How Retailers Can Use APM Technology to Optimize the Purchase Funnel

Application Performance Monitoring can be used to gain a competitive advantage in eCommerce

Mobile commerce sales in the US will reach over $200 billion this year, and mobile apps are driving an increasingly significant portion of shopping purchases. Operating mobile apps for shopping poses distinctly unique challenges. Here’s how you can improve your conversion funnel using mobile-focused APM technology, writes Eric Futoran, Founder and CEO, Embrace.

When retailers think of optimizing the buyer’s funnel, they often think of the customer journey and the factors that play into making purchase decisions, such as awareness, interest, consideration, decision, and action. As retailers have increasingly embraced mobile for eCommerce and launched their own mobile shopping apps, optimizing the purchase funnel takes on a new meaning. Many of the concepts from web that we take for granted, like abandonment rates and cart flows, do not exist or require a different approach within mobile apps.

According to eMarketer, mobile commerce sales in the US will account for 39.6% of total retail e-commerce sales, reaching $208.1 billion this year. Mobile apps are driving an increasingly significant portion of shopping purchases. App Annie found that 150 million US shopping apps were downloaded in Q1 2018, an increase of 35% year over year.

Operating mobile apps for shopping poses distinctly unique challenges from the mobile web. Mobile-First application performance management (APM) is an essential tool that helps retailers optimize and monitor the performance of their mobile shopping apps. The most often cited causes of friction are technical issues that users have with an app, whether that means crashes, poor performance, or some combination of those that prevent users from completing critical steps through the purchase path.

The following is an overview of how you can improve your conversion funnel in four steps using mobile-focused APM technology:

1) Focus on key in-app moments and stop thinking “instantaneous.”

On the web, we no longer think of time elapsed for a page to load, but whether a user just left a page at all. As connection speeds have exponentially increased, user expectations increased and so did website performance. In the 2000s, eCommerce teams measured how long the home page or a cart page loaded, even before a user could interact with the page. If a page did not load, users ‘abandoned’ the site. 20 years later, we think of whether a user dropped in a funnel, not because of technology issues, but because of UX or features. 

Mobile experiences today are like the web we knew of the 2000s. In mobile apps, 2% to 5% of all mobile app startups never even complete, so the user abandons the app before they even arrive at the homepage. Picture the endless spinner that we all have come to know and “love.”

No one is saying not to measure UX or feature performance, but first rethink your assumptions in terms of mobile. The first step should not be A/B testing the color of a button, images on the homepage, or the conversion of an add-to-cart; instead, review how long a user experienced the load upon clicking a button until arriving at the next view, whether the homepage loaded at all, or whether the cart was abandoned.

Most tools do not even measure “abandonment.” Find one that does and remember it’s a measure of the spinner and not just the flow through a funnel.

2) The device is everything.

Each device is a user and each user is a device. Unlike browsers on a Mac or PC, each device is a truly unique set of variables (environment, usage, apps, and device specs). Keep this in mind when building the underlying tech of your app.

For most eCommerce apps, users of iPads and other larger tablets are the best customers who tend to make more purchases and/or at higher price points. The experience should be better because of the screen size and resolution. Wrong…..image quality on larger screens is not as good as on smaller phones. iPads have worse CPUs and less memory.

As a result, instead of improving a user’s experience, you are harming them by feeding larger and more images to tablets, which can lead to Out Of Memory (OOM) errors that abruptly close the app and never show up in crash reporting tools.

Use a platform that is built device-first as opposed to error-first. By looking at each device and tracking the details of every session, you’ll be able to discover issues that destroy user experiences that error-first platforms, which by definition only sample data, cannot.

3) Establish key KPIs and SLAs to correctly prioritize. (Crashes should rarely be prioritized unless egregious.)

When a user clicks “Add to Cart” or “Purchase,” what happens? Does the event go smoothly, with no unexpected time delay? Did the first or third party API calls occur in an acceptable time?

Currently, the only generally used mobile KPI is crash percentage. A typical app has a +99% crash-free percentage of sessions. Yet, mobile teams overwhelmingly focus on crashes…

To maximize ROI, better prioritization via data is required. If you do not measure and benchmark, you cannot prioritize and your revenue and retention will suffer. Set benchmarks for the time spent on key moments, such as launching the app, and clicking on Add To Cart and Checkout, so that you know if they occur within expected time ranges. Typically benchmarks for Add-to-Cart are under one second from click to success, and under five seconds for a click to success of Checkout/Purchase. 

If they are outside of the acceptable ranges, that’s where your attention needs to go.

4) Don’t create hay when you have needles – drill down on performance data to discover the cause.

In mobile, every session is unique and aggregating across sessions often can create ‘hay’. Definitely start with aggregated performance data to help you with the easiest issues, but do not be afraid to go deeper to see where users are getting hung up.

Going deeper means embracing the individuality of sessions to find common technical and UX correlations. Check individual sessions that experience similar issues to see exactly what happened while they used the app – what did the user tap, which network calls fired (or did not fire), did a CPU spike occur, was low-power-mode handled correctly…? Any time something does not work as it was supposed to, you’ll be able to identify when it happened and determine why. Find a tool that makes this easy.

Concluding Thoughts

Users may abandon the purchasing path for any number of reasons. Yet, if you can potentially identify any technical issues in your e-commerce app that are impeding a user’s path to purchase, you will be able to reduce churn and increase conversions. Retailers that have embraced mobile shopping apps or plan to do so in the future should equally spend their efforts on the customer’s journey outside as well as inside the app to ensure optimizing growth and revenue.

It doesn’t matter how impressive an app is, if the user has to wait to long for it to work, then it fails before it even starts. Application Monitoring Performance is the best way to combat this.

How retailers can use APM Technology to optimize the purchase funnel