Just when you thought you were catching up with technology by completing your website and setting up a Facebook page, mobile retailing has come along to throw you for a loop. The ability to access the Internet through our mobile phones has opened up a whole new world for retailers. The senior vice president of global ecommerce for Walmart recently said that while the previous era focused on taking the store and bringing it to the Web, the next generation is bringing the Web to the store. And the numbers are there to back up this theory. ABI Research reports that mobile commerce grew 143%—from $1.4 billion in 2009 to $3.4 billion in 2010, while the National Retail Federation projects that by 2015 shoppers around the world will use mobile phones to purchase goods and services worth close to $120 billion.
The good news is mobile retailing is still fairly new and can be a relatively easy way to bring in new customers and reignite interest from existing customers. And since smartphone and tablet technologies show no signs of slowing down, now is the time to jump in and start exploring your options.
Beauty Store Business has compiled some of the most frequently asked questions about mobile retailing and marketing with some easy-to-understand answers to help you get ready for this next retailing era.
Simply speaking, mobile retailing is the act of taking the ecommerce we’re all familiar with from shopping the Internet on a personal computer, and applying it to mobile devices. Of course, there’s a bit more technology that goes into it since we’re dealing with a handheld device. But the main idea is to eliminate the need for a PC and be able to market to your customers any time of day or night since most people always carry their phones with them. Let’s look at some individual components and the different ways in which they are used.
In this age of information overload, mobile marketing reaches consumers where they are—everywhere! Another study by ABI Research predicted that 7 trillion text messages would be sent during 2011; Nielsen Mobile reported that the average consumer sends 600 messages per month. No other advertising medium provides access to the consumer 24/7 with the same instant results. And a 2010 study by Borrell Associates found that mobile coupons are redeemed 10 times more often than their print counterparts, which could translate into a boost in coupon redemption at the cash register. This is just the tip of the iceberg as mobile POS systems make their way into stores along with self-assisted ordering and cashless payments.
To expose your marketing to as many devices as possible, make sure your website is compatible with smartphones and feature phones. While your site may initially show up on a mobile device, does the text look tiny? Do some of the features of your site not function properly? If you have a Flash-enabled site, it may not work at all. A simple search online will reveal several sites that can convert your site to one that’s compatible with mobile devices—often free of charge if you don’t mind their ads showing up on your mobile site.
Like any marketing plan, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Mobile retailing should be one piece of a larger marketing campaign, complementing all of the other elements you already have in place. Piece your marketing puzzle together by making sure to mention your other marketing efforts throughout all elements (i.e., invite customers to sign up for text alerts on your website and direct-mail pieces). And don’t neglect your Facebook or Twitter accounts.According to the 2011 Social Commerce Study, a joint research project by Shop.org, comScore and Social Shopping Labs, 42% of Twitter users use a mobile phone to access the site at least once per day, while the same is true for 34% of Facebook users.
Building your list may take a bit of legwork up front, but once you have a good one, it’s worth its weight in gold. Start by gathering numbers through in-store contests, email campaigns, social marketing and SMS promotions in your print advertising. In 2010, Twitter introduced a text-building service that invites your followers to opt-in to receive your tweets on their phones. If you go this route, consider setting up a Twitter account that only sends out targeted tweets and deals so that those who opt-in don’t feel bombarded by texts.
All of your customers are different and will have separate needs when visiting your store’s site on their phones or tablets, but some of the most common items consumers are seeking, according to a Mojiva Mobile Audience Guide survey, include product information, coupons/sale information, product reviews, store information and the ability to purchase products. According to the 2011 Social Commerce Study, 47% of consumers have also accessed customer reviews in-store while using their mobile device.
With the help of sites such as Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook—and now shopping-themed Shopkick—consumers can enter a store, post to their friends that they’ve arrived, earn loyalty points, win discounts or frequent visitor rewards and more. According to eMarketer, about 33 million people used a location-based service during 2010. While location-based applications used to be a fun way to brag to your friends about all of the places you go, they are quickly becoming a vehicle for driving traffic to your store. Ultimately, users of location-based apps like to get a deal, but many companies are also using them for loyalty reward programs and for rewarding customers when they perform a certain action, such as snapping a photo of themselves with a product in the store and tweeting it to their friends. Some check-in apps can also supply you with demographic information about those who checked in, which can help in your other marketing efforts.
eMarketer estimates that by 2013 35.6 million mobile owners will have redeemed a mobile coupon or code for online or offline shopping. A recent survey conducted by Proper Mobile Insights found that 42.2% of smartphone and tablet users had scanned a barcode from their screen or shown a promo code to a cashier. The days of paper coupons are increasingly fading. You can email digital coupons to your customers or choose to have them sent to their phones automatically when they are near your store (location-based coupons).
Mobile payments are the next step in mobile purchasing. Mobile payments involve using your phone as a tool to pay for a purchase. While this is just starting to take off here in the United States (it's been popular in Japan for a while), someday it will mean leaving your wallet at home and using your phone as a credit card via a simple tap on the screen. What this means for you, in the long term, is the ability to load your coupons into a customer's mobile wallet and then obtain additional consumer data once the coupons are redeemed and products are paid for through the customer's mobile device.
Ready to try mobile retailing? Here’s a sampling of service providers that are available to help.
BLI Messaging, 800.929.1643
iLoop Mobile, 408.907.3360
Mobile SMS Marketing
Must Go Mobile
The National Retail Federation Mobile Retail Initiative recently released its updated version of the Mobile Retailing Blueprint, a 185-page comprehensive guide to helping you navigate mobile retailing. The complete report is available for download at [url=nrf.com/mobile]nrf.com/mobile[/url], and we’ve included a few tips here to get you started.
Many useful shopping tools are available for consumers from both retailers and third parties; these tools enhance the shopping experience and generally influence consumers indirectly. Adding these tools to a retailer’s mobile application adds value to the application, making it more likely that a consumer will rely on the application. Such tools include:
Typical loyalty programs include three major functions. One function allows the participant to sign up for the program; another provides some method of identifying the participant at checkout to award or redeem points; a third, administrative function, allows consumers to manage their accounts, typically using a website. Mobile phones allow all three functions to be combined in such a way that a consumer has constant access to the loyalty program. This convenience benefits both the program participant and the retailer.
The ability to tie a loyalty membership number to a mobile phone not only dramatically increases customer participation in a loyalty program, it also enhances the data that is collected about that customer. The average household belongs to 14.1 loyalty programs but is only active in 6.2. The main reasons for this discrepancy are typically a lengthy sign-up process, not understanding the program, not being able to quickly redeem the rewards or simply not wanting to carry multiple cards or key fobs. The mobile phone can address all of these issues, while allowing the program owner to develop data in addition to information about what the consumer does at the POS.
Wondering what apps are already available to help consumers shop? Check out some of the most popular ones, according to PCWorld.
Liz Barrett is a freelance writer and editor based in Oxford, MS.
[Photo credit: istockphoto.com]