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GUEST OPINION Mobile retailing gets personal

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Just when online marketers were getting a handle on website personalisation and conversion rate optimisation for their websites, the extreme growth of mobile commerce has thrown a new challenge into the mix. Mark Simpson, Founder and President of Maxymiser explains

Simply creating a cut down version of the website for the mobile platform is not enough. To maximise brand loyalty and improve the timeliness and relevance of customer offers, organisations need to take into account both the limitations of the mobile platform – not least screen size – and the very different ways consumers will use the mobile to interact with the brand.

Mark Simpson, Founder and President, Maxymiser, outlines the challenges and opportunities facing organisations looking to exploit growing consumer commitment to mobile commerce and emphasises the importance of creating a consistent customer experience across every channel.

By 2015, it is estimated that shoppers around the world will spend about $119 billion on goods and services bought via their mobile phones, according to a study by ABI research. It is therefore incredibly important to ensure the level of sophistication, segmentation and personalisation that is now being achieved online, is mirrored in the mobile site.

Organisations are discovering the value of true personalisation online, leveraging real time insight into each customer’s known interests and needs to optimise content and offers and drive greater long term brand engagement and loyalty.However, creating the right mobile offer, with the same highly effective personalisation, requires more than simply translating the existing web site to support mobile devices.

Modelling is key to ensure organisations are really targeting customers with the right content at the right time and predicting what the customers will want to do next with the brand. However, with a smaller area of real estate – the screen size – than traditional web sites, companies need to be far more precise and accurate with mobile personalisation. With traditional web sites, organisations can put up a great deal of information across different areas on each page – 90% of which can be irrelevant to the consumer, as long as the 10% that is relevant is in a prominent position and works effectively.

This luxury is not available on the mobile. With limited screen size, organisations have got to ensure the right content is put in front of the consumer in the right format, the first time – without being able to exploit other test areas on the page. There is zero room for guesswork.

There are also other considerations: page load times are generally slower on mobiles than on the web, so think about the timing of content and number of steps you put a visitor through. Companies also need to understand how the consumer is interacting with the brand – and whether that will vary from mobile phones to tablets. For example, is it worth considering the development of a parallel site that takes into account the different functionality and features of the tablet over the mobile phone – from larger screen size to keyboard usage? The decision will depend on the brand and the sophistication of the mobile offer, but it is an issue that requires consideration and planning.

Certainly, companies need to consider how and why the consumer will be using the mobile to interact with the brand – and how that may differ from the online interaction. For example, a consumer is unlikely to want to complete a loan application on the mobile, but will use the device to check account balances or find the location of the nearest branch.

In addition there are opportunities to add innovative services, such as location based services, which can enhance the customer’s experience. But use these functions wisely. Augmented reality using the mobile’s camera can be compelling – but how relevant is it going to be to the consumer audience?

Critically, the mobile must be approached as one of many channels to market: consumers now expect a consistent brand experience, look and offer irrespective of channel. Any personalisation on the mobile site must be mirrored on other platforms, including any tablet specific site and the web site– and vice versa. So for example, a customer checking their flight details should receive the same offer of an upgrade, discounted hotel or car hire, whether via web site or mobile site.

Indeed, adding the customer’s mobile interaction adds further insight into behaviour which can be used to improve the modelling techniques which determine the next best offer, content or action. In essence, the mobile provides another channel that should be used by brands to enhance the customer experience.

With the mobile channel taking an ever increasing proportion of online revenue, it is essential for organisations to come to terms with the challenges and opportunities associated with mobile personalisation. The speed of development is far outpacing that of the online channel, putting greater pressure on marketers to meet the needs of an ever more demanding and sophisticated consumer audience.

Organisations cannot simply take the existing web site and offer that to the mobile marketplace; not only must the site reflect the advantages and limitations of the mobile platform but also take into consideration the very different ways consumers will interact with the brand via a mobile phone.

Marketers must leverage iterative testing to ensure mobile sites are being developed correctly, utilising segmentation and personalisation techniques to maximise the usage of the mobile platform for consumers. If this is done correctly, then e-commerce businesses will be well placed to ensure a consistent customer experience across both web and mobile sites, reinforcing brand loyalty and engagement.

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