In today's interconnected, always-on world, over 1.2 billion people access the Internet from their mobile devices. According to comScore, 58% of Americans own a smartphone. And international research firm Latitude reports that 88% of people surveyed agreed that owning a mobile device with real-time information makes them more spontaneous in their shopping decisions. Mobile usage has grown faster and had a more significant impact than anyone could have predicted, and that reality certainly applies to the transformation of online and offline sales.
Tremendous opportunities await retailers who grab hold of m-Commerce trends. A list of recommendations is compiled below so that companies can make the most of all that m-Commerce offers.
Mobile First: The Time is Now
For years, analysts have predicted substantial movement towards mobile commerce, but the speed and depth of the shift to m-Commerce has taken most by surprise. According to comScore, mobile commerce spending reached $4.7 billion in Q2 2013 with a year-on-year growth rate of 24%. Companies that have not yet put their money where their mouths are concerning a "mobile first" strategy need to do so now. For businesses, the question isn't "if" they should adopt m-Commerce. It's "how."
Companies that are not paying attention to the mobile commerce sales channel stand to miss out on an ever-expanding revenue stream. They will be missing out on other benefits, too: the intimacy of mobile devices, the fact that they're almost always with shoppers, the ability to send push notifications, location-based services and barcode scanning to enhance the shopping experience. These are just a few of the reasons transitioning to mobile is vital.
1. One Of These Mobile Devices Is Not Like The Other
The term "mobile" is a bit misleading; it suggests a homogeneity that does not exist.
Marketers must not make the mistake of putting all mobile devices on an equal footing. Understanding how tablets and smartphones are used differently is important to maximizing m-Commerce revenue.
Up to 58% of American adults own a smartphone and 42% own a tablet computer, according to Pew Research. While there are fewer tablets in circulation than smartphones in the U.S., a deeper analysis of sales figures shows some surprising insights. BI Intelligence reports that when compared to smartphones, tablets attract higher overall web traffic (7% vs. 9%), have much higher average order values ($124 vs. $151) and deliver more than seven times the conversion rates on paid search clicks.
This example illustrates that people use their mobile devices in different ways, and it is also important to consider that people use their devices in combined ways as well while on the consumer purchasing journey. It's important to keep users engaged and interested across all channels. By all means, build native apps to deliver engaging immersive user experiences, but don't neglect the need to use responsive web design to make sure you're offering a great web commerce experience to users on tablets.
2. Traditional Retailers Get A Mobile Boost
The explosion of m-Commerce, like many other technologies, brings with it new words to describe user activity. Two of the latest entries are showrooming and webrooming. Showrooming refers to a user visiting a showroom to experience the actual product and, while still in the store, going online on their mobile devices to check the prices at online stores (like Amazon). Webrooming is essentially the opposite, with users going online to research products and read reviews, but completing the actual purchase in a physical store.
While traditional retailers may initially feel threatened by these new behaviors, there is no need to be. An Accenture report has pointed out that while 73% of mobile shoppers indulge in showrooming, 88% go webrooming. This data should come as an encouragement to brick and mortar stores, which are otherwise wary of their shoppers moving to online stores.
An IBM survey reports that price consistency across online and physical stores is what most consumers demand. Retailers need to engage consumers effectively and consistently online, through both mobile devices and PCs, and deliver a consistent experience in-store. Consumers need to be able to easily connect their online experience with their in-store experience and vice-versa.
3. Customizing For The Consumer
The apps and sensors contained in tablets and other mobile devices can provide retailers with a wealth of information about consumers such as contact lists, locations and social interactions. This data, along with transaction history, in-store and online browsing behavior and more, can provide extremely detailed insights about personal behavior, preferences and the likes and dislikes of mobile shoppers.
This mother lode of detail can help marketers to create completely personalized and contextual offers that increase conversion rates and improve returns on marketing dollars. This personalization of commerce is in its infancy, but still well underway. The good news for retailers is that shoppers are becoming more willing to share their personal information — particularly if they get good value in exchange. Retailers who have been skeptical of the buying public's willingness to share personal information need to embrace the trend, but be prepared to offer value for data.
4. Addressing Customer Pain Points With In-Store Mobile
Retailers have struggled for years with a core set of customer complaints related to the in-store experience, and mobile offers an efficient solution. A recurring lament is that the sales associates are not informed about the products they are trying to sell. A shopper arrives after researching a product online and essentially knows what he wants but has a few last questions before making a final decision. When questioned, it's clear that the associate knows less than the shopper — and that could lose the sale. However, mobile devices in the hands of associates can give them ready access to the answers shoppers want.
Another core complaint comes from a buyer walking into a store and not being able to find what she's looking for. She tracks down an associate to ask if the product is in stock, and the associate has no idea. With a mobile device, the associate can check inventory on the spot, see if what she wants is in the stock room, or at another location, and even order the item if need be.
Finally, people don't like to wait in line. However, associates using mobile point-of-sale devices can expedite the purchasing process to get customers out the door faster. A new report by Infogroup indicates that the number of retailers using mobile POS systems will triple by 2018. Even better are mobile apps and other solutions that offer loyal customers options for self-checkout. Walmart offers a "Scan & Go" app that allows shoppers to scan products with their mobile devices.
5. Marketing Goes Mobile
According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, U.S. mobile advertising last year tripled to $7.1 billion, or about 17% of the $42.8 billion in overall online ad spending. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that figure to grow to $19.2 billion in 2018.
Marketers have been observing this growth and realizing that a new type of mobile-centric approach is needed. At this moment, the popular thinking is that this means smaller duration, five and 10 seconds long, videos and gamified ads.
Social media accounts for 71% of time spent on a mobile device, according to comScore. Advertising will, therefore, become a part of the social media interactions of users. You can easily find marketers using platforms like Instagram, Vine and Pinterest to reach the social stream of mobile users.
Native advertising, advertising that delivers useful content in the context of the user's experience, is gaining traction with marketers and consumers. Marketers will increasingly resort to native formats to counter the "ad-blindness" of traditional advertising formats.
6. Watch For Wearables
Mobile devices are not just things a person carries but things a person wears, as well.
Juniper has claimed that 2014 will be a "watershed year" for wearables, with Google Glass, Samsung smartwatches, Apple iWatch, and other devices, but privacy will be an issue as cameras become increasingly ubiquitous. Juniper states, "...wearable devices represent a 'nice to have' and not a 'must have' for consumers."
7. Dedicate Yourself To Mobile
Mobile has quickly become an inseparable part of commerce as mobile devices have grown in popularity. Frank N. Magid Associates estimates that by the end of 2014, 64 % of Americans will own a tablet, and IDC reports that over a billion smartphones were shipped in 2013, with no sign of slowing.
If a mobile commerce strategy is carefully crafted, it can provide competitive advantage and improve the bottom line — not just for huge retail enterprises but for businesses of any size. Local and national retailers alike can take advantage of the anytime, anywhere nature of mobile shopping by offering coupons and special offers tailored to their target demographic. Retailers with brick-and-mortar stores can capitalize on in-store mobile usage to answer customer questions, locate stock and speed the purchase process. As consumers invent new ways of using their mobile devices for shopping convenience, retailers must stay in step with or even ahead of them. This will require a consistent dedication to a mobile-first approach. If that hasn't been your approach so far, it needs to be now.
Sam Ganga is Executive Vice President of the Commercial Division at DMI. Under Ganga's leadership, DMI's Commercial Division has developed the world's most comprehensive set of Mobile Enterprise Solutions, including mobile strategy, mobile managed services, mobile app solutions and integrated vertical solutions for retail, financial services and healthcare. Prior to joining DMI, Ganga was the Founder and President of Leverent Consulting, a professional services company that provided technology solutions to commercial and government clients.