We caught up with Michael Potts, founder and managing director of U.K.-based ElisaDBI, an award-winning consultancy providing web analytics and conversion optimisation solutions and Monetate partner, to get the U.K. perspective on the multi-screen customer experience and the data that’s proving it’s a priority overseas, too.

Michael Potts, Founder & Managing Director, ElisaDBI

Michael Potts, ElisaDBI

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: At ElisaDBI, we’ve had first-hand experience of an extraordinary increase in mobile adoption rates, in which people are spending substantial amounts of time surfing the web on mobile devices. According to recent research, more than 28% of internet users in the U.K. browse using a mobile device. With tablet sales growing and smartphones outselling PCs, it is not hard to believe the projections that state that by 2015, mobile internet usage will surpass desktop usage.

All of our clients have experienced an increase in mobile usage over the last year, irrespectively of the business line in which they operate. We’ve seen increases both in absolute user figures and in the percentage of overall visits now on mobile devices—with year-on-year growth rates amongst the 10 clients we looked at making up 5%-17% of overall visits.

More interesting is the fact that among our clients, the average visit and number of pages per visit is fairly constant across devices, with users displaying similar browsing behaviors. We believe this is symptomatic of a more widespread phenomenon: Customers now expect a unified browsing experience, with the choice of device becoming a matter of convenience rather than necessity. Users now appear to be performing similar tasks on their desktop, tablet, or smartphone (with the exception of actually purchasing). ElisaDBILogo

This is why companies and brands need to invest in a strategy that delivers content that works across devices and analyse whether this content should be served in a specific way depending on the visitor’s conditions (e.g., device, time, or geolocation).

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

A: Ensuring that companies understand the purpose of each device for the user, and the main outcomes that are being enabled through different devices, which implies a rock-solid analytics basis. For instance, we have found with one of our fashion retail clients that emails read on a small screen mobile in the morning are much more likely to result in sales through a desktop than through the mobile itself—with obvious implications for email design and timing. Being able to segment data in this way really helps us to understand behaviours in a way that leverages the unique qualities of each type of device.

This is a huge challenge given the plethora of mobile devices available today: smartphones and tablets with different screen sizes, resolutions, and operative systems. Therefore, delivering content and offering an exceptional user experience has become a much more complicated matter.

With respect to analytics, there are many technical and privacy issues in measuring user behaviour across sessions and across devices, so putting effort into the development of measurement and testing strategies for optimising user experience on devices needs to be at the core of any (online) business strategy. It has become increasingly important for our clients to understand how different users interact with their brand across devices and to tie that information to customer journeys.

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

A: Forgetting about usability when adapting a website to work across devices—small clickable areas, badly designed navigation, or cluttered content on small screen mobiles, for example. Visitors might prefer bigger buttons when browsing with a mobile phone, to avoid typing or watching videos because of network limitations.

The most successful companies at integrating customer experience are those that have digital experiences that are functional enough to allow customers to complete their tasks, independent of the device they are using. Designs should be in service of the user, and data should help the company optimise these experiences.

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

A: The BBC has excelled at keeping up with the increasing usage of mobile devices to browse the internet. Early on, they rolled out mobile apps for their News service for iOS and Android and in 2012 they launched a responsive version of various of their sites, offering a more familiar experience to those users accustomed to the native sites and reacting to demands from people wanting access to all the content rather than a subset. They have also been very good at testing and optimising across browsers, operative systems (more than 80 significant browsers/operative systems are supported), and screen resolutions. Furthermore, their News content adapts by location, a feature that is highly prized by users who want fast delivery of relevant content.