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GROWTH POST-LOCKDOWN Leveraging mobile

Shoppers are cutting back but still seem set to buy this Valentine's Day. Image: Fotolia

While people have been largely immobile, confined to their homes by lockdown, they have becoming increasingly mobile in their shopping habits: picking up their phones to shop more than at any time.

Driven by a boom in ecommerce – which has seen its largest ever growth spurt in June, growing 33%, according to IMRG/CapGemini – the proportion of shoppers doing so on mobile has gone up commensurately. A study by mobile data company App Annie has logged a 40% rise in mobile app use in Q2.

With the average user spending 4 hours and 20 minutes per day on smartphones, according to App Annie’s data, it’s more important than ever for brands to have a strategy in place to help them win on mobile. So how do you do that?

What are they using them for?

Before looking at how to tap into consumers with apps, understanding what they are doing on their mobiles generally is important, as this will shape how you use apps in a retail sense.

According to a recent Ofcom study, consumers are using mobile to do a growing number of things: getting news and information, playing games, getting entertainment streamed to them, using social media and shopping.

News and information is most popular, but social is up there too, alongside games and streaming.

While this may look like retail is way down the list, it is important to bear in mind that social is now a shopping channel too, as we discussed here, and retailers can use gamification and even news and information as a marketing tool to bring consumers into their apps and to buy.

It is also worth noting that, according to Ofcom, online sites favoured by consumers – including mobile properties – are dominated by a few big brands, with a third of online time being spent on Google or Facebook-owned sites.

However, some of the fastest-growing services during the coronavirus crisis are not owned by Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft (GAFAM). For example, TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company Bytedance, increased its reach among adults in the UK from 5.4 million to 12.9 million between January and April 2020, while Houseparty, owned by Epic Games, increased from 175,000 to 4 million.

Tapping into mobile

So how can you tap into these increasingly mobile shoppers?

  • Mobile-optimisation: First up, go mobile – at the very least make sure that your website is mobile-optimised, which will not only make sure that shoppers trying to find you and buy from you can actually do so, but also it helps rank your site higher up the google rankings.
  • Where is your traffic coming from: To understand what your customers are doing, it is important to look at where your customers are coming from device-wise. If you are seeing, as most retailers are, a growing number of users looking for them from mobile devices, then going mobile rises up the ‘to do’ list. Understanding too how long they linger, if they bounce straightaway and where they seem to get lost will help shape your mobile-optimised site. It will also help you decide if you need to look at an app.
  • App strategy: Do you or don’t you need an app? That is the £10,000 to £100,000 question. Apps are quite an investment: done well they aren’t cheap. However, they do offer a much richer experience, allow you to build a relationship with your customers and help build loyalty – if you get them right. The downside, is that there are already somewhere in the region of 1.8 million iOS apps and around 3 million in the Google Play store. That is a lot of competition. Assessing how much mobile traffic you are getting before you take the leap helps, but if you do market it correctly, then an app can be invaluable. App store optimisation (ASO) will help you get found, but as with SEO you have to keep on top of it.
  • Social and marketplaces: Much of the mobile traffic being generated is, as the Ofcom and App Annie data shows, is coming not from pure mobile sites or applications, but from social media and marketplaces (which are also apps and websites, but it is worth considering them as separate to a business’s own website or app). Social media is increasingly becoming a place where news, views, influencers and marketing are taking place. This taps into the trend for shoppers using mobile to look for news and information and entertainment – so adding a shoppable element to that suddenly makes a lot more mobile sense. Marketplaces too offer a way for users to search for the things they want to buy: which of us hasn’t used Amazon as a shopping search engine?
  • Gamification: The increase in the number of people playing mobile games – already on the up, but driven higher by lockdown boredom – is also an interesting mobile tactic for retailers. Advertising through games is increasingly becoming something mainstream brands are doing to attract users, but adding a game is a new and interesting route. For example, Southampton Football Club is using an arcade style mobile game to celebrate – and drive sales of – the teams new 2020/21 kit. Adding games and real-world overlays using some of the augmented reality (AR) tools now available can also suddenly make your app much more desirable. And AR may sound expensive, it is increasingly becoming commoditised and is part of Apple’s app developer tool kit.
  • Do it all: With this in mind, the best approach is to have both. An app and a mobile-optimised website – not to mention a shoppable social feed and a marketplace presence, both of which will also tap into mobile users. Increasingly mobile shoppers are Googling and they are looking for apps based on app marketing (see below), but they are also using their mobiles, as we have seen, to play games and use social. Tapping into all this is vital.

In conclusion

Mobile is where it’s at, wherever you need at to be – and, while most retailers have some kind of mobile presence, most aren’t fully tapping into the potential of what it offers. Understanding that consumers are using mobile for everything from getting the news, to staying in touch with friends, to being social to watching TV is key to creating a modern m-retailing strategy. Optimised websites and apps are important, but so too is properly using mobile social media to combine news, entertainment, social and even gaming to get people shopping with you.

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