Mobile commerce accounts for 30% of all U.S. ecommerce and is expected to grow at a rate almost triple that of the entire domestic ecommerce sector, according to published reports.
It would be easy to fill an entire report with mind-blowing statistics showing the explosive growth of mobile commerce, but the takeaway should be much larger than simply “be where mobile shoppers are.” Strong mobile presences are definitely vital for retailers, but the growth of mobile has ramifications for the entire retail ecosystem and all of its channels.
To illustrate how deep the rabbit hole goes, understand this: Mobile is a huge and diverse category. Shoppers use smartphones and tablets entirely differently, yet both get categorized under the mobile moniker. They also use personal and work phones differently, though both are mobile devices. Even though more people than ever before are converting on mobile channels, they are really part of a much larger web of touch points that customers experience on their shopping journeys.
Thus, the real puzzle to solve isn’t just discovering how to optimize mobile commerce; the true value in leveraging mobile is understanding how it fits into the big picture of consumer behavior. Retailers that can engage customers consistently through every entry and exit point on their journeys are providing the true omnichannel experience that is expected and rewarded with loyalty.
Creating channel consistency
The days of discovery, research, and conversion on a single channel have been over for quite some time now, but many retailers still operate all of their channels as unique entities that integrate with each other on the back-end, but not the front. Imagine a shopper who begins a shopping journey during down time at work on a computer. Later that night, she may conduct additional research on a tablet in front of the TV or on her personal smartphone while waiting for food to arrive at a restaurant.
What if she is looking at apparel or footwear? She may stop by a store on her way home to try on merchandise. Then, she may buy it on site or convert on her home computer later. Whatever the case, she will enter and exit the funnel several times in unpredictable ways. Providing a true omnichannel experience dictates that every channel must be able to identify her and help her advance on her journey. In practical terms, that means she should not have to start from scratch each time she enters the process again on a new channel.
Simple, seamless tracking
Customer tracking is a tricky business because it must be done in a way that is simple and helpful, but not creepy or invasive. Asking customers to log into a page on each channel is cumbersome and the fewest credentials required to identify shoppers, the better. Email addresses are ideal because each is unique and they double as communication methods to alert customers of abandoned cart items and special promotions.
Another great attribute of email identification is that it allows embedded tracking. If a shopper is contacted via a known email address to recover items in a cart or take advantage of a special, that person is seamlessly identified when she clicks the provided link, regardless of what device is used to do so. This simplifies omnichannel consistency and allows customers to pick up right where they left off without having to enter personal information about themselves.
From omnichannel to omnidevice: the new frontier
Retail has evolved to where it is no longer enough to think about integrating discrete channels into a singular experience, every single device within those channels must also fit into the picture. Strategies for effectively engaging customers on the “mobile channel” varies depending on whether a smartphone or tablet is used, and if they are personal or professional devices. Thinking in this way helps to pave a plan that is more future-proof because we don’t necessarily have to understand the intricacies of devices themselves if we know how people use them.
That’s a great position to be in as technology evolves at an accelerated pace. It can be overwhelming to know the best way to connect with consumers on new devices and channels, but this is easily guided through deciphering how each one fits into the greater shopping journey. Naturally, the best place to begin with omnidevice integration is with current technologies, building strategies that are scalable with the introduction of new devices.
Even though tracking customers through their journeys to enhance service benefits them, it is still important to offer incentives for opting in, even when that opt in is simply providing an email address. Offer a benefit to these customers like a discount code or exclusive sneak peeks at future merchandise, and respect the privacy of the information they have provided. As omnichannel retail progresses, matters of trust and integrity will emerge as the best harbingers of customer loyalty.
Zeke Hamdani is Director of Web Services for Celerant Technology