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GUEST COMMENT Embracing the future of retail

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by Mark King

As mobiles continue to get more advanced and more widely available, penetrating even the furthest corners of the earth, retailers and brands are rushing to embrace the infinite opportunities presented by newly empowered mobile shoppers. In light of the obvious facts, it is imperative that brands gain a better understanding of the modern mobile consumer and their consumption behaviour across mobile devices, if they are to survive what is to be the future of retail.

The average UK consumer spends roughly 25 minutes a day accessing the internet on their smartphone, more specifically shopping or searching for information regarding a possible purchase when in store. Smartphones are now replacing the role of the retail assistant, as consumers desire a quick and uninterrupted access point to information. An interesting outlook from Google reveals that mobile usage heavily influences the path to purchase whilst also actually increasing the average shopping cart size; an outcome almost every online retailer dreams of.

Despite this, a large proportion of retailers are still pretty clueless as to how to provide a user-friendly mobile site, specifically tailored to the new generation of consumer, encouraging repeat visits, multiple purchases as well as an improved reputation. It is therefore vital that companies operating online evaluate their content strategies, whilst realising they have to maintain unique brand experiences on mobile channels to ensure filled shopping carts and a completed purchase. Brands can essentially monetise consumer motivations and impulses through a varied and distributed retail model, utilising apps, interactive functions and innovative visual content, only available effective mobile optimisation.

Common problems experienced by consumers include a slow-loading page, navigational issues and a confusing, often long-winded purchase process. To fulfil revenue predictions and growth plans, from a hosting perspective, it is essential that the first step within the mobile optimisation process be to make sure that your provider can cope with mobile traffic whilst providing a seamless online experience, from search to purchase. Consumers want information quickly and immediately, this is particularly relevant when adjusting to seasonal demand; specific measures need to be implemented without directly affecting a consumer’s mobile experience or the quality of content. A quick loading mobile website and a strong infrastructure can also have a detrimental effect to your Google SEO ranking as well as a firm’s reputation, so is definitely a point worth considering in detail. It’s simple… make it easy for consumers to purchase! Peer 1 has direct peering relationships with all of the UK mobile networks, which significantly reduces the page load times and reliability of signal across that method of connection.

Every consumer uses their mobile differently, therefore retailers must increase their digital footprint and embrace the use of smart content, in an effort to adjust and appeal to changing consumer consumption habits, an often unpredictable force behind retail trends. Mobile retailing also has the power to trigger spontaneous purchases, a unique attribute not yet fully realised.

Research conducted by Econsultancy found that mobile sites have proven more popular than apps and consumers are more likely to make purchases via mobile sites. Keeping calls to action and design very simple is the key to an optimised mobile site excluding unnecessary banner adverts or cryptic fonts. The most important thing is to keep the steps from initial search to purchase as simple and as unobtrusive as possible. Consumers generally don’t want to register or ‘make an account’ prior to inputting their payment details. It is an intrusive and unnecessary marketing step. Also, optimised buttons in the right size and colours make it a smooth and simplistic route to purchase.

A good example of a brand taking advantage of this is Debenhams. Their customer adoption across multiple channels tells you that mobile consumption is soaring. Generically online sales were up 40% in the last 16 weeks to 22nd June 2013, with mobile visits compared to the same period last year, up 85%. The key message here is that Debenhams realised the potential of m-commerce and adjusted their online offering accordingly, having made content more engaging, relevant and social, therefore benefiting from the way their consumers are using smartphones and media devices.

Mobile optimisation is also the quickest route to the new generation of consumer, the digital natives, those who feel more comfortable with a smartphone than a pen and paper. This generation are often more than willing to interact with a brand and share their experiences with others within an online social environment. Today’s digital natives have to the power to build or break a reputation globally, within a matter of minutes – it is therefore extremely vital that retailers become attuned to the behaviours of these highly receptive mobile users.

This is now the post-PC era and a successful mobile strategy is one that has vision and growth potential. Digital natives often have over 10 simultaneous searches occurring on their smartphone at any one period making it vital that today’s retailers leverage the capabilities of the desired device – location services, orientation and camera functions are all interactive options, open to even the most basic mobile enabled ecommerce site.

While all these factors are certainly worth considering, payment security is probably the most important factor to consumers and making sure this does not change across devices is not difficult. This means being compliant with PCI DSS standards. This ensures that consumers are protected from fraudulent activity and allows retailers to avoid the irreparable reputational damage and financial costs associated with a breach in data security.

Retailers and brands who are willing to embrace the future on retail and the devices that come along with it are those which will survive the inevitable fall of the high street. Smartphones are central to today’s business and social survival and are set to become even more advanced, evolving with the increasing demand for information. Brands and retailers that embrace the power of mobile optimised content and user-friendly interfaces will lead the ecommerce revolution.

Mark King is EMEA channel executive at PEER1 Hosting

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