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GUEST OPINION Taking the power of mobile commerce into your hands

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It’s no secret that technology is changing the way people shop. Today’s retail customers typically touch multiple channels before making a purchase – researching products, comparing prices and checking inventory online or via mobile and buying online, via mobile or in-store. John Pincott, European MD, Shopatron tells you how to do it

The smartest retailers are transforming the shopping experience to meet shifting consumer behaviour, providing real-time inventory visibility and rich, reliable content over responsive websites, enabling consumers to research and buy products easily over the channels they prefer.

Empowering consumers to shop via any connected device is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s essential. To understand why, let’s take a look at the stats. According to Forrester:

• 56 percent of shoppers have researched products on their mobile devices from home

• 38 percent have checked inventory availability from a mobile device en route to a store

• 34 percent have researched products via mobile in store

• 69 percent expect sales associates to be equipped with mobile devices

Furthermore, mobile traffic now accounts for 42.87 percent of total Internet traffic up 9.14 percent from last year. According to the latest Cisco Visual Networking Index there will be an extra 1 billion mobile users globally forecasted by 2019. From a UK perspective alone there will be 59.1 million (91 percent of the country’s population) mobile users by 2019, up from 56.4 million in 2014.

In order to compete and win in the new retail landscape, retailers must offer a seamless omnichannel shopping experience that integrates mobile technology into the in-store journey following the six steps below.

Dial M for Mobile

It’s clear mCommerce is no longer an emerging trend, it’s a vital channel. According to a recent GE Capital Retail study, 15 percent of consumers conduct research on a mobile device at home, while 19 percent think it’s very important that retailers have mobile friendly websites. As such, the first order of business is to create a responsive website. Even if you have poured untold resources into launching an app, consumers browsing the Internet over mobile devices may not wish to look for, or download, your fabulous app.

It’s important to not ignore the platforms your market like to use and design a presence around these. The Chrome browser now accounts for 32.51 percent of total traffic, up 7.98 percent in the past 12 months regardless of device. While Internet Explorer use in total has been dropping, amongst mobile users specifically, Internet Explorer browser has overtaken 1.36% total market share in the past 12 months.

In the build-up to the accompanying app launch it’s a similar story, and in particular the growing importance of Android cannot be ignored. According to the latest Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, Android holds a 73.3 percent share of the European market and 17 percent of customers who purchased a Galaxy S5 were switching from iOS devices. For the best return-on-investment, developers for retail outlets need to focus their attention on designing the applications for the platforms their consumers use.

Total commerce

With today’s consumers not focused on individual channels, commerce has evolved become a multi-touch experience. Consumers simply expect you to offer frictionless omnichannel shopping. This requires you to deliver a consistent brand experience across all channels, enabling your customers to save their shopping carts and product preferences as they shift from mobile to computer to in-store.

Most importantly, consistency breeds consumer trust which in turn helps to influence and guide buying decisions.

The educated consumer

Never before have shoppers had so much access to information. If you want to keep them coming back, you need to be a go-to destination for accessing the most comprehensive and reliable content available. Make sure your mobile-friendly website and sales associates are equipped to provide extensive, trusted guidance, including product reviews and ratings.

According to a recent survey by mobile advertising company, InMobi, 60 percent of respondents use their mobile phones as their primary or even exclusive means of going online. Taking into consideration that 83 percent also plan to make a purchase over their mobile devices in the next twelve months, acting as the trusted advisor and, as a result, being the go-to source is crucial to maximising sales.

The new sales associate

Mobile is not only impacting eCommerce, but it’s also changing the in-store experience and evolving the function of the sales assistant. While we alluded to this above, customers have heightened expectations around the value and services they expect sales associates to provide. Your associates should have mobile and tablet devices that instantly connect customers on the shop floor with product intelligence, special deals and promotions, inventory visibility and support capabilities, including the ability to process in-store returns.

Mobile- and tablet-based point-of-sale systems also permit the sales associate to deliver a more personal and engaging shopping experience, while sparing the customer the hassle of the checkout line. Providing sales associates with mobile devices for accepting payment creates a more frictionless purchase path, while empowering associates to establish a more personal and engaging in-store experience. Apple was among the first to let customers pay in the aisle, eliminating the need for long queues and paper receipts.

Interactive is the new active

Integrating in-store interactive kiosks and displays enables shoppers to control their in-store shopping journey. These interactive retail storefront and pop-up-shops provide 24×7 mobile shopping by enabling consumers to purchase products offline without a sales associate by using their favourite devices. You can help your customers help themselves by offering up-to-the-minute information on the location of available products along with in-store promotions to keep them coming back. Beacons are drawing widespread attention to this area. Hidden easily within a store’s fixtures, these enable push notifications to be sent to in-store shoppers with promotions and product information.

Embrace show-rooming

According to Google, 84 percent of smartphone shoppers use their phones to ‘show-room’ products while they’re shopping in-store. While many retailers shudder at the thought of in-store comparative shopping, savvy retailers, like Best Buy, view this trend as an opportunity. When sales associates see a customer searching on a mobile device, they offer to search with them, matching the best price on the spot. Building this level of trust and engagement will not only save the sale, but boost customer loyalty and retail foot traffic.

While media attention runs hot for a lot of this technology, to maximise its potential it’s crucial to remember the basics. In order to optimise both in-store, online and mobile sales merchants need to ensure their front-end websites and apps are fully integrated with backend functionality. No matter what is deployed, without incorporating responsive design to enable instant access to inventory, customer data and product information anytime, anywhere, retailers will fall foul of time-short frustrated consumers and abandoned shopping carts. However, those which are nimble enough will reap unprecedented rewards by delivering best-in-class experiences to the modern and agile omnichannel consumer.

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