by Kathleen Henning
While interviewing participants about online shopping habits, regardless of the product, the same issues appear:
- I don’t know if it’s true to size
- Will this fit?
- Is this item good quality?
- Will it be as pictured?
- What is it made of?
These are the questions that determine whether or not they will make a purchase. Many customers, if they do not get satisfactory answers to these questions, will choose to either locate the item in stores or simply purchase something else from a competitor.
When customers are researching products online, they’re trying to understand what the product would look like in person. There are a variety of ways they currently expect companies to help them do this, but their main research method is customer reviews. They’re looking for information about the quality, the fit, the size, the accuracy of the photos, etc. They’re also looking to see if the reviewer is someone like them. In our research, we’ve found that some users really value a reviewer profile with some demographic details (i.e. age, location, style, size, etc.). Users also appreciate retailer efforts to aggregate some of this information, like the size charts Nordstrom and Amazon use.
Recently, retailers have started providing customers with some of this information on their own, like the features and fit. The most critical element of any website trying to sell tangible products is a good zoom feature. If someone is looking to buy clothes, shoes, or furniture, they want to get an up close view. They may want to buy it online, but they’re looking for the feeling of seeing it in person. The more they can see of the item, the more likely they will be to purchase it online. Some websites, like Saks Fifth Avenue and West Elm, have videos of the products available for purchase that show the product ‘in motion’. Customers find this to be very helpful.
When trying to better understand fit, customers are looking to retailers for support. Some users have mentioned that they find it helpful when the site tells them the height of the model and the size he / she is wearing. Others use services like Fit Predictor, available at Saks Fifth Avenue and other department stores. This uses your size in brands you have purchased to determine your size in other brands and different items. The FitPredictor predicts the right size for you based on what size you wear for other brands. For example, if you wear a size 8 jean from The Gap, then the FitPredictor will predict the correct size jean in the brand you’re shopping.
Companies should think about the fundamental product questions their users have when determining which features to include on the product page. Will these features help users make a purchase decision by addressing common issues such as quality, fit, size, color, etc.? While much of the initial decision about an item is visual and focused on whether it fits a shoppers personal style, the final decision is based on whether customers believe they have a full understanding of how that item will fit into their lives.
by Kathleen Henning
Last month, Apple released two new iPhones, both of which represent a significant size increase over the last model. The iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus both come in gold, silver, and space gray models and with capacity of 16 GB, 64 GB, or 128 GB. Apple has improved the camera on both models, though only the 6 Plus has optical image stabilization. Battery life is increased on both, but the 6 Plus offers nearly double the battery life for calls.
I received mine in the mail on release day, and it’s been more of an adjustment than I would have expected. The size is still startling at times, though I opted for the ‘smaller’ 6. The power button has been moved to the side, a big departure from its location on all previous iPods, iPhones, and iPads. Hitting power on the side is still not a natural maneuver, though I now sometimes find myself trying to do it on my iPad. The expanded screen size is more significant than would be immediately apparent. Mobile web browsing is smoother, and it is much easier to read email attachments like PowerPoint and Excel files.
The more rounded shape of the phone is striking, but it’s surprisingly slippery in your hand. Carrying it around with you is somewhat of a challenge, as neither the 6 nor 6 Plus fits in the same places the iPhone 5(S) would have. I found myself purchasing a new small bag so it would fit, since it is definitely not a phone I can keep in my pocket! While I enjoy the new screen for browsing, I sometimes find myself missing the manageable size of the 5S I had before. I had contemplated purchasing a 6 Plus, but I’m very relieved I decided against it.
The new operating system represents another small shift for iOS. Health is now a built-in component, and it’s easy to track your steps. I would enjoy a breakdown by location or time, but I imagine that’s what 3rd party apps are for. Voice and video messages are a neat feature, as is the ability to share your location. All of these features are simple to activate and use, which is a critical part of getting users to adopt them.
With iOS 8, fingerprint banking is starting to look like a possibility. Simple Bank, an online-only bank, has enabled login via fingerprint. As using your fingerprint for ID becomes more normal, it will be interesting to see which companies adopt this model. The fingerprint will be the main ID component of Apple Pay, which should help further normalize the feature.
Apple also introduced the Watch. This will come in two different face sizes and with a variety of different band choices. The feature set is still pretty vague. It will be able to receive and respond to at least some calls, text messages, and emails. It will have access to apps to some degree. The battery life is unknown, as is how much it can do away from an iPhone, which is required for some functionality. What is known is that it will be connected to Apple Pay and have some additional check in abilities, like at airports and hotels. The current launch date is ‘early 2015’ so hopefully as that approaches more details become available.
The big question mark still remaining is Apple Pay. When does it launch? Current rumors have the date as October 20th. How quickly will merchants be added? Will it trickle down to smaller companies and businesses? When will Apple allow 3rd party access to NFC? I’m sure I’m not alone in my curiosity here. Our recent series on mobile payments concluded that while there are some better and some worse options, there isn’t a game changer. This is the first real entrant that has that possibility, so I’m excited to see how this plays out.
by Kathleen Henning and Phil McGuinness
In part two of our series on mobile payments, Phil and Kathleen review a few exciting mobile payment options and talk about the near future of mobile payment technology.
Phil: In part one, Kathleen and I field tested the PayPal and Google Wallet apps, two popular forms of mobile payments. However, there are a few up and coming forms of payment that take a different approach to the process.
Due to an unfortunate coincidence, the company ISIS is in the process of changing its name to Softcard to avoid sharing its name with a militant terrorist group. However, that’s not the only obstacle facing Softcard. While Google Wallet restricts the use of Near-Field Communication (NFC) payments to Android, Softcard is bringing these payments to the iPhone as well. In order to do that, users need to make a one-time investment in a special phone case (minimum of $50).
Requiring users to invest additional money to make payments creates a difficult barrier to adoption, especially when NFC payments aren’t yet accepted on a widespread basis. Softcard does, however, address one of our gripes about Google Wallet. It allows users to search for local stores that accept NFC payments. The app also boasts numerous security features on their site, including a PIN entry required before each purchase, the ability to freeze your wallet remotely, as well as using unique transaction IDs for each payment.
Instead of relying on NFC, consumers have another option in LoopPay. LoopPay gets around NFC by imitating credit cards in a way that allows the familiar credit card readers to get the signal. This allows LoopPay to work in almost any store, using the technology that’s already in place. As with Softcard, though, this also requires the user to make an initial investment. At this time, Loop Wallet provides the option of a reasonable $39 for a key fob, or $99 for a charging phone case and key fob.
As NFC adoptions treads water, LoopPay is an interesting alternative to watch. At the time of this writing however, Apple is expected to announce NFC as a standard in the iPhone 6, which could change the field dramatically. Kathleen, our resident Apple expert, will break down the rumors and implications this could have later in the article.
Another interesting option in the mobile payment field is the Coin Payment Card. This works similarly to LoopPay, but instead of requiring a fob or charging case, users can store their cards in a credit card-shaped item and switch between them at the tap of a button. This has the added benefit of removing any questions of NFC adoption or security concerns with wirelessly transmitting credit card information. In addition, it provides the comfort of a payment process with which both users and vendors are familiar. There is no need to fumble with a mobile app or worry about having mobile service if you can simply hand a card to a waiter or cashier.
Another neat feature unique to this system is added security through a Bluetooth tether. Coin uses a low-energy Bluetooth signal to connect with your phone, which will then alert you if you get too far away from the card, say by walking away from a shop and leaving it on the counter. So what’s the downside? Again, users need to invest in the card, and right now it is still in the crowd funding stage. Early investors can buy the card for $50, and once it’s released it will retail at $100. If somehow Coin can manage to bring the price down, I could see this being widely adopted by consumers interested in both familiarity and security.
Now, Kathleen will talk about Starbuck’s success with mobile payments and Apple’s likely upcoming adoption of NFC in the new iPhone.
The best part of the Starbucks app is how little effort it involves. Once you enter in your gift card number and the 8-digit identifying code on the back, you’re good to go. You can add money via the app, set it up to automatically reload when running low, and even add it to iOS’s Passbook. Using it in the store is a seamless process. Unlike some of the other apps we’ve tested, it just works. You don’t have to think about it, and since the store has integrated it on their end paying by app is as natural as paying by credit card. This too works independently of NFC capabilities.
Starbucks in Korea has a new feature called Siren Order. Customers can enter in their order details and receive a QR code, which is scanned by baristas at the counter. Starbucks is thinking about rolling out app preorder capabilities in the US in the next three to six months.
As of September 8, 2014, Apple has entered the mobile payments field with Apple Pay. As of January 2014, 42% of smartphone owners in the US own some model of iPhone, many of these older models. Apple Pay will work on the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6 Plus, and the Apple Watch. Users will scan the front of their credit/debit card, enter the CVV, and be able to make payments. Apple will generate a unique code each time a user wants to make a payment. This will work in physical stores, online, and in apps. Merchants like Starbucks, Whole Foods, Duane Reade, Disney, Bloomingdale’s, and Uber are already signed up. American Express, Visa, MasterCard, and most major US banks are currently participating on the credit/debit card side. I look forward to seeing how this transforms the mobile payments process, hopefully for the better!
Personally, I’m optimistic for a trickle down effect to smaller merchants by next summer so it can be available at Smorgasburg and Governor’s Ball. A lot of the payments systems we’ve showcased are promising, but none of them have gained widespread adoption. I’m hoping Apple’s entry into the market will change this outcome.
By: Kathleen Henning and Phil McGuinness
After a challenging experience with mobile payments at a New York music festival, our researchers decided to get together and assess two of the leading mobile payment options currently on the market. In Part One of this two-part series, we field test PayPal and Google Wallet apps on both iPhone and Android smartphones. Next month, we’ll review the mobile payment landscape and share some interesting new developments.
Let’s see where Kathleen Henning and Phil McGuinness stand on these mobile giants.
Kathleen: As I was preparing to attend the Governor’s Ball festival this summer, I was super psyched. Not only did they have an amazing lineup, but the food & drink section asked for my credit card information so I could make mobile payments. Since I hate carrying cash (and really anything), this was a dream come true for me. Unfortunately, it was a little too good to be true. I entered all of my information only to find that no one was accepting the GovBall app as payment. Instead, there was the PayPal app…
Most festivals, for better or worse, are known for having notoriously awful cell service. GovBall was no exception. Using the PayPal app required downloading it, logging in, taking a picture of yourself, and saving your account information. All of those steps required far more Internet speed than was available. Day 1 I had no luck. Day 2 I was able to purchase free Brooklyn Soda Works. Day 3 the vendors I tried weren’t accepting it anymore because of technical failure.
This experience got me thinking, does this app work any better with a stronger signal? Was my experience simply based on the context of the festival? I opened up the PayPal app, looked through the local businesses available, and took a trip to Van Leeuwen’s for a (mostly free) scoop of ice cream with ridiculously delicious fudge. The app worked! And then it crashed my iPhone. However I was able to pay and get the $5 coupon discount and, more importantly, enjoy a little piece of ice cream heaven.
Phil: After Kathleen and I discussed her experience, I went ahead and tested the take out ordering for the PayPal app on Android. I found that it works like any food ordering app. All mobile ordering relies squarely on the structure and capabilities of the Eat24Hours service. My experience with setup was fairly easy, although you have to enter a lot of basic information, including a picture, which might deter some people.
After set up, I found that the app was slowing down the ordering process with numerous errors. At first the PayPal app was stuck on the “delivery” setting for food, and even when I toggled the setting to “takeout” the delivery fee and minimum order remained on screen. The app’s ordering function also repeatedly timed out with a plain text screen reporting an unspecified error. On top of all this, the ordering process was generally very slow to load. Feeling discouraged, I shut down the app for the day and ordered through other means.
One error encountered with PayPal: Despite selecting “Pickup” the app still thought I was ordering “Delivery”.
The next day I opened the app again to order some lunch, and thankfully the process went smoothly. I was able to pick up my food without any hiccups. I hope that the errors Kathleen and I experienced will be worked out over time, so the app can become a more reliable source of ordering.
Google Wallet doesn’t provide a method to find local stores where payment is accepted, limiting its effectiveness as a wallet or credit card replacement
I also reviewed Google Wallet on Android, a mobile payment app whose main point of differentiation is the use of Near Field Communication (NFC) for point-of-sale payments. Since I had already used Google Payments in the past, the setup was quick and easy. The trouble started when I tried to find a location to use the payment method. Google’s site doesn’t provide any list of merchants where Google Wallet payments are accepted. This may be due to vendors being slow to adopt NFC, which is necessary for this type of payment to spread. Unfortunately this leaves the user to find locations themselves, making this convenient method of payment not so convenient. I spent a week in Silicon Valley and a week traveling and I didn’t find a single location to make a payment with Google Wallet. With limited adoption and no means for finding out where this type of mobile payment is accepted, Google Wallet is far from replacing my trusted standard leather wallet.
Kathleen: In this day and age, there’s a lot of potential for mobile payment systems to streamline a manual process. I was at a concert recently where the luxury box seats were offered a paper menu to select menu items and have them brought to your seat. This section was organized by Live Nation, the international promoter. A setting like this one would be perfect for mobile payments. If I could log into my Live Nation app, select what I want from the menu, hit submit, and have it delivered to my seat, I would be so happy!
In conclusion: There are definitely still some usability issues in this area, but we here at Key Lime Interactive are super excited about the future of mobile payments, especially at concerts and music festivals! Next month, we’ll review the current mobile payment landscape, including some novel new approaches to address problems like those Kathleen and Phil encountered above. Until next month…