As e-commerce becomes ever more competitive, retailers are turning to mobile technology to differentiate from their competitors and keep up with modern advances in the way we shop. Generally, sales are on the upturn; according to The British Retail Consortium, retail sales values rose by 3.8% in the last 3 months compared with last year, and total sales have increased by 6.6% since the start of the recession. Despite these positive stats, we as consumers are still making a move to internet and mobile purchase to try to find the best deal and get the most for our money.
To date, m-commerce has not proven to satisfy consumers’ requirements for fast, efficient and easy transaction, with problems ranging from slow page load times and small screens making viewing difficult, to fiddly or long-winded payment methods. Bad experiences mean irritated and frustrated customers, possibly leading to the loss of custom not only on mobile channels, but online and ‘real-life’ branches of the store too.
The percentage of smartphone users is still fairly low in the overall market, though more accessible pricing tariffs which are becoming increasingly available should change this. And so the world of m-commerce is coming; in fact, it’s been here for a while, we just haven’t noticed…
Quick Response (QR) codes – commonplace in Japan for over 10 years – are becoming more and more utilised to marry mobile and retail. The QR pixelated black and white squares can be scanned whilst in-store to provide mobile users with special offers or links to more information. Vouchers sent by SMS can then be scanned off the handset to cash in discounts at the checkout.
But uses for the codes are not just limited to promotions – Ubimark have printed 2D scannable codes into their copies of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, allowing readers to link easily with interactive maps, historical facts and information via their phone while reading. In the UK, estate agents intend to place QR codes on For Sale/To Let signs so that prospective buyers can download information on a property instantly. In France, codes are already in place on public furniture and parking meters to provide additional information.
A YouGov survey commissioned by Broadbank found that 40% of mobile users buy tickets for concerts/shows/events with their phones, and the most popular use of retail-related mobile internet browsing is to compare prices and product reviews, for example via Microsoft’s Ciao. You can even now apply for an instant (low amount) loan via text. We are increasingly relying on our mobile phones to make purchasing decisions, just as online research and commerce has become a trusted method of doing business. The creation of barcode scanning applications means that we can even wander around a shop checking comparative prices while we shop. Our current technical generation is made of confident and fickle shoppers and we are demanding better service via mobile technology.
Mobile marketing is becoming an integral part of multi-channel commerce; customers can research a product online, snoop out the store IRL (in real life) and make a quick double check via their phone to make sure they’re getting the best price. Multiple channels should satisfy different customer needs (ie: finding information via a website, reserving a product via mobile and picking up in person to avoid shipping costs) and not simply replicate the catalogue or website. A good retailer is always trying to make it as easy as possible for their customers to make a purchase or find out about a product. Suggesting related products according to a customer’s favourites or previous browsing history, and predicting where a customer might want to go next simplifies transactions and makes potentially complicated mobile retail faster and more user-friendly.
The key points here are to provide consistency and flexibility; m-commerce makes it possible for customers to get what they want wherever they are, not relying on proximity to a real life store or their computer or internet connection. They want familiarity with the store/website they already know, and the option to customise their purchasing experience. Providing stock details and reservation ability, SMS reports about your delivery status – these are all ways to give the customer full control (and in turn encouraging them to put their full trust in you).
Promotions and offers can span all channels, though be careful not to alienate some divisions of your customer base by leading them to believe that online customers are getting a better deal, for example. Encourage your clients to utilise all variations of your business presence – even if you don’t have a web-savvy customer, they’re likely to know how to use a mobile phone, or at least understand a special offer via text message. Customer service can be broadened from personal service in store, to a helpline, to email, to interactive support on Twitter or Facebook.
A company held to be a successful example of multi-channel commerce is UK warehouse retailer Argos, who provide reservation options on both their website and their iPhone app, which was downloaded by half a million customers within the first 3 weeks of its launch this spring. You can check stock, reserve products or request the transfer of items between stores, and this ease of use is transferred in-store, where self-service checkouts allow you to avoid queues. If you choose to have your item delivered, you are kept up to date with its progress via text.
And the future? Well, we’ll be covering this in a… future blog post, but it seems to be along the lines of completely excluding button pressing from transactions completely. Following on from contactless card purchasing, mobiles will apparently soon be endowed with NFC (near field technology), to turn them into virtual wallets, requiring a mere wave over an equivalent version of a chip-and-pin machine to pay for a purchase. Not satisfied? Ok, how about finger print transactions? Apparently realistically in the works. Minority Report here we come…
About Ikroh SEO tm
Ikroh has over 35 years of experience in the industry.