Industry experts and retail executives explored the next generation of mobile commerce strategies today at the M-Commerce Summit in New York, hosted by Mobile Commerce Daily. “More and more information is available to consumers [via retail mobile applications],” said Dan Fine, Director of Digital Experience at Target Corporation. “At Target, we look at how to take all the information we know about guests and assess how to use that information to present the best experience. Employees also want that information [at their disposal]. On the mobile channel, if we do what’s right for the guest, it’s going to be right for our team members.”
Fine and several other mobile executives shared their insights during a panel titled “Mobile Commerce Trends: How Rapid Retailer And Consumer Adoption Of Mobile Will Forever Change The Retail Landscape.”
The next wave of mobile for retail is being driven primarily by the rapid consumer adoption of smart phones. Further validating the growing potential for retailers to harvest engagement and revenues via an added channel, research firm Global Industry Analysts predicts that the global smart phone market will reach a total of 1.64 billion units by 2017.
The State of Mobile Commerce
A key theme of the Summit was the urgent need to adopt mobile strategies and take an integrated approach that emphasizes customer experience and convenience. Industry insiders say there’s no way a retailer can take a pass on tapping mobile, since it has become an additional consumer channel. “As a retailer, if you want to reach your consumer, you don’t have the luxury to sit this one out,” said Ran Farmer, North America Managing Director at Netbiscuits. “Consumers are demanding to be able to talk to the retailers they shop. If you’re not talking to your consumers on mobile, you’re not talking to them.”
Centered on customer convenience, Target’s mobile strategy is built on the notion that each mobile touch point has to be instrumental in providing added value, and do so in areas other than just price. “We know that value means more than just price,” Fine said. “It’s what you provide as a brand to the consumer…Target is extremely guest-focused, and driven by the value we add to her life. If we know she’s doing price scanning, that’s going to happen regardless, so how do we embrace it?” While mobile price comparison applications have posed a threat to brick and mortar sales, Target sought a way to cater to this need, rather than combat the seemingly unstoppable trend. The retailer’s answer was to build a barcode-scanning tool into its branded mobile application to help drive loyalty through a differentiated experience that nurtures the consumer’s need to compare prices.
Who Is Winning With Mobile?
Panelists pointed to several retailers that are successfully leveraging mobile strategies and tactics to provide added value to consumers in and out of the store:
- Best Buy. To offer additional information at the shelf, the electronics merchant became the first national retailer in the U.S. to integrate quick response (QR) codes with product fact tags in September 2010. Shoppers can use their mobile devices to scan, view and compare key product features more visually, as well as access reviews and email product information, and share that information with friends and peers.
- Walgreens. To help streamline prescription filling for shoppers, the Walgreens mobile application offers the ability to scan a prescription bar code which then sends an alert to the store when a refill is needed. Consumers also can fill prescriptions based on account history. Using an account or prescription number, the Walgreens Mobile app will notify Walgreens pharmacists when to refill a prescription, and consumers are then notified by SMS text messaging when it is ready to be picked up.
- Macy’s. Supplementing its “Backstage Pass” campaign with customized QR code and SMS technology, Macy’s offers exclusive and engaging video content to users’ mobile phones. The retailer is leveraging QR codes to extend its brand with essential tips, information on the latest trends, as well as 30-second videos that provide fashion inspiration, advice and tips.
Connecting Channel Experiences Via Mobile
In addition to its capability to drive brand engagement and sales, the mobile phone also presents retailers with an added opportunity to integrate loyalty programs and enhance customer relationship management (CRM), particularly at the point of sale (POS).
“We’ve still got a long way to go to make the mobile shopping experience seamless and frictionless,” noted Jay Higley, President at Pangea Partners. “The consumer gets the value but we just need to continue to work together as an industry to make the experience more relevant. We have to be careful that we don’t over-clutter the space. We need to have closed-loop feedback to know how to serve the consumer best. The mobile channel presents an opportunity to help consumers define themselves better.”
Experts say the key to an integrated mobile strategy is to connect to consumers’ “mobile wallets.” Once retailers can establish a relationship tied to the wallet, it becomes easier to sell to them by leveraging that same account. For example, Apple has successfully harvested a selling community via the iTunes Store. “Mobile loyalty can help retailers go through the clutter to have the consumer make the choice about what to do and where to go,” said Nick Cook, Director of Business Development at Usablenet. “Retailers can allow a loyalty program to grow to allow shoppers to make decisions about when to connect with them and how. Mobile is bridging the gap in customer engagement.”