Is that a competitor lurking in aisle 7?! Retailers nowadays are increasingly contending with questions like this one. No, they’re not being infiltrated by a new and insidious breed of corporate spies. Rather, consumers – via their mobile devices – are inviting in the competition, often turning a retailer’s home turf into a battle ground for consumer loyalty.
This is all a byproduct of what is, of course, a positive thing: the mobile revolution and its evolution. Smartphones and tablets are skyrocketing in use – and changing the way, ease and frequency with which we access information. As such, mobile is increasingly being used by shoppers as a companion channel – meaning customers can read reviews and do comparison shopping from the device in their pocket, and all while browsing the shelves in a physical store.
Of course, the proliferation of mobile devices brings many benefits and opportunities, but it also has given rise to an unprecedented challenge for retailers: that competition can be ever-present and just one click away. So, as a retailer, how can you vanquish this third wheel and tap into the power of mobile to keep your shoppers engaged and loyal to your brand? Below are five tips:
Create a compelling mobile experience
As you plan and fine-tune your mobile strategy, you can take steps to get consumers to use your mobile site and your mobile apps while in your store. This will help keep competitors out, while simultaneously improving the overall shopping experience.
Looking for good ideas to get started? Consumers gravitate, in particular, toward exciting and useful apps, and while there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, you can take cues, where appropriate, from smart retailers’ examples.
For example, Lowe’s iPhone app provides an interactive mobile experience that supplements the brick-and-mortar one. Shoppers can use their phones to scan in-store barcodes that bring up product videos and information. Walmart’s app is also on the cutting edge. It recognizes when you’ve stepped into their store and provides a new interface and tailored, local experience – complete with aisle locations, local promos and more.
Follow their lead to keep and captivate your shoppers – using technology like geolocation to provide different user experiences for mobile visitors in your store, near your store and everywhere else.
It’s a pet peeve of mine to hear people talk about “the mobile shopper,” as if the scores of mobile users – all with different interests, priorities and mobile devices/operating systems – can fit a single profile.
The technology exists so that you can welcome distinct visitors to your mobile home – and help gain their loyalty with a helpful, personalized experience. Amazon.com, for example, does a great job collecting user information and acknowledging repeat visitors.
And even when mobile visitors are – as in most cases – anonymous, you can still use technology to detect their mobile operating system and screen size, and deliver an optimized experience that yields brand loyalty.
Measure, measure, measure
You can’t create a better mobile experience unless you can pinpoint what needs improvement. So measure the efficacy of your efforts, and do so continuously.
Profile your mobile users, benchmark your results against competitors, and prioritize your improvements. Ask yourself questions like: Are we meeting mobile visitors’ needs? Does our mobile experience facilitate interactions/transactions in other channels? Are customers more likely to consume our content via mobile or other channels? How does our mobile experience contribute to their overall brand perception? Am I inadvertently driving shoppers to competitors?
Using technology that is sensitive, accurate and predictive, you can answer these questions and provide a more satisfying mobile experience. Through measurement, you can also connect the dots and tell when an ostensibly failed mobile interaction isn’t a failure at all – but rather served as the catalyst for a purchase through another channel.
Don’t get duped by misleading metrics
Across the board – as smartphone and tablet purchases soar – mobile usage is increasing. With an ever-growing population of mobile users, it makes sense that mobile commerce is spiking too. As a result, an increase in your own mobile traffic is expected – whether you’re doing an excellent job or not – and it’s not necessarily the right metric to base decisions on.
App Store ratings and/or downloads are also a poor substitute for measuring the customer experience in a scientific way. Only the very satisfied and the very dissatisfied tend to take the time to rate an app, leaving the silent majority unrepresented.
Instead, it’s more important to measure and gauge the quality of the mobile experience you’re providing, and look at what is (or isn’t) motivating your shoppers to take action – evaluating the experience through the consumer lens.
Provide a unified, cross-channel experience
Whether they’re using your mobile apps, visiting your store, logging onto your website or dialing into your contact center, consumers view your company as a single brand – and you should too.
Tying your mobile strategy to that of your other channels – so consumers see consistent pricing, and a consistent look and feel across all touch points – will create a more satisfying and cohesive shopping experience, with no single channel undermining the others.
Larry Freed is president and CEO of ForeSee, a pioneer in customer experience analytics.