Mobile commerce is presenting businesses with a rare opportunity to have an intimate, one-on-one conversation with their target audience, at any time. Mobile phones are shaping the way consumers shop, as they research products and offers online, share images of products with friends, or look for inspiration. And the retailers? Most are driving in the left hand lane, looking at the consumers on their phones and thinking, why don’t they ever call us?
That’s a little unfair perhaps – there are companies out there investing in the mobile consumer, but such firms are few and far between, and are still very much on the journey. SQLI research shows that while most decision-makers in retail think mobile-focused companies will disrupt the sector, only around half have mobility as a number one priority, and even fewer have a comprehensive and detailed mobile strategy.
Mobile purchases are low compared to desktop orders or in-store purchases, which helps explain the current lack of investment. However, mobile commerce is on the rise – eMarketer forecasts that it will grow by more than 25 per cent in the UK this year – and it will transform customers’ relationship with brands in the process.
To understand their own attitudes to this technology, bosses should be asking themselves the following questions:
(1) Do we view mobile commerce purely as accessing the web from another device?
Mobile commerce encompasses tablets, wearables, watches, smart TVs and other connected devices, all providing information to connect the consumer to his or her choice of shopping channel – and generating data for the companies creating those digital and physical encounters. Properly designed and executed, mobile commerce goes beyond devices and into the world of big data, and it should most definitely not be treated simply as another channel for accessing the web.
Smartphones, in particular, open a wealth of possibilities for retailers with technologies such as, GPS, geolocation and geofencing, unlocking opportunities for brands to interact with shoppers like never before. Couple this with the accessibility of cameras and social media and it’s unsurprising that the retail landscape is facing huge change in how consumers shop.
(2) Are we prepared for a consumer who wants their questions answered instantly?
Consumers are used to getting their information, at work or on their home computer, in milliseconds, and they want the same performance from eCommerce. A lag of even half a second can persuade customers to look elsewhere, losing revenue for the retailer who has not properly invested in mobile-optimised sites and profile.
(3) Do we have the structures in place to make the most of our mobile commerce data?
Every customer can research online, discuss a preferred brand on social media, shop in-store, pay via mobile, redeem points, log on to the brand app for recommendations and tips, and even play games linked to or created by a brand or retailer. With the right system, all this data can be gathered, analysed and exploited, and mobile plays a critical role in putting these insights to good use.
Investment in new systems also enables cross-channel management of the customer journey. A prospective purchaser might start with multi-page and multi-platform online research that results in an abandoned online shopping trolley, but it can be concluded with the clever use of locational applications, reminding that shopper what’s languishing in their online basket when they get near the store, sending them a promotional code to their phone once they enter, and engaging them in-store with a conversation based on their previous browsing and shopping history.
(4) Are we prepared to invest?
Mobile purchases may represent less than ten per cent of total retail sales, but they offer the chance to transform the business of shopping. It’s less about the sale, and more about the customer relationship. Mobile is a young channel, and therefore it will take time, money and courage for retailers to see the full benefits. And it’s a long journey. However, given that mobile commerce is set to account for almost a quarter of retail sales by 2020, the question retailers should be asking is not should I invest, but how do I get there?
Olivier Eyraud is mobility practice leader at digital transformation specialist SQLI.
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