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GUEST OPINION Going beyond mobile – finding the balance between commerce and engagement

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Closing a sale with a handshake used to be the norm. That kind of face-to-face interaction illustrates the two crucial elements of a sales relationship – commerce and engagement. When you know your customers, it’s easier to meet their needs and anticipate what they’ll need in the future, says Kevin Kimber, Head of Cloud UKI at SAP

Today, that relationship is more complex. Sales are more likely to be closed with a mobile device in hand. According to the latest figures from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retails Sales Index, 45% of UK online sales were made via a mobile device in the third quarter of 2015, a 42% growth on the previous year. Mobility has evolved from being one piece of the omni-channel puzzle to the centerpiece of customer engagement.

This trend hasn’t escaped large retailers who now understand and have already developed their own mobile-optimised websites (though many SMEs are still playing catchup). But technology has moved on, and many businesses are missing out on huge opportunities to go beyond ‘making the sale’. The next priorities need to be about increasing order value, driving customer loyalty, managing revenue, and processing orders.

To achieve this, a complete mobile omni-commerce solution should rely on three equally important principals. These include having an interactive and user friendly mobile website which enables sales, access to the infrastructure to feed the system and the ability to view the intangible, unstructured data that really helps you understand your customers and their needs.

Building a better mobile website

Slick, seamless, minimalist – having an attractive digital storefront can be a great advantage for businesses and certainly mobile websites need to make it easy to view merchandise and buy online. However, thinking a glossy online presence makes for a powerful customer experience might be misleading. is a perfect example. Although this e-commerce giant’s website may feature a messy interface with outdated design values, the company’s reliable shipping policy, one-click ordering system, and personalised recommendations based on transaction history and browser behaviour, puts it miles ahead of its competition in key functional areas.

Looking under the bonnet

To provide that kind of service, mobile data should be connected with the data from systems of record and engagement, such as ERP, CRM and SCM to mobile applications. If a mobile strategy doesn’t take this into account from the beginning, the apps development team will build a beautiful user interface that can’t connect to transactional systems.

To be effective, systems of record and engagement should be designed to integrate easily with front end, customer-engagement systems and vice-versa. Which is why it’s so important to know up front where there will be challenges.

Shoe and accessories brand, ALDO is a great example of this. It recently took an e-commerce site that was challenged with inventory inaccuracy, a lack of flexibility and poor performance during times of high website traffic and using SAP’s Hybris solutions, overhauled its existing architecture to enable a shift toward the future of omni-channel shopping.

As a result of the implementation, the ALDO Group was able to simplify back-end operations and offer increased visibility into the sales lifecycle thereby optimising customer experiences and laying the groundwork for further growth and additional functionality. Since the deployment, the ALDO Group has experienced more visitors to its website, a twelve percent growth in conversions and a twenty percent growth in year-over-year sales

Connecting the Invisible Dots

The final piece of the puzzle is to use the data from customers to offer more customised experiences. From the first tweet, call, email or handshake with a prospect, to today’s delivery, installation or customer relations inquiry – every touch point with a prospect or customer tells you something.

The customers surrender this information either consciously or unconsciously. Its clear descriptions make it easy to categorise and store. Other data may be less obvious. It might be unstructured, consisting of comments made by customers on social media, such as Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram. It may include comments made by customers on your own website’s ‘contact us’ form. It could also take the form of calls made to the customer service or help desk.

When this data, both structured and unstructured, is analysed and made accessible across departments, it then becomes a major asset for future business development opportunities, including offering favourable delivery rates, improved techniques for handling shopping cart abandonment, personalisation of the customer experience, distinction from competitors, improvement in supply chain and pricing, and much more.

The good news is we’ve never had the capacity to know more about our customers but it’s what businesses do with that knowledge that will separate the winners from the also-rans. Technology can enable the relationship between engagement and commerce – but it’s up to business leaders to make sure they are taking advantage of every opportunity the technology affords.

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