Mobile Strategy: Six Steps for Getting Started with mCommerce
Mobile and mcommerce have fast become buzzwords in retail and the pressure is on retailers to catch up with consumers. Myles Chippendale, Lead Technical Analyst at Open Plus, details six steps for retailers to consider before investing
Posted by Myles Chippendale, 23rd November 2011
We needn't rehearse the extensive evidence supporting the growing importance of mobile commerce in the UK retail industry. But there remains a clear discrepancy between what customers want and what retailers offer. As things stand, a mere 20% of retailers now have mobile strategies. However, figures released by Ofcom over the summer reveal that 27% of UK adults and a staggering 47% of teens now own a smart mobile device.
Make no mistake: a growing number of your customers are equipping themselves for mobile commerce. But before you get bogged down developing apps and strategies, here are six tips for preparing your business for the mobile revolution.
1. Start with a mobile-optimised website
For household names like Debenhams, M&S, Argos, John Lewis and Asos, the mobile site has become de rigueur. Many small to mediums lag behind here. But the fact is that what is normal for large retailers is quickly becoming normal for their customers (your customers). So keep up! There are several approaches you can take to developing a mobile site, like automatic generation of mobile pages under the same URL, having dedicated mobile pages or having sub-domain for mobile devices.
2. Pure-play eCommerce? Stop right there!
As we'll go on to discuss, the main advantages of native applications ('apps') come into play for in-store sales optimisation and efficient use of personnel. If you only sell online, the chances are a mobile site is all you need.
3. Measure and assess your mobile site!
Before you go anywhere near developing an app, record and assess the performance of your mobile site. It's important at this stage that you understand customers' behaviour on your own site without becoming fixated on competitors. Access good mobile analytics. You have to dig a little here. Standard 'desktop-centric' analytics will not offer sufficient detail and accuracy to drill down into and understand mobile visits.
4. Your native application strategy
If you run bricks and mortar stores, your business's app should necessarily be developed in response to your own data, optimised for your business, ultimately allowing smartphones to function as rich application loyalty cards. Key things to consider are incentivising in-store customer visits and sales with a 'check in' facility and loyalty-related offers and fire sale alerts, product rating at samples tables, QR codes with product information, and a dedicated sales channel to free up floor staff. Thinking about a 'mobile wallet' function should also be on the agenda, but listen to your customers first. A hugely important corollary of these functions is the collection of valuable customer data.
5. Go local
SEO is changing dramatically with the mcommerce revolution. If you want to attract footfall from mobile, you've got to think local. That means simple and efficient information with proximity as a major factor. An increasing proportion of retailers' marketing budgets are now being spent on local and mobile search strategy. Use your mobile site to optimise locally-focused SEO around your stores, paying particular attention to services like Google Places.
6. Strategy and the NFC future
Watch this space. Soon all smartphones will be equipped, like an oyster card, with a chip allowing mobile NFC (Near Field Communication) in-store payments. This kind of technology is currently limited in the UK to a service offered by Orange, Barclaycard and Samsung, but be under no illusion, this space is poised for rapid expansion.
Even a cursory glance at mcommerce in places like Hong Kong, Japan and Korea reveals a dramatic proliferation of NFC. This is still an opaque issue in the UK retail industry. It is still far from clear which technology in the contactless payment space will emerge as the UK leader. The best approach for now is to continue to closely research your own customers' habits, projecting how they're likely to behave in the future and watching the market carefully. It is likely, however, that investment will be required one way or another.
Remember that while mcommerce is quickly changing the face of retail, there's no need to panic! Develop your mcommerce strategy in stages, staying informed. Listen to your customers. Avoid taking drastic and potentially unnecessary steps in response to the competition. Fundamentally, mobile commerce is an opportunity, not an emergency! Finding the strategy that's right for your business and your customers should be your top priority.
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