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IRX 2014 Retailers facing ‘mobility between devices’ challenges, conference reveals

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Retailers have got used to their customers going mobile but their mobility between devices is proving a new challenge that retailers need to overcome, according to those that presented within the Mobile and Mobility conference track at last week’s Internet Retailing Expo, reports Liz Morrell.

Brandalley CEO Rob Feldmann was just one of the retailers to voice frustration at the inability of tracking users between devices. He said behaviour patterns showed that his customers shopped from 7 to 9am on their mobiles, on their desktops during the day and via tablet in the evenings.

“We are looking at how you track the customer through all their journeys so that the site knows that in the morning you were looking at a dress on your mobile and can show you that when you go on your tablet in the evening. If you can get to that point retailers will increase conversion dramatically,” he said.

Claire’s Accessories design and development manager Matthew Lowe agreed. “I’ve not seen any real technology that allows us to do that and at the moment we get lots of people printing off baskets and wishlists and taking them into store,” he said.

Increasing the ability to convert is vital. Feldmann said his figures showed buying wasn’t as prevalent on mobile as some assume, saying that 47% of customers use mobile to browse and 27% to make a purchase. The desktop remained the most important device he said but he urged retailers to put the same effort into all channels. “You need to have as many customer touchpoints as possible,” he said.

And the simplicity of those touchpoints is important he said. “You have to accept that the customer will have a very different journey on different devices, for instance users on tablets spend three times as long on the site than on mobiles,” he said.

Ashley Payne, ex head of digital operations for Debenhams, says that it’s trend that will only increase. “We will see people migrating between devices even more than they do now,” he said.

Forward thinking retailers are looking at all points where technology can help and an obvious possibility is the use of beacons instore. Mark Cody, senior marketing manager for mobile at Tesco said it was something Tesco was considering but that customer trust was vital. “The big opportunity is there for retailers but it’s really easy [for the customer] to turn it off so you have to get it right,” he said.

John Gillan, industry retail lead for Google, however sees mobile playing a more central role than ever in the future. “Businesses will need to move from mobile first to a mobile only approach,” he said.

For retailers still grappling with the challenges of dealing with the different requirements across devices there would be further refinement needed, he said. “We will start to see mobile sites that are tailored by usage or context, such as time of day,” said Gillan.

At Claire’s Lowe said that context greatly affected usage. “We see kids browsing on mobile, Snapchatting that they like the product etc and then parents buying on tablets,” he said.

In the ever advancing world of mobile retailers can’t stand still. “In the short term we tend to overestimate the impact technology will have on businesses but in the longer term we under estimate it,” he said. The packed channel halls at Internet Retailing Expo last week showed that many other retailers agree.

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