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GUEST OPINION Snack time for consumers: weaving mcommerce into the multichannel approach

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Eric Abensur, CEO at Venda, takes a tactical look at how retailers can weave m-commerce into their multichannel strategy, the challenges they may face and offers some advice on overcoming them

Mobile commerce was virtually unheard of 18 months ago, but analysis carried out by Venda in June 2010 showed that up to six per cent of website views came from a mobile device. In the last quarter of 2010 this rose 150 per cent, and since January 2011, almost another 50 per cent again on November and December trading figures.

Clearly, the growing influence of the mobile channel can no longer be ignored. It’s important to connect with and sell to your audience anywhere, anytime 24/7/365. However, many retailers struggle to evolve in line with the burgeoning market, and fall far short of successfully incorporating this new element into their multi-channel strategy. This means they run the risk of not being able to meet customer expectations and ultimately lagging behind fierce competition.

Importantly, visits from mobile devices convert to significant revenue figures, with customers choosing not just to browse, but to place orders on their devices as well. As the need for a common multichannel and cross-channel infrastructure becomes increasingly apparent, it’s important that a retailer enables a customer to complete a transaction in the way they want – increasingly mobile is used as part of a chain of steps in this process, especially with complex and costly purchases. Venda believes any organisation should have the ability to satisfy their customer’s need, whichever channel they use across the engagement path.

As the m-commmerce gold-rush booms, so does the proportional share of credit and debit cards used in transaction processes. Alongside this we have seen online fraud incidents skyrocket in line with consumer preference for mobile transactions. According to Cybersource’s seventh annual UK Online Fraud report, retailers predict more fraudulent transactions in 2011, having already seen an increase from 1.6 per cent in 2009 to 1.9 per cent in 2010. Criminals have enormously benefited from this trend, profiting not only from a lack of consumer awareness and knowledge of the dangers they potentially face, but also inadequate mobile security infrastructure.

The key to customer satisfaction is trust and security. The first priority for a retailer weaving m-commerce into its multichannel strategy is to deploy a secure infrastructure, which follows the Payment Card Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) to Tier 1 level. Venda attained this status four years ago and has maintained it ever since. Actively promoting this framework is crucial in building consumer confidence that the information they submit is stored in a safe and secure way. Knowledge that the entire transaction is secure allows for a much smoother checkout experience, whichever channel the customer chooses to complete their purchase, as well as the likelihood of repeat purchases and customer loyalty.

As m-commerce adoption grows, there is an increasing demand on retailers to deliver a mobile experience optimised towards mobile screen sizes, operating systems and behaviours as standard. It’s vitally important that retailers recognise that m-commerce is not the same as ecommerce. Simply re-facing an existing web-store to fit onto a smaller screen connected to a slower network will not address the challenges m-commerce presents.

Multichannel operators recognise that in order to build loyalty to a brand, products need to be accessible in a manner most convenient to the consumer. Although mobile applications are fundamentally enhancing the ways in which consumers interact and shop, many online retailers make one fatal flaw: failing to ensure their website is ready for mobile consumption.

There are key differences to how a shopper behaves on a website and on a mobile device. Websites tend to see ‘dining’ like behaviour – shoppers take their time browsing, make informed decisions and view multiple options. In contrast, mobile retail should be seen as ‘snacking’ – visitors make snap decisions in line with the ‘on-the-go’ ethos of being mobile. Whether this is through the development of applications or optimising the website especially for web traffic, a store must look to deliver the right experience for mobile formats and customer behaviour.

Furthermore, multichannel brands should seek to deliver a convergent multichannel mobile experience that unifies shopping experiences between bricks-and-mortar, online, print, mobile and next generation devices. This allows them to better connect with their audience and customers, delivering a unique and personalised ‘Rich Mobile Web’ shopping experience. Using such platforms, retailers can also run geo- and time-specific marketing and ecommerce programmes with location targeting capabilities.

Retailers should also focus on enabling fully transactional mobile options, such as search, shop, buy, pay and service with an expanding universe of ‘must have’ capabilities. These include in-store check-ins, which can then be shared with friends via social networking sites. This helps a brand gain perfect social exposure when a shopper shares their purchase and receives feedback from their network of family and friends. Similar features include, product reviews, order status and stock availability. Such functions build customer loyalty through easy-to-use online sites and the opportunity to browse products in an informed and convenient manner.

Keeping up with mobile advancements is a major challenge to retailers. Continual innovation in the mobile manufacturing sector sets the pace for development in the mobile commerce market, and brands need to understand this model and be able to exploit the resulting shifts.

BlackBerry holds a large share of the mobile market, but has restricted m-commerce growth due to its inability to effectively deliver a compelling customer engagement path. Retailers continue to focus their efforts on Apple and Android operating systems (OS). According to our own research, Apple currently represents just over 80 per cent of the OS market. However, with the introduction of new touch-screen operating systems such as that supporting RIM’s BlackBerry, the playing field is being quickly levelled.

Retailers that employ a sustainable cloud-based commerce platform, one able to keep on top of this required quick pace of development stand in good stead to satisfy the trend setting savvy shopper. Cloud structures allow rapid and predictable deployment and upgrades, without the expenditure of significant time, money, and internal IT resources that come with customising internal solutions,

According to a recent Forrester report, tablet commerce – also known as ‘t-commerce’ – is set to be a major driver of traffic from mobile devices in 2011, and with a new tablet device from HP/Palm, the iPad may not continue to be as dominant. Tablet traffic is set to take a formidable share of traffic currently captured by traditional PCs. According to the report, many retailers report that half of what they consider mobile traffic already comes from tablet devices, so retailers must also consider this factor when assessing their multi-channel approach.

As the consumer comes to treat mobile commerce as a standard shop window, retailers need to focus on how to incorporate its power and opportunity into their multi-channel strategy. Mobile should be seen both as a support to the other channels – store, catalogue and web – and as an active sales channel in its own right. In 2011 retailers should be incorporating m-commerce into a multi-channel approach, maximising the potential of both the online and mobile channels to better service customers and increase profits.

The old saying that the customer is always right couldn’t be more apt – retailers failing to embrace their consumers changing attitudes and behaviour, and who don’t successfully navigate the challenges it can present, will fall beneath a new breed of store and a competitor who does.

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