With its always on capability to answer any question, the mobile phone is changing retailing but timing and location are just as important. Paul Skeldon investigates their importance on the customer experience.
Most people these days turn to their mobile to solve problems at any given moment during their day. “Do I need a coat today?”; “Is my train on time?”; “Who won the football last night?”; “What’s that song playing on the radio?”; “Who is the voice of Lucy Wild in Despicable Me 2?”. These are five things I myself asked of my mobile phone this morning at various moments while getting ready for work and school.
This collection of moments – and the way mobile is often the first port of call when needing information – is something that is not only changing how we live our lives (and how well informed my kids think I am), but it is also having a massive impact on retailers. This same need for instant, spur-of-the-moment answers is increasingly driving how people shop.
Consumers now rely on mobile to enhance the moment that they are in and to satisfy their whims and desires in the right here, right now. Consumers are also using mobile to research and delve into brands and products, searching for solutions to immediate shopping needs, then shopping around for deals. This they are then doing in-store, at home and across devices over a long period of time.
So, how can you tap into these mobile moments? The primary driver of mobile moments is often location. While the consumer is out and about, inspiration often strikes – either because they have seen a billboard, been pinged a marketing message by you or have seen someone wearing or eating or doing something they want to have or do too.
Here location-based services come to the fore and they are being driven by networks in the high street or mall, or in the stores themselves.
Consumers again are way ahead of the retailers here. A study by public WiFi provider Purple Wifi found that 48% of people use public WiFi at least once a week, 18% use Public WiFi at least once a day, and 25% at least once a month. Some 75% of the 2,500 consumers surveyed said that they are more likely to stay in a location longer if it offers WiFi, and 63% are more likely to spend additional money in a venue that offers WiFi.
Beacon technology is making even bigger in roads, with technology companies and some forward thinking retailers really starting to get into the idea. London shopping thoroughfare Regent Street is to become a beacon hotspot, with every store along its mile length — including Apple, Hamleys, Longchamp, Burberry, Banana Republic, Hugo Boss and Anthropologie — expected to install beacons to broadcast offers to shoppers as they walk past the shop front. About 100 stores have already been fitted with the technology.
The street will get its own app that will then receive offers and information from retailers and restaurants along the length of the world famous street. The mobile retail initiative, which is part of an on-going £1 billion Regent Street modernisation programme, will be advertised on double-decker buses and on signs along the shopping area.
“We want Regent Street to continue to evolve as the world’s most successful shopping destination, which means bringing together online, physical and mobile retailing and using the latest technology to create an experience which delivers across all of the platforms that appeal to 21st century shoppers,” said David Shaw, head of The Crown Estate’s Regent Street Portfolio.
Paul Lorraine, UK general manager of Longchamp, which has gone live with the technology, adds: “Success in retail in the 21st century is strongly linked to how you engage your customers in store and online. Regent Street already has a reputation as being the place to be for brands like ours and the new mobile app will bring the digital and physical together, providing an exciting new way for us to speak to our customers.”
Many retailers have grown wise to this and have started to use mobile as a personalised marketing channel to target shoppers, hoping to tap into this idea of getting shoppers ‘in the moment’. However, this has in turn made consumers ever more demanding.
This degree of desire for instant gratification is making consumers more demanding than ever and they will not tolerate shoddy service. It is one of the little expected downsides of personalised mobile marketing that consumers now demand a seamless, personalised service in return.
Research by eConsultancy in 2013 found that 75% of online adults believe there is no reason why a mobile transaction cannot be completed on the first try.
In addition, the research found that customers are intolerant of any faults. If they do encounter problems, 16% admit they would become more likely to buy from a competitor, while 13% would abandon the transaction altogether and try a competitor’s website or app instead.
This surge in customer expectations creates an opportunity for businesses to transform their customer’s perception of their brand, by identifying crucial instants – “mobile moments” – where a customer uses their mobile device to access instant service or information.
The key thing to do is to identify the moments in the customer journey and adapt the technology to fit, suggests Bill Loller, Vice President, Product Management, Mobile at Tealeaf Technology – an IBM company. “You have to make mobile customer experience the priority and deliver what people need, not what they think they want – move from doing things because they are cool to doing things that help customers buy on mobile devices,” he suggests.
This is backed up by eConsultancy’s research, which finds that 60% of companies said their customers typically research products on mobile devices for later purchase online. Almost half (48%) of respondents said their customers purchase products directly using a mobile device, up by 5% since last year.
A similar proportion report that customers research products for later purchase offline, while 17% say their customers use their mobile devices for research in-store. Businesses must understand the context in which their customers use mobile devices, and adapt their sites and apps to reflect these.
The second tier of trying to meet consumers in these moments is to look at how best to deploy your assets across channels. Loller believes that it is best to now build for mobile, not adapt for mobile. At the most basic level a customer wants to search for something and then complete a transaction. If the search function is not easy to find and use, the experience is seriously flawed.
“Work to understand where customers are struggling on your mobile channel; one bad experience with your brand via mobile can cause a customer to abandon the transaction entirely across all channels,” says Loller.
The final piece of the puzzle for retailers is to analyse and refine. Your mobile engagement initiative is not complete if you’re flying blind: you have to capture, track, analyse, and act on the data to improve the engagement.
As a business you should already be analyzing site and app performance, but you need to also look at how easily consumers find your site navigation, zoom functions and even how big the buttons are. With mobile less is usually more – and the fold is no longer an issue.
These are all significant questions to ask when really analysing the mobile customer experience. Ideally, a business must be able to replay the customer experience through the eyes of the customer to get a real feel for any challenges they came across.
Also, you have to keep refining what you do – not just as the technology such as beacons and WiFi changes, but as customer habits change. Mobile has the power to make your business so much more engaging and therefore much more profitable, but it comes at a price, It is an increasingly complex task to get it to work well across all channels for all customers. It may only be a moment to each consumer, but it is many hours of work for your business to make it look easy.