By Dan Lowden, Vice President of Marketing at Digby
As smartphone growth soars to over one billion users worldwide by 2014, there is little doubt that the intersection of mobile and cross-channel retailing is the way of the future. The adaptation of mobile devices as a new consumer focal point gives retailers the opportunity to engage with their customers anytime and anywhere by offering them the ability to search, browse and buy from home, when mobile or while in-store. And with nearly fifty percent of smartphone owners already using, or planning to use, their phones for mobile shopping, the tipping point is upon us. To leverage this new opportunity, retailers need to adopt a mobile cross-channel strategy that integrates their sales channels to provide a seamless shopping experience to the consumer.
Retailers look at their brands and see their brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce site, print catalog, and mobile website and rich app (iPhone, BlackBerry and Android) as separate commerce outlets. A consumer looks at the same brand and sees the retailer — period. Differentiating between commerce platforms is a retailer’s mindset, not a consumer’s. Instead, a loyal customer expects to be able to research a product on their laptop or smartphone then go to the store and scan the item’s barcode through the retailer’s branded rich app to access ratings and reviews, product information and even a video demonstration and special discount offer.
As predictions place a smartphone in one out of every two Americans' hands by the end of 2011, more and more consumers are going to be pulling out their mobile devices in-store to enhance their shopping experience. In the U.S., 56% of shoppers with smartphones believe using their phone while they’re in-store will make their shopping experience more enjoyable. For many, it already has —mobile barcode scanning increased 1,600% last year and 73% of shoppers with smartphones report preferring to use their mobile device while in-store than ask a sales associate for help. Similar growth trends are occurring in cultures around the world as consumer adoption of smartphones and “anytime, anywhere” commerce are giving retailers a way to expand their sales and brand engagement on a global basis.
By implementing a seamless, unified cross-channel platform that enables a mobile optimized website and rich apps that can be accessed anytime, anywhere by anyone, the retailer creates a highly personalized user experience while also removing previous geographical barriers. Now, 3G mobile Internet services are extending retail to remote or isolated areas so consumers in New York City, the rural Midwest and even Southeast Asia can have the same access to retailers’ services and products. Consumers no longer have to live near a retail store or wait until they get home to search, browse and buy from their favorite brands. By implementing a cross-channel retail strategy that leverages mobile devices, retailers are connecting with consumers in a unique, personal way that was previously unavailable.
A successful cross-channel strategy will incorporate online, catalog, mobile, brick and mortar and social to accommodate the fast-paced, always-on-the-go lives of consumers. While this series will focus on the newest channels — mobile and social — retailers should not ignore their more traditional storefronts. Each channel should promote the others for a truly unified experience. The brick and mortar stores should have signs offering special offers to people who follow them on Facebook and download their branded rich app. The e-commerce site should have a landing page promoting their mobile optimized website and Facebook and Twitter links. The mobile site and apps should feature special in-store only discounts, and the Facebook page should highlight promotions available to those who download the app.
The next article of the Convergent Commerce Series, The Optimized Mobile User Experience, will describe how to develop a strategic mobile channel that will increase customer acquisition, loyalty and revenue.
Dan Lowden is Digby's Vice President of Marketing, responsible for all aspects of the company’s brand strategy and marketing. He brings 15 years of experience in mobile services and mobile devices through his roles at top technology companies, including AT&T Wi-Fi Services, where he was Vice President of Marketing; Wayport (acquired by AT&T) where he was Vice President of Marketing and Business Development; and IBM, where he was North American ThinkPad Brand Manager and World-Wide ThinkPad Segment Manager. Lowden holds an MBA in International Business from Rutgers University and a B.S. in Finance from Rider University.