With 81% of all UK adults owning a smartphone and spending 60% more time on their smartphone than on any other device, it’s now a matter that mobile is crucial for every brand. Statistics indicate that by 2020, two-thirds of all online retail will take place via a mobile device. This reinforces the reality that mobile is especially key for retail brands. However, this does not mean that all sales will shift to mobile and that brick and mortar stores will become obsolete. In fact, 70% of users still prefer touching and seeing products live before buying. What it does mean is that retailers need to rethink their online and offline presence and build seamless user experiences that places mobile at the core throughout the entire research to purchase phase.
Are you mobile ready?
Retail brands need to ensure that their online properties are built for mobile. While this seems obvious, an alarming amount of company sites are still not fully optimised for mobile. In a mobile first world, it is no longer sufficient to simply have a responsive site. It has now become necessary that the site be built specifically for mobile, taking into account user behaviour and ensuring quick load times. Beyond websites, retail apps can be a unique opportunity to engage with consumers. Apps won’t be the solution for every brand but they can offer a platform to gather more data from the consumer and in turn deliver customised messages and experiences.
Communicating with customers
While sites and apps with strong mobile UX are key to enabling consumers to browse products and shop, eCommerce brands also need to develop more accessible online solutions for consumers to reach and communicate directly with brands. Messaging has become an inherent consumer behaviour and chat bots can provide brands with a unique opportunity to engage with their audience in a more natural way. Commonly, most bots feature a basic code base designed to complete a simple task, like help a user find a product, or ask a simple inquiry. More sophisticated bots can be created – powered by AI – to solve more complex tasks. Given the mass adoption of messaging apps, distribution of bots is simple and accessible – and has become an expectation among more tech savvy consumers. Bots will soon become the norm and brands that get out in front of this growing segment can differentiate.
Outside of the digital domain, there are many ways that mobile can complement the physical world and bricks and mortar stores. Mobile can act as a shopping assistant while a consumer is browsing items in store via tablets to display consumer product details, check stock availability, offer shipping services and more. Installing smart beacons in store can help understand consumer’s shopping behaviours and patterns and message them accordingly. As an example, if a consumer is spending a long time in a certain section of the store, a message can be sent asking them if they have any questions on the products offered in that section. This would require the retailer to have an app and for the consumer to have Bluetooth turned on thus it won’t always work but it can be a powerful tool when all factors are in fact in place. Lastly, as the consumer is ready to make a purchase, offering seamless check-out options and mobile payments is key. This also involves mobile friendly loyalty programs that allow the user to integrate loyalty cards and rewards directly into their mobile wallets. Starbucks has led the charge on this to huge success.
Besides the more practical approaches to utilising mobile in stores, there is ample opportunity to re-think how stores are structured to go beyond just selling products, to creating an environment to experience a brand. Stores can leverage augment and virtual reality as well as interactive elements to transform the in-store experience into a fun journey for the consumer.
The bottom line is that offline sales driven by mobile will continue to grow and having a solid presence there is key but there are many ways in which online (and hence mobile) can supplement and enhance a user’s experience offline. The goal is to create a frictionless experience for the user and take advantage of the consumer’s most intimate device to make a personal connection that lasts.
Patricia Lopez, Head of Mobext UK