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GUEST COMMENT: Shoppers are now mobile first, but many retailers still have to catch up

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People are spending more time connected to mobile devices, particularly smartphones. At the same time customers expect their preferred brands to be able to answer every question they may have during their shopping journey and beyond; they want this information available anytime, anywhere and on any device. Unfortunately not all brands are addressing the consumer desire and expectation for mobility and according to a recent study from the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Kantar Media the result is that, “69% of UK adults are frustrated by brand sites that aren’t mobile-ready”.

This kind of frustration can be really harmful for brands. Indeed, at each stage of the customer journey, there is a risk that the brand could lose the customer if they don’t sufficiently engage with them and meet their requirements. On mobiles in particular, when shoppers encounter a flaw or lack of information, they might be tempted to switch to a competitor who is better equipped to engage with them, or may even abandon their intent to purchase all together. Having even one weakness along the customer path could dissuade potential customers from continuing on their purchase journey, harming the marketing strategies which have been implemented along the way, the overall brand and of course return on investment overall.

The typical customer journey is comprised of three main stages where mobile is a key element: discovery and research, engagement and conversion and purchase. Here’s how to improve the mobile customer journey at every step.

Discovery and research

For the first step in the customer journey, mobile targeted display ads can be a good way to start the journey by catching the attention of the customer and to pique their interest enough that they wants to know more about the brand and its products/services. Indeed, 1 out of 4 purchases are initially influenced by display ads. After this stage the customer will most often partake in webrooming, a practice of looking for more information online before going to the retail outlet. A staggering 69% of smartphone users aged 18-36 years have done online research before making an in-store purchase. The key challenge for the brand is then be to be discovered online by the customer, implying that the brand’s SEO strategy, and more specifically their localised strategy, needs to be strong enough to secure high ranking results across search engines. This is particularly important as half of mobile searches have been shown to have a local intent.

According to a 2014 Google/Ipsos study, the four highest-ranking details that customers find useful include:

• The price of the item they are looking for at a nearby store (75%)

• Whether the item they want is in stock at nearby store (74%)

• The location of the closest store with the item in stock (66%)

• Details about local stores (opening hours, phone number, etc.)(63%)

But in today’s digital age, while customers have come to expect this level of information, it is surprisingly still not being made available by a significant number of businesses. As demonstrated by the IAB UK Mobile Retail Audit, released in June 2013, 26% of the top 50 UK retailers don’t even have a mobile-optimised website and only 48% of those that do have a store locator on their mobile site, whereas locating the nearest store is one of the things the customers are looking for the most on their mobile devices.


Following the mobile and online research, the next step for brands is to engage with the customer while they are on the brand mobile site or app. Unfortunately, too often content that will entice and support consumers on the customer journey, such as incentives including promotions, offers and localised information such as product availability are missing in a majority of brands’ store locators. Instead, they have limited information offering only contact details, a map and opening hours; all of which are useful but not enough for many customers.

Engagement continues in-store thanks to technologies like beacons, ultra-sounds or Wi-Fi that enable brands to communicate directly with the customers and to offer any kind of content, promotions or incentives. It is this level of engagement that can convince customers to make their purchase at that specific store, rather than at a competitor location.

Conversion and purchase

Once the customer has been engaged, the final stage before purchase is conversion. Rather than risk the transaction because the customer either forgets or chooses not to go in-store, a retailer still has the power to convert the visit into a purchase by giving the option of ordering online through its mobile site, choosing a click & collect service or an appointment booking service – something which is only offered by 7% of EU retailers according to Capgemini research. This allows people to complete their purchases either while on the move or from the comfort of their own home while the shops are closed. Through our own online appointment booking software, we have found that, out of the 43 million appointments booked on brand websites using this solution, 40% are booked on mobile devices.

There’s clearly still a long way to go to achieve 100% customer satisfaction and as mobile continues to evolve so do the methods brands can use to better engage with consumers. The latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index reveals that satisfaction has continued to fall among UK customers, leaving people more unhappy with their customer experience now than they were in January 2011.

Our advice for brands is to take the following steps to ensure they are providing a seamless and smooth mobile customer experience :

• Map the customer journey out to identify gaps and frictions.

• Identify what gaps to bridge first through customer research. Expect some surprises, as you might experience discrepancies between the customers’ expectations and your perception.

• Address these gaps by implementing solutions and services that meet customer expectations.

• Consistently review and measure the impact of strategies you are implementing to allow you to make improvements when necessary.

Bruno Berthezene is Solocal Group UK country manager.

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