The global digital commerce market — slated to reach nearly $6 trillion by 2022 — shows no signs of slowing. This past holiday shopping season, retailers saw the strongest sales growth in the last six years, with online spending up 19.1 percent compared to 2017.
While this is a massive opportunity for retailers to get a jump-start on optimizing their sites for future peak-traffic shopping events, it’s important they keep in mind the critical factors that could compromise their web and mobile performance, their customers’ experiences and, ultimately, their bottom lines.
One potentially crippling (but largely overlooked) culprit that could undermine brands’ digital performance is the “rogue” mobile browser phenomenon. For example, browsers pretending to be Google Chrome, but aren’t.
Consider the fact that Chrome commands 56 percent of the mobile browser market. As Samsung vies for market share vs. Apple, it's customizing the browser to best exploit hardware advances on its smartphones. However, as mobile device and app makers increasingly leverage Google's open source code to create their own browsers, user experiences are being degraded. In fact, new data shows that one in four browsers claiming to be Chrome actually aren’t.
For retailers looking to create highly personalized and differentiated solutions for customers, here are three steps they need to take for identifying rogue mobile browsers and ensuring great and consistent user experiences.
Understand How Your Customers Shop and Buy
To start, retailers should identify which browsers their site visitors use. This information will enable them to decide which browsers to test. For Samsung device owners, for example, Google Chrome is unsurprisingly the most common browser used at 72 percent. This is a significant majority but, again, it means that more than one quarter of Samsung users does not use Google Chrome. So which browsers are they using?
Further findings show that consumers are using other Android vendor device browsers like Samsung Internet, which has a market share of 23 percent. Meanwhile, other device vendors such as Xiaomi and Motorola also have their own browsers, which they put on the home screen of their devices while hiding Google Chrome in the Apps menu, thus hoping that users will use their browser instead of Google’s.
Determine Your Browser-Detect Plan of Attack
Unfortunately, device vendor browsers can be difficult to distinguish from Google Chrome. In fact, most browser detection tools don't count Chrome-based browsers accurately and instead group Samsung Internet, Google Chrome and other Chrome-based browsers together as “Chrome.”
This isn’t a huge problem necessarily. All of these browsers are based on Chromium and support roughly the same web technologies. However, similar doesn't mean the same, and vendor browsers use different versions of Chromium, which may impact the user experience. They might also add extra features that can either enhance or detract from the user experience — e.g., zoom reflow, in which a user zooms in and the mobile browser “reflows” the text so that users don’t have to pan left to right to read the whole text.
Selecting a good browser detection tool is pivotal when it comes to addressing rogue browser threats or issues. WhichBrowser, for example, powers the HTML5 Test site, and is kept up-to-date with the latest mobile browsers and devices. Another option is WURFL detect, which is better at detecting devices than at detecting browsers. However, these solutions are best applied to Samsung Internet versions, which are relatively easy to detect.
For lesser-used browsers like Xiaomi, the best long-term solution is to create a whitelist of Chromium versions that have been used by specific device vendors. The browser detect would take the device vendor and Chromium version from the UA string and consult the whitelist to see if it’s a Google Chrome or a vendor Chromium.
Don’t Forget About the Apps
In today’s social media-driven market, retailers need to keep in mind that some browser hits don't come from a URL browser, but from WebViews — separate browsers on mobile devices that are used by native apps that allow their users to open web pages within the app. Social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat commonly use WebViews to direct consumers to products advertised within the app.
While most browser detection tools don't distinguish between WebViews and regular browsers, they should be part of retailers’ testing strategies. Brands can test their sites in WebViews by downloading one of the many WebView test apps from Google Play. Additionally, understanding how many page hits come from social media is useful information for retailers as they begin thinking about their social CX for the 2019 holiday shopping season.
These are just a few key strategies retailers can employ to make sure their customers are accessing their sites via legitimate Chrome browsers. Variations in mobile devices and browsers can negatively impact CX if users try to access retailers’ sites via uncommon browsers. Creating Chromium version whitelists and conducting regular browser detection and WebView checks can help retailers ensure optimal user experiences for peak traffic seasons and everything in between.
Ari Weil is the global vice president of product and industry marketing at Akamai Technologies, a cloud and enterprise security solutions provider.