GUEST OPINION Five steps to making mobile your best retail outlet
Everyone thought that mobile would be a secondary screen to the PC when it came to shopping, but as smartphone numbers in the UK approach the magic 50% mark and tablets gaining in popularity, mobile is rapidly becoming a store front its own right, Here Tunde Cockshott, Creative Consultant at Amaze, outlines his five step plan to make mobile the centre of your retail world
Over the course of the last year there has been a silent shift in user internet behaviour. By the end of 2011, 45% of adults with a mobile in the UK had a smartphone, and by the end of this year, the figure will be over the magic 50% mark. The rise of the usable smartphone, its adoption across the population as a whole and the reduced cost of purchase and data plans has had a big impact on retail.
In the past, we thought of the mobile as a second screen, with the PC as the primary way of accessing information and performing tasks. Whilst only 3% of UK households rely on a smartphone as their sole means of home internet access, it is clear that for many, the mobile is now the first screen. In March 2012, Ofcom reported that more than four in ten (42%) smartphone users agree with the statement: “my phone is more important to me for accessing the internet than any other device”.
Our mobile is our constant companion. It is the first device we reach for to answer questions, to communicate, to socialise, to compare prices and to check reviews. When developing a digital retail strategy, it is vital to recognise the importance of mobile. On a fundamental level it is a revenue channel. In the year ending February 2012, UK shoppers spent a total of £3billion on mobile devices (£192 each on average), representing 8% of total online spend.
Ask yourself, does your retail strategy acknowledge this and facilitate online purchasing? Do you dedicate sufficient budget to make it fulfill its potential? In doing so, has your solution been designed to meet the needs of the mobile customer?
But further than actual purchases, your mobile strategy has to meet the needs of the consumer at all stages of their retail journey. The end goal is purchase, but there is a lot that can be done to move the customer towards that goal.
So, here’s my five point step-by-step plan to make the most out of the mobile retail channel.
It’s imperative to make your SEO approach mobile friendly. Indeed, well implemented and continually reviewed SEO is a basic principle of e-commerce, but mobile adds to the mix, giving you the opportunity to benefit from additional user data. The most obvious advantage is knowing the location of the user. At the simplest level, this can allow you to give the location of your nearest store or stockist. If we couple this data with what is called ambient data, i.e. time, weather, date etc., then you can return dynamic results which are tailored to that individual. For example, you can use location plus time to serve a response such as: “you are just 10 minutes away from our nearest store”, or if a search is performed in the late afternoon, “we close at 6pm but you are only ten minutes away”.
It is a fact that customers use comparison searches when they shop. They use aggregators and dedicated services such as reference points, to find the best deal, or to compare an observed price with the potential savings of online purchase. Again, your SEO should try to deliver on comparison searches, searches for reviews, best prices etc., which can all be used to your advantage. In a recent US study, 19% of people who used their mobile in store to compare prices ended up buying the product online.
3) Digital ambassador
The multi-channel reality, as ever with the marketing industry, doesn’t quite live up to the hype. The vast majority of brands have still got a long way to go when it comes to the delivery of fully connected, multi-channel customer experiences.
If you are a manufacturer of a product then send in the cavalry; your product sits on the retailer’s shelf, side by side with your competitors. It conforms to the retailer’s model of how to best display or present it and tends to result in a uniformity of products. Unless you cut a deal, your product will not stand out. Expertise within retail stores varies and one cannot expect the sales person to be the evangelist for your brand.
People buy with a mixture of their heart and their brain. Don Norman states that they respond to a product at three levels, visceral, behavioral and reflective. It is up to you to make it work and excel at all three levels, in a retail environment the only one you can immediately take in is the visceral response to its design. How it behaves, performs and the deeper reflective understanding are harder to assess. This is where third-party reviews, product demonstration videos and even call centre support staff can help.
Faced by a wall of look-alike TVs, it tends to be the special offers and the size of the discounts that stand out. To help users, you need to give them access to all of the backup data that promotes your product and gives a deeper understanding of product features. SEO optimisation will help but the use of QR codes in store, linking to product specifications and reviews, buying checklists or even dedicated micro-sites, will support your offering. When using QR codes, tell the user what they will get by scanning the code, make the call to action buyer centric:
• Need help? Want to know about all of the features?
• Use our simple buying guide to select the TV that is right for you
• Check out what the experts say about this model.
4) Make buying easy
Your own online retail site has to cater for the mobile shopper. There are two distinct modes of purchase when the user is ‘out and about’, either instore and making a purchase as a result of a comparison shop or as an impulse or last minute decision. Alternatively, there is the shopper who is making purchases during idle points in the day, the ‘sofa shopper’. A recent study for one of our mobile retail customers found that the busiest time for mobile activity was late evening, when users look at their devices at home in a relaxed atmosphere, as opposed to the more hectic scenario of the ‘out and about’ shopper. Both require simplified navigation, effective in site search facilities and fast download and features such as, easy login, ‘save for later’ or persistent baskets.
Form filling on smartphones is tedious, so try and keep this to a minimum. You should employ the desktop ‘best practices’ of clear sign posting, streamlining processes and simplifiers, such as using postcodes to look up an address.
5) Make it social
We think of it as a recent phenomenon, but in 1726, Daniel Defoe was surprised to observe the social element of the leisured classes window-shopping in London. Today we accept that it is a leisure activity and is highly social. We like to shop with other people and we seek our friends’ advice and approval of potential purchases.
While social tools are now starting to appear as system functions, e.g. Facebook integration in Apple iOS6 etc., it is still good to make it easy for people to share the products that they are interested in. Social sharing also acts as a powerful narrowcasting endorsement channel. You need to monitor the changing face of social applications and determine which channels you need to support. This is not about your own dedicated Facebook or Pinterest channel, but facilitating user sharing.
If only it was all this simple, there is also ‘to app or not to app’ and how to deliver your site on the tablet market, but that is for another time.