How mobile platforms have changed the name of the eCommerce game

Industry Insight

When merchants think of channels, the first thing that comes to mind are the separate avenues through which customers can shop. In-store, online, direct mail catalogs, television – these are all distinct channels that have very little overlap with each other. For instance, if a customer is shopping in a store, they aren’t likely to use a direct mail catalog to complete the order.

However, mobile devices bring a new dynamic to eCommerce operations. Mobile is not a traditional channel, as it can be used as a companion for any other shopping avenue or even as a standalone way to purchase goods. Blair Reeves, product marketing manager at IBM, was quick to note the value that mobile devices can bring to multichannel eCommerce initiatives during a recent webinar.

As many as 53 percent of Americans own web-connected smartphones as of 2012, according to data from Forrester research. This means that retailers have a permanent window of engagement that could be used at any moment by customers to shop for goods and connect with retail brands. Merchants need to understand the wide breadth of opportunities that these mobile devices provide to them.

“Mobile has changed the way customers shop and make brand decisions inside the store and out,” Jennifer Wise, interactive marketing analyst for Forrester Research, told Multichannel Merchant.

The three key principles of mobile retail experiences

Merchants must embrace mobile and utilize all of the channel’s different strengths and perks. Failing to take full advantage of the mobile shopping channel may put retailers in a weaker spot than their competitors and could even negatively impact the overall customer experience. Wise noted three key principles that mobile eCommerce operations should revolve around.

First and foremost is the importance of immediacy. Whether consumers are looking to purchase through their phones or just do some research, retailers need to ensure all the information that shoppers need is at their fingertips. Even small things, such as noting whether a specific product is in stock online or in-store, can play a crucial role in purchase decisions. Merchants should ensure they are using eCommerce software that provides customers this data in real-time.

The second principle is simplicity. One of the biggest draws of smartphones is that they are convenient – people are almost always equipped with their smartphones, and can use them to quickly make purchase, check store hours, compare prices, etc. Retailers must ensure their mobile initiatives make the shopping experience more convenient for customers, and if they don’t, people may not engage these merchants through mobile devices.

Finally, it’s pivotal that brands are able to give mobile shoppers the appropriate context for their shopping experience. When customers are using their mobile phones to shop or make purchase decisions, retailers must be relevant to them. Don’t give general hours of operations if the store down the street closes early. If they are right next to a distribution center, give them a more accurate time frame for delivery. Everything from time of the day, inventory data and contact information should be contextualized for the shopper.

Many retail merchants are still in the process of fine-tuning their online shopping experience. With mobile devices added to the mix, they need to make the appropriate changes to include these devices as well.