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Michael Gilfix in

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With the holiday shopping frenzy upon us, mobile is once again top of mind for online retailers. According to IBM data, mobile sales last Friday reached 21.8 percent of total online sales – an increase of nearly 43 percent compared to Black Friday 2012. The question is – are retailers ready for this flock of early birds as mobile shopping reaches new heights?

To better prepare for and act on real-time trends, many retailers are going above and beyond to embrace a mobile first approach. This means viewing mobile as the most critical touch point for customer engagement – one that has the ability to transform the user experience by delivering new levels of convenience and tailored, contextualized offers that drive more valuable interactions while supporting brand and message consistency across other channels like web and social.

A mobile first approach also requires retailers to ready back-end systems and databases to securely handle volumes of mobile transactions, develop apps for a variety of platforms and devices, create custom push alerts based on location data, and even offer in-store promotions delivered in real-time to shoppers on their devices.

One test for retailers this year will be how well they understand which devices are being used for particular mobile shopping tasks.

For example, according to IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark results from this past holiday shopping weekend, tablets are king when it comes to converting online shoppers into sales. While on-the-go consumers continued to look to their smartphones for retail browsing and price comparisons on Black Friday, the average order value for tablet sales that day was 15 percent higher than that of smartphones. Tablet shoppers spent on average $132.75 per order, as compared to $115.63 per order for smartphone shoppers.

In fact, tablets drove 14.4 percent of all online sales, double that of smartphones, which accounted for 7.2 percent.

Tablets vs. Smartphones

 

Armed with this knowledge, retailers can tailor the shopping experience for specific devices. First and foremost, sites must be readable and easy to navigate. With tablets starting to lead mobile sales, it’s important for retailers to adhere to a simple checklist in an effort to make sites suitable for them. It’s a matter of small necessities such as having adequate space between items in drop-down menus and maintaining a clean, clutter-free layout.

But while tablets are more likely to be used at home, how are smartphones changing the physical in-store experience? Holiday shopping could become much more impersonal if not embraced the right way by retailers, resulting in a disconnected, fragmented and uncoordinated user experience. In order for retailers to maintain engaged relationships with in-store mobile device consumers, they must focus on personalizing the experience or risk alienating certain shoppers.

Since digital commerce reduces the number of face-to-face interactions, it is imperative for retailers to customize mobile shopping experiences and get to know their customers based on consumer history, patterns and needs. This allows them to deliver highly personalized offers across channels. Furthermore, it increases their likelihood for success in the escalating competition for connected consumers’ attention, making it easier to reach each one in the moment – even if they are standing in store speaking to a sales assistant.

More and more retailers are relying on location-based marketing to enhance the brand experience, offline and on, across every customer touch point. Whether via SMS, online, mobile web, social network or in-store, retailers can deliver a more tailored experience by delivering the right information at the right place at the right time.

But while mobile is soaring in popularity among consumers, it’s important that retailers deliver a seamless, synchronized experience across all communications channels. The goal is to cultivate an environment in which every channel of engagement complements, and not competes with, each other.

Regardless, the spotlight this holiday season will undoubtedly fall on mobile. Those forward-looking retailers that are prepared to take advantage of the mobile opportunity will not only capture a key slice of an emerging revenue channel, but also capture the loyalty of consumers who demand personalized anytime, anywhere service.

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