orders and/or dollars. This is a problem for a lot of reasons, primarily because the tests often aren’t statistically significant in the big scheme of things, but more importantly it skews your focus. You aren’t going to move the needle by changing your fire-engine red colored button to a cherry red button. You’re going to do it by the big swing things—fixing your search, your checkout, emailing more aggressively, integrating your online and offline efforts and so on.

What can the retail industry learn from what others are doing online?

Restaurants – especially fast food chains – are using more robust geo-targeting techniques. Many of them are also being a lot more aggressive when it comes to instant couponing, which is a sure-fire technique for collecting email addresses and mobile numbers and for increasing in-store orders. A few of the major pharmacies are intermixing refill reminders with sales messages via text – it’s a great way to sneak in promotional content with useful information. Many florists have changed their entry pages to show what can be delivered immediately and really streamlined the order process (which can be complicated for gift orders.) The airlines and car rental agencies have simplified a lot of their forms making it a lot easier to rent a car or buy a plane ticket. Many of the biggest hotel sites are using instigated chat to get customers – especially those who are struggling or spending too much time per page – to chat or call.

All in all, non-retailers tend to make it easier for the user. They don’t just miniaturize what they are doing on their traditional sites, they are overhauling the experience. It’s impressive.

What are you most looking forward to about being back at the Summit this year?

The people. They’re always my favorite part of the Summit. I’ve spoken at hundreds of conferences around the globe and I can honestly say the folks who come to Shop every year are special. It’s a good crowd and the level of sharing is topnotch.

Rumor on the street is that you’ve retired from all this whole internet stuff but it seems like you’re still alive (and kicking!) What are you most passionate about these days?

Ha! Those stories have been around since 1998 when I retired the first time. Now I think I’m in the double digits of number of times-retired. I like to create and develop things the first time and then let more capable people tweak and perfect them.

Right now, I’ve put my search of the perfect island (which sadly can’t be called Africa) on hold as I’m really interested in the brain and what we’re doing in the neuromarketing world. It renders me speechless at least once a week – and if you know me, you’d think that’d be practically impossible!

I’m also fascinated in privacy – not the legal part of it – but what happens to people when they realize what all this social sharing and transparency is doing to their brains (and those of their children) and “want their lives back.”

I’m also entrenched in online/offline integration, which I believe is the key to getting the biggest bang out of your marketing buck, and the next generation of mobile. I saw an updated cartoon of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs the other day, and Wi-Fi was at the base – you know, before food, water and shelter – and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Either way, our phones have become an integral part of who we are, what we do, and how we behave. To me that’s equal parts fascinating and terrifying, and I definitely want to keep exploring it.

Want to learn more about mobile and digital retailing? Check out Africa at the Mobile Boot Camp at’s Annual Summit in Chicago, September 30 to October 2.

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One Comment

  1. Posted August 28, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Mobile retailing is changing the shopping experience for retails around the globe. Research shows smartphone could impact 15% -20% of future retail sales. What this means for the modern retailer is that if they have not implemented mobile retailing into their business model, they are losing their competitive edge.

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