Mobile Commerce: Everything in your hands
If the journey towards a fully connected, “omnichannel" purchasing experience were to be compared to driving on the motorway, then consumers are in the fast lane. Most of them are very quick to adopt new ways of interacting on different channels, especially when they are using mobile devices. Always on, always to hand, these devices (especially smartphones) give the impression of becoming an extension of the consumer’s identity, thereby providing businesses with an exceptional opportunity to have a personal, private conversation at any time with their target audience.
These devices are in the process of shaping the way consumers make purchases, when they look for products and offers on line, share photos of products with their friends or simply look for inspiration. And where are the distributors in all of this? Most of them are still in the slow lane. From which they look at consumers using their phones, and wonder: "why don’t they ever call me?" »
Perhaps this picture lacks a little objectivity: it has to be said that some distributors are investing in mobile commerce. However, they are still quite rare, and have a long way to go. According to an SQLI study, while most decision-makers in distribution believe that mobile-based businesses are going to dramatically impact the sector, only about half of them put mobility at the top of their priorities. Furthermore, these decision-makers are even less likely to have a complete, detailed mobile strategy in place.
The number of purchases made on a mobile devices is low compared to those made via desktop computers and in shops, which partly explains the current lack of investment. But mobile commerce is growing and, according to forecasts from eMarketer, should increase by more than 25% this year in the UK. This growth will transform the relationship between customers and brands.
To understand their own attitude to this technology, businesses should ask themselves the following questions:
Do we regard mcommerce as just a way of accessing the Internet from another device?
Mcommerce is going in the same direction as tablets, televisions, watches and other portable connected devices and objects. They all provide information enabling the consumer to connect to the chosen purchasing channel and generate data necessary for businesses to create these digital and physical exchanges. Correctly designed and implemented, mcommerce, far from being limited to the devices themselves, is evolving in the world of Big Data. It should not therefore be considered simply as an additional Internet access channel.
Smartphones, in particular, represent a wealth of opportunities for distributors through technologies such as GPS, geolocation, and "geofencing" (targeted marketing using geolocation) which offer brands the possibility of interacting with consumers in new ways. Given that these techniques are complemented by the accessibility of cameras and social networks, it is hardly surprising that the retail world is facing profound changes in the way consumers make their purchases.
Are we ready to satisfy consumers who require instant answers to their questions?
At work and at home, on their desktop computers, consumers are used to getting the information they want in a few milliseconds and expect ecommerce to be equally as efficient. A response time of half a second can be enough for a consumer to lose interest, resulting in lost income for business who have not invested sufficiently in their profiles and mobile-optimized sites. Mcommerce provides buyers with a convenient, fast, efficient channel that as well as improving the customer experience, also enhances performance.
Do we have structures in place that enable us to optimize our use of customer data?
Every customer can carry out online research if they wish, discuss their favourite brand on social media, buy in store, pay via a mobile device, convert points, connect to the brand’s application to obtain recommendations and tips, or entertain themselves with games related to or created by a brand or a distributor.
Provided a good CRM system is in place, all this data can be collected, analysed and used, and mobile marketing plays a vital role in making optimal use of the results of such analysis. Special offers, promotions and deals can be offered through applications incorporating a loyalty programme, which then reduces advertising spending and uses this valuable customer contact to generate relevant, in-depth interaction.
Investment in new systems also enables the implementation of cross-channel management of customers’ purchasing behaviour. For example, a potential buyer might start by searching online through multiple pages and multiple platforms. If this search results in a basket being abandoned, the purchase may still be able to be finalized, by using location applications to remind this consumer of the article they placed in the online basket, when they are near a physical store where they could purchase the article. It would also be possible to send them a promotional code when they enter the store, or to start a conversation with them, inside the store, based on their browsing and purchasing history.
Are we ready to invest?
Even if mobile purchases currently represent less than 10% of total retail sales, they offer the opportunity to transform the consumers path to making a purchase. It is more a question of the customer relationship than sales. The mobile channel is young, so it will take time, money and courage for businesses to reap all the potential benefits. There is a long journey ahead.
However, given that mcommerce is expected to account for almost a quarter of retail sales by 2020, retailers would do better to ask not whether they should be investing, but rather, "what should we be doing to make sure we are ready?" ».