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Internet Retailing 2010: Uncovering the true potential of mobile commerce

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Ahead of the Internet Retailing conference 2010 taking place on 12 October at the Novotel Hammersmith, we take a look at what track two’s afternoon of mobile has to offer

The increasing importance of mobile in retailing is reflected by the growing amount of time devoted to the subject at Internet Retailing’s conference on 12 October at the Novotel Hammersmith. 2010 now boasts a whole afternoon in track two devoted to the subject, with keynote presentations from Argos and O2, then a panel debate about the role of mobile in retail featuring these two goliaths of mobile and retail, along with M&S, technology provider MIG and digital agency Sponge.

Between them, this august panel covers off all the bases that any retailer needs to hear from when looking at what sort of mobile strategy to develop and how to make it happen, as well as how to use mobile for more than just transactions, but as the glue that binds the whole multi-channel retail experience together.

At the retail end, M&S and Argos represent the two faces of mobile commerce: apps and mobile optimised web. Argos was one of the UK’s first major retail brands to deliver a highly functional app, and believes that applications are best suited to the company’s “Find it. Get it. Argos it” strategy to use mobile as a way of finding goods and then reserving them for collection in store.

““The iPhone app formed an important strand within the first burst of the new ad campaign to launch ‘Find it. Get it. Argos it’” says David Tarbuck, Multi-Channel Programme and Operations Manager, Argos ahead of his presentation and panel participation at the conference. “It brings to life how fast and simple we make it for customers to find what they are looking for. Our TV ad and iPhone colour press ad reached out to an audience of over 50 million, with the Argos app reinforcing our position with customers as an innovative and accessible retailer.”

M&S have taken the alternative tack of looking at how to mobile-optimise the company’s already extensive online,in store and catalogue offering, opting to deliver a mobile experience that on one level looks like an app, but is really a dynamic, handset specific version of its online site.

“We’ve recognised that our customers are already using mobile to shop with us and so we have integrated mobile into our ‘shop your way’ philosophy that encompasses in store, online, on the phone and now mobile,” says Sienne Veit, M&S’s social and mobile development manager ahead of the panel on 12 October.

“We decided on a mobile web solution as we felt it was the most democratic way of giving our users mobile commerce: it is not tied to any one handset type, instead working with around 6000 web-enabled phones, and delivering a fast, easy to navigate service to each of them.”

The M&S mobile optimised experience was developed in conjunction with MIG (Mobile Interactive Group), which is also taking part in the panel. Offering the technology providers point of view on developing mobile retail offerings, MIG works with retailers to develop both m-web and apps solutions. As such, Tim Dunn, the company’s head of multimedia, will be on hand to address some of the key technical issues retailers of any strip face when looking to mobilise their offerings.

Mark Cody, O2’s Channel Business Manager for Interactive Services, will also be on hand to present first of all his view of how retailers can exploit mobile services fully and what network operators can do to assist them. He will then take his seat on the panel to debate help tackle some of the key issues retailers have with mobile – from payments services, to network robustness to simple costs analysis of what going mobile means.

O2 will also be able to touch upon the role mobile marketing – be it messaging to the handset or Bluetooth marketing or even vouchers and coupons – plays in getting mobile users into stores, on to websites or actually purchasing through their phones.

Digital agency Sponge will also be joining the panel to talk in more depth about this mobile marketing role and where that sits in the process chain of reaching out to potential purchasers and guiding them to buy from you.

“Much has been written about how mobile is a sales channel and that is its primary role in retail, however, the truth, as the panel will reveal, is much more complicated than that,” says Paul Skeldon, editor of M-retailing and chair of the ‘mobile afternoon at the conference. “Mobile is there to enhance and expand the retail process from simple communication with customers, to advertising and marketing to customers, to helping consumers find what they want, to driving footfall, to helping purchases in store, online or through mobile. It is the glue that binds multichannel together and this panel will show that and help retailers see how important mobile is.”

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