Close this search box.

M-Retailing – Mobile Shopping in the freedom economy

Chris Brassington, CEO of mobile commerce consultancy Starfish 360 has been a frequent contributor on Internet Retailing’s LinkedIn Group and on the portal. Always provocative, we asked him and Customer Insight Director Rufus Evison to reflect on how consumers are driving changes in the mobile environment and the steps retailers should take to fully engage with their customers.

COMPANIES such as Visa and Orange are taking mobile very seriously and applying for emoney licences. In practice that means that mobile may really start this year but will build into next year. Our view is this Christmas in the UK will be the pivotal point where it becomes clear that without a mobile customer engagement strategy a retailer does not have a future strategy.Why – because as we have seen in recent times,multichannel strategies in retail work and mobile is the best medium we have today to engage in a one-to-one conversation with customers and prospects alike.

The market is certainly there.The mobile is omnipresent and is becoming the glue that sticks everything else together. It is the one thing you always have with you.You use it at home and at work for social media.You use it in store for price comparison.You combine the two to get a style confirmed by asking your network “should I buy this?” You report its losswithin the hour whereas your wallet could take a day.One in seven of us have been dumped by phone and firing by phone is on the rise – sadly.There are about 20% more active mobile devices than people in the UK.Our kids take to smartphones like candy – their intuitive user experience means that 3 year olds can navigate them.EBay is a good example of a site that sells to the masses and has integrated mobile well.They sold a yacht via mobile; £250k for one mobile transaction! The fear factor is going, just as it did for the internet and mobile is becoming a serious channel. In our view it will be the key channel within a short space of time and this again is being driven by the consumer.

One of the drivers elsewhere that is only just starting to emerge is Near Field Communications (NFC).NFC is the technology that allows“wave and pay”,enables your mobile to be an Oyster card or a hotel key and makes passing your business card from your mobile wallet to your customer as easy as a real card but with the benefit of assurance that it will be transcribed into contacts.Every UK trial of NFC payment (using your mobile as your credit card) has been a raging success with the participants being unwilling to move away from it at the end of the trial.Once your mobile wallet includes your credit card,oyster card,business card and of course the section for keeping coupons (probably location sensitive) you can almost do away with having a real wallet at all.Life becomes so much simpler and the“freedom economy”predicted several years ago become a reality.

As the wallet is replaced by the mobile wallet so the means of communication changes and the relationship becomes more personalised. Retailers cannot afford to have only the manufacturers talking to the customer while they are in store.Coke rewards are all very well but they do not give you a voice. Historically the customer relationship defaulted to the retailer because they owned the point of purchase. The mobile is removing the default and making us have to work to make ours the relationship that the customer wants to pursue.To make yours the right relationship for customers requires understanding your customers intimately.One enabler is the loyalty card; it’s not about incentivising a customer to shop with you, it is about getting the information to create a relationship with the customer.

Helping Customers

Mobiles have brought freedom and you cannot own the customer anymore.You cannot even truly own the relationship! If used right the mobile means that you can acquire the information to make yourself the right retailer for the customer.To do this correctly, you need to use the mobile to make things more convenient for your customer. Getting out a phone to wave and pay is more convenient than digging through your wallet for cash, so help your customer do this. One wave to swipe your credit card, your coupons and your loyalty card is more convenient than doing everything individually. Arrange this.Waving a phone by a product to call up more information on it is easier than hunting for a knowledgeable salesperson.This is all technologically available, but it is not about technology. It’s about making it easy for your customer to choose you and making the relationship you have with them relevant as well as personalised.

Once you have used mobile to streamline purchasing and browsing it is time to start using it to help join up with your marketing. If someone has been sent a relevant coupon and has not used it remind them – possibly via location-based marketing. If you are providing a service then it is information,not advertising,no matter how much it promotes you.How many times, for example,has London Transport told you that a good service is running on all lines? This is advertising that has changed perceptions since people think of it as an informational message.

The mobile is part of your personal space but once you are invited in to provide information you are no longer an invader. If you are using your mobile loyalty scheme to ensure you are only providing relevant communications then you have crossed the boundary from advertising to information and are a valued friend not a hostile invader.

Having made the leap to join sales,advertising, marketing and information it is time to start using the unique features of mobile to move into social media and encourage footfall and increase your social capital.Whether it is special recognition of frequent visitors (Foursquare), discounts for social groups (VouChaCha student card) or simply offers and coupons via Facebook and Twitter there is a whole world to explore and all of it is hand in hand with mobile usage.What you should use and how you should use it depends entirely on your customers, what they want and what they need.The year of the mobile really is at hand and it is not something to create as a silo.

Many companies killed their attempts to enter the ecommerce market by setting up an internet department and incentivising it on internet metrics.Do not do this with mobile.Make it part of your business with business metrics and business strategies to achieve them.It is an enabling technology so let it enable your business just as it is helping customers to free themselves from outdated bonds of time and place.Understand your customer and talk to them in a joined up way.Talk to them where they want you to talk,when they want to hear it and about the things they want to know about.Become the place your customer wants to shop and help them to shop in the way they want to shop.Use the mobile as the plumbing to route the data and the glue to hold your business together in one consistent whole.

Your customer does not see your delivery department as different from your customer service or your point-of-sale so why should they treat your customer differently? Allow your mobile methods to help create a single view of your customer and to present a single view of you to your customer.Mobile self care is a great way to not only enhance your customer’s experience of you but,a method by which you can create enhanced loyalty as well as drive out servicing costs!

Do all of this as an integral part of your business strategy and then it really will be the year of the mobile for you and you will have a future strategy as well as relevance with the new breed of mobile shoppers whose behaviour has changed irrevocably forever.To resist this wave of change is as futile as King Canute’s cries!

Read More

Register for Newsletter

Group 4 Copy 3Created with Sketch.

Receive 3 newsletters per week

Group 3Created with Sketch.

Gain access to all Top500 research

Group 4Created with Sketch.

Personalise your experience on