Across Europe, as retailers get to grips with the importance of mobile to consumers, there is still much that they still need to do to deliver the kind of mobile experience that shoppers crave. Retailers looking at developing cross-channel strategies need to think mobile first
#1 Go mobile from the off
The UK leads the way in mobile adoption and this summer saw more than 50% of retail sales coming through mobile, according to the IMRG. Other countries in Europe are not at that level yet but European shoppers are rapidly becoming mobile-centric too, so it won’t be long before they are also managing their shopping processes via their smartphones.
Retailers everywhere need to be ready. They also need to think mobile-first in terms of redesigning websites as well as considering how mobile disrupts traditional sales models. Shoppers often now loop back from the discovery and research stages of the purchase process to visit the store to check out the goods, to showroom the best price and then to buy on a desktop at a later date. It is therefore vital to rethink how shoppers might behave and allow them to do so, which means retailers mobilising everything they do.
#2 Fast load times on mobile
While going mobile is essential, getting that mobile experience right is also crucial. Giving shoppers the ability to browse, research, share and buy on mobile is no good if takes ages to load and causes frustration. Clear and user-friendly design is essential, along with optimising content so that it loads rapidly and is easy to use.
The first of these can be done as part of a mobile-first rethink of the site: large (in size terms, not megabytes) images, clear buttons, easy navigation and clear thought as to what content is really needed on the site can all help make the site much easier to use on mobile.
Keeping it light, with low resolution pictures, not too much text, minimal links and simple framework design can all make apps load quickly, which is crucial for the majority of shoppers.
The best retailers in the Top500 all had very short mobile site loading times because they had applied these principles at the early stages of thinking about their mobile strategies.
#3 The importance of well-designed apps
Having a well-designed and speedy mobile website is essential, but a growing number of retailers also need to offer shoppers a worthwhile in-app retail experience too. With apps now coming up in searches and being fired up automatically from retailers’ websites, the retailers need to look more closely at their apps as a valuable link in the cross-channel experience.
Having a well-designed app can deliver this in spades but what constitutes ‘well-designed’? In essence, any app can potentially have everything, including the kitchen sink, built into it, but what’s more important than scope is making it slick and intuitive to use, with functions that are obvious and accessible at the moment that the shopper needs them.
Apple’s Apple Store app is a great example of clear and simple design, with minimal menu options that seem to intuitively put what you need at your fingertips, when you need it. Zara [IRDX RZAR]too has a clean, well thought-out app that moves the user through various processes slickly and beautifully. But while these are two great examples of lovely design, what all well-designed apps need is to be transactional. Yet only 30% of those tested in the research offer this. Ask yourself this question: what is the point of getting someone to use your app then not letting them spend money?
#4 Store locators and store information
What makes mobile so crucial, be it an app or mobile web, is its ability to pull together channels by being the cross-channel glue that binds a retail business together. And one of the simplest, most effective ways of doing this is to make a real feature of store locator functionality.
Of the Top5 retailers in the IREU500 research, all offer excellent store locator functionality, with the likes of House of Fraser[IRDX RHOF] offering store location across Europe based on a shopper’s current location.
They all feature addresses, maps and the ability to get directions but above and beyond this, many of them also offer the ability to see if the goods the shopper is looking at are in stock in a given store, or to find a store where items are available.
This ties together shopping, store locators and the store to create a nifty cross-channel experience that enhances the act of shopping. This is precisely what mobile should be delivering.
#5 Loyalty schemes
Many retailers have run loyalty schemes for decades now and they have proved to be a hugely successful way for most brands to keep their customers spending with them. The mobile age has the potential to shift loyalty onto devices and incorporate it into a range of processes already up and running, both online and in-store. Loyalty schemes built into apps at a fundamental level can encourage sales, but it is the process of integrating loyalty that many European retailers are now wrestling with.
The leaders of the pack are using simple card-scanning functionality to add the physical loyalty card to the app, while others are looking to tie it in with wallet functionality. Either way, integrating loyalty schemes into apps, using loyalty to target marketing via email at the mobile and then allowing those apps to talk to the POS in-store is one of the most effective ways of building a cross-channel strategy.
#6 Mobiles as scanners
Mobile phones come with such a wealth of tools that they are the veritable Swiss Army knives of the gadget world. Cameras, screens, accelerometers, microphones and connectivity – the list goes on and on. Making use of these tools is yet another way that mobile can be used to enhance all of a retailer’s online and offline properties.
One simple way to do this is to use the smartphone’s camera as a scanner to read bar codes or QR codes. These can do everything from adding loyalty or payment cards to an app, to helping price and stock check when in store, through to learning more about products.
For many grocery retailers, the scanner has already been used to let shoppers scan the items they want to click and collect, or have delivered as they run out of things in their homes.
The use of scanner technology shouldn’t be underestimated. All shoppers understand the concept, it empowers them and it can form an interesting extra facet to your app or m-website, acting as a link between the physical and digital world.
#7 Transferable baskets
The key thing in any cross-channel strategy is to allow any shopping basket to be seamlessly transferred between those channels. There is nothing more frustrating than browsing on your mobile during the commute home, only to find that when you fire up the same website on your laptop or tablet, your basket is once again empty. Of the 30% of retailers that offer transactional apps, very few look into solving this transferable basket problem. Those that do, however, do so really well.
The stand-out among them is BonPrix, which is part of the Otto Group. Not only can shoppers transfer their basket between BonPrix’s[IRDX RBPR] site and app once they are logged in, but they can also transfer their baskets between Otto Group apps and websites too. So you can grab a few high-fashion items on BonPrix’s site, then move to its other sites and carry on shopping before checking out in one go.
While many retailers are starting to let shoppers transfer baskets between app, web and device – so long as they are logged in – Otto Group is in a whole different league and sets the bar high.
#8 Context and personalisation
Mobile and cross-channel retailing gives retailers a chance to engage shoppers in a variety of new ways, not least based on where they are, what they’re doing, what the weather’s like and what they like.
This combined context and personalisation can be useful for attempting to create one-to-one relationships with customers, an approach that is increasingly being dubbed ‘hyper-personalisation’.
To date, many retailers have segmented customer data to form groups of shoppers that can be targeted in certain ways. Understanding the data that the average mobile user throws off in terms of context, location and habits can make these segments ever smaller and more detailed – in theory, down to the segment of one – which allows for better targeting of marketing and for shoppers to receive relevant offers and information rather than being blasted by broad mail-outs.
#9 Language that works for the user, not the location
With many of the retailers in the EU actually operating not only across channels but also across borders, language needs to be considered. Here the adage “think global, act local” resonates. Retailers need to design sites and apps so that they work well across channels, but they also need to look at how the optimisation process based on IP address or location can serve up the right language for the user.
Now this is specifically about the user and even Google gets this wrong. When a shopper is at home in, say, Germany, then a retailer app or m-website is served up in German. But when that same shopper takes that same device to Belgium or France, he or she doesn’t necessarily want the retailer app – or any app for that matter – to suddenly switch over to Flemish or French.
It’s a simple but fundamental point that many brands fail to address and Google is a prime example. Take your laptop abroad and you’ll get the local Google results in the local language. That’s a fail.
#10 Talk to customers
Don’t forget that a mobile is a communications device too – mobile phones were phones long before they got smart – so retailers should try to create two-way conversations.
Mobile is great as a personalised, contextualised marketing channel for retailers to push messages at shoppers, but retailers that open themselves up to letting customers contact them back can build much more lasting relationships.
Social media – now a mobile-only experience – offers a way to do this, while the rise of chatbots to automate conversations, such as with Facebook Messenger, offers a whole new way to offer personalised communications at scale.
#11 Payments matter
Payment is a similarly localised issue to language. When looking to create web and mobile properties that take payments, local currency is a clear consideration – but so too is local payments customs. German shoppers, for example, tend to prefer paying on delivery when they buy goods online, and they rarely use credit cards. The UK, conversely, sees its ecommerce market driven largely by debit cards.
Understanding how these different preferences play out with payments is as critical as knowing the language that the shopper speaks. Serving up the correct payment mechanism for the individual shopper based on nationality, not location, is once again crucial.
One thing to also note is that how people pay for goods is in a state of flux. While German shoppers do like to pay on delivery, they are also increasingly taking an interest in PayPal so within that country, the payments landscape is currently changing.This move to what is in effect a bank transfer rather than a card-based means of paying is going to impact how online and real world retailers take payments.
So too is the rise of mobile payment tools such as Apple Pay[IRDX RAPL] and Android Pay. While these aren’t bank transfer apps – they essentially mimic a contactless card – with most shoppers having either an Apple or Android phone, it is perhaps reasonable to assume that almost everyone could be paying using one or the other in stores across Europe in the not too distant future.
The fact that both Apple Pay and Android Pay can also now be used to pay online and authorise third party payments means that the way retailers take the money from shoppers is going to shift.
#12 AR, VR and beyond…
Mobile offers the chance to bring science fiction-like services to bear on retail. Using augmented reality (AR) allows retailers to overlay computer generated objects via the phone onto the real world while virtual reality (VR) lets them bring the flat 2D digital world to life in 3D for shoppers. Both these processes can be developed to fit in with the personalised, contextualised and communicative way of doing business.
AR, for instance, can be used to let shoppers find out more about goods in shops, such as their provenance, stock level or reviews, simple by holding a device over the goods. AR can also be used for fun promos, as Asda [IRDX RASD] has done in the UK at Halloween in recent years.
VR, meanwhile, allows users to immerse themselves into a virtual world and experience the goods in context, or simply experience a marketing campaign in a wholly new and interesting way.
These technologies are a reality today and are pretty easy to implement thanks to mobile. Why not try them out?