a group of people holding cell phones

You know the feeling when you see someone you’ve met before and they don’t recognize you but you remember them? It’s the worst. It leads to awkward reintroductions and someone inevitably feeling bad.

Don’t be Tom from 50 First Dates.

I have the same frustration about the Internet. When I return to websites I’ve been to before and they ask me to enter information I entered last time, I get a little peeved. Or when the actions I take while logged in to an app don’t carry over to the web, it’s a let down.

Just like it stinks to reintroduce yourself every time you meet the same person, it stinks to move from web to mobile and have the brand not recognize you. I’m still me when I move from the app to the desktop, I’m just in a different context.

Seamless and connected experiences across devices makes the customer experience more enjoyable, and businesses are focused on it now more than ever. A recent study from eConsultancy and Oracle stated that 67% of respondents consider integrating marketing activities across channels a priority.

But how much more effective are connected experiences?

Facebook ad data shows that people who convert are influenced by multiple devices over time. A Google AdWords case study with Shutterfly shows how the photography printing business “uncovered a 60% increase in mobile conversions for non-brand terms when factoring in mobile-to-desktop conversions.”

So what does an excellent experience across web and mobile look like? A study from Nielson Norman Group revealed that great user experiences are consistent, seamless, available, and context specific across channels. As people move from web to mobile app, they are able to pick up where they left off. The company’s voice, tone and brand should be consistent whether a customer is using an app or laptop. The experience between platforms should be continuous.

This type of connectivity is an aspiration for many businesses, a goal that may seem unattainable due to technical constraints. The same eConsultancy study reported only 7% of businesses are set up to deliver cross-channel marketing activities. Whether or not you can do it today, understanding the key elements and examples of connected experiences across web and mobile is a great place to start.

1. Consistency

Consistency in visual design, tone of voice, brand aesthetic, and functionality is paramount to delivering delightful experiences across customer touchpoints. The desktop and mobile experiences are extensions of each other, not independent brands.


Hipmunk is a travel booking site that has a consistent experience between iOS app and desktop. When I start a search on the phone, it is reflected immediately in my recent searches on desktop and vice versa. It is easy to plan a trip sequentially: starting a booking on one device and finishing up the process on another. The iOS app is not just a direct translation of the desktop experience; rather, it is contextual for actions I’d likely take in a mobile environment: more focused on searching for dates and selecting flights.

a tablet and a tablet

Hipmunk’s connected experiences across mobile and web.

2. Seamlessness

Today, more than 90 percent of people move between devices to accomplish a goal. A seamlessly connected experience allows people to pick up where they left off to complete activities on any device.


Gilt, a flash sale shopping company, creates seamless experiences between shopping carts on desktop and mobile. Add something to the cart while shopping at your computer, then open the app and your cart is refreshed. They also use notifications in phone to get shoppers back into the app to checkout. Gilt’s experience is seamless and well designed to lead shoppers to purchase.

graphical user interface, application

Gilt’s connected experiences across mobile and web.

3. Availability

The Nielsen study shows that users expect to be able to complete a desired task in the channel of their choice, so availability of tasks is important to delightful cross device experiences. Qualitative user research like on-site surveys, email, and heat mapping can help reveal what people do or don’t do on each device.

The New York Times

Key functionality on nytimes.com is available and connected on the Times’ iPhone app. You can read articles, browse by lists such as “most emailed”, share articles with friends, and manage your subscription both on desktop and mobile app. For logged in readers, the articles you save on the app will appear on your desktop “Saved Items” list and vice versa. Essentially, the New York Times’ iPhone app is a direct translation of the website on a smaller screen.

graphical user interface, application

The New York Times’ connected experiences across mobile and web.

4. Context

While tasks should be available on different devices, they should also be contextual since different activities make sense for different devices. Businesses that deliver excellent experiences across devices “understand and design for each channel’s distinct and unique strengths,” the Nielsen study found.


From app to desktop, Yelp delivers a contextual and consistent brand experience. Bookmarks, check-ins reviews or any other actions specific to your account are reflected across devices so your review history travels with you everywhere you go. But it’s interesting that they treat search on desktop and mobile as distinct actions; searches on desktop are not reflected on mobile. I’d love to know if that’s an intentional choice or a current system limitation.

graphical user interface, application

Yelp’s connected experiences across mobile and web.

Creating connected experiences

How can you help your company be one that delivers great experiences across web and mobile?

Workflow and collaboration is one way. In order for businesses to execute delightful experiences across channels that save people from reintroducing themselves at each touchpoint, it will be important that the teams responsible for each experience work together and think holistically.

As we’ve discovered through conversations with our customers, many businesses with a web and mobile presence have separate teams of people who work on each device. But the person who interacts with the mobile app and the person who interacts with the website are not different people. They are the same, just in different contexts.

It’s becoming more and more true that each device is an extension of another: laptops are used in conjunction with phones, which are connected to in-person activities. Understanding your customer’s journey and how it breaks down across different touchpoints can help reveal opportunities to connect experiences across devices.

When it comes to introductions, I have given up.

It’s inevitable that I’ll introduce myself to the same person a couple times before we have a meaningful conversation.

But my hopes are high for online businesses. Many have already set outstanding examples, and technological advances will surely make it easier for businesses to delight us with connected experiences across the web and mobile.

Here at Optimizely we are making it possible for you to deliver connected experiences to your customers. We just expanded our experience optimization platform to span web and mobile apps. Now, you can test to discover what makes your customers engage on both devices. With an understanding of what converts, you can then deliver optimized experiences to your customers across the web and mobile apps.

How are you delivering connected experiences to your customers today? Let us know in the comments below.

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