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Creating a More Social Shopping Experience

March 21, 2011
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Shopping is an inherently social activity, with consumers enjoying to share with the world great products they enjoy, deals they’ve found, among other activities.  It’s a natural part of human behavior and one of the reasons why we’ve seen the a huge interest in using Facebook as a platform for shopping.

Mobile devices make it even easier to be social while shopping by putting the devices capabilities directly in the hands of consumers and making it easier to do everything from creating videos to sharing experiences to Twitter and Facebook while shopping with mobile devices.

One of the most interesting evolutions in mobile social shopping is barcode or “object scanning”, which uses a mobile device to scan a product’s barcode or an entire object to get more information about the product from your social graph. We’re already seeing consumers using mobile devices to do competitive price comparing, and barcode or object scanning takes it to the next level.  While some social shopping applications like Stickybits require a barcode to enable social shopping on a mobile device, others such as Moonstocks leave barcodes behind and scan the entire object.  I had an chance to meet the Co-founder and business guy (that’s what his business card said) of Moodstocks, Denis Brule, at SXSW, and he gave me a demo of how it works:

 

The obvious benefit to Moodstocks is being able to just scan an object without relying on codes, which makes anyobject (in theory at least) become “socially enabled”.

It’s informative to understand what others, especially your own social graph, has to say about a particular product using these apps, but it’s also important to tie in incentives to purchase. Stickybits does a good job of doing this, providing offers, as well as a gaming layer, that leads to greater rewards. Moodstocks is still early on in the process, but has plans to get there.

What It All Means to Retailers

While these type of applications have yet to be adopted in mass, retailers should think about them as an opportunity to extend reach to consumers.  Some ideas to do so include:

  • Engage in the communities–  Spend some time in these applications, particularly engaging community members who comment on your products or even your competitor products.  Creating this level of engagement will demonstrate your brand is active and cares about feedback on your product.
  • Provide offers within the communities– As the offer-based capabilities of these sites increase, experiment with providing offers.  Just like Foursquare and Shopkick in the location-based shopping world, social apps such as these provide an additional channel to reach consumers and drive online and in-store transactions.
  • Explore an integration– Most of these type of applications offer open APIs, so the possibility of leveraging the capabilties they offer in your own mobile strategy is possible. For instance, allow consumers to scan objects in your own shopping app to bring up product details pages or perhaps feed into an activity feed of consumers associated with your brand.  Another option could be to allow for products to be shared directly from your product detail pages directly into the communities, and allow comments or reviews of the products to push back to your website and mobile app. These are just a few of the ways you could leverage these social shopping apps as a platform.

How have you considered working with social shopping applications?

SXSW 2011: 9 Sessions to Check Out on Mobile

March 10, 2011
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Are you headed to South by Southwest (SXSW)?  If so, you’re probably like me, trying to figure out where to spend your time in the mass of activity at the increasingly growing event. Whether you’re a larger retailer or a small online business trying to map out your mobile strategy, there’s lots to check out at the event.  There are several sessions and other events on mobile, but here are a few you should check out:

Kiosks, Mobile and the Evolving Retail Experience

A very interesting discussion on how innovations in multichannel– from kiosks to mobile devices to digital vending machines is changing the shopping experience.

Social Shopping-The Future of Selling Stuff Online

Learn how to take advantage of the social web to drive sales, connect with your target community, and build a loyal following.

Mobile Payments: My Smartphone Just Bought My Beer!

This session will focus on how technology and the industry are moving forward to make sure consumers will use their mobile devices for in-store and online purchases.

Inclusive Mobility- Making Mobile Apps Accessible

A session focused on making the mobile web and mobile native apps accessible for all audiences- something online retailers should consider to reach all audiences.

Building Native Apps Across Platforms

Targeted at developers, this session looks at an alternative approach to developing native apps for iPhone and iPad devices.

Designing a Seamless Web to Mobile Experience

This session will examine how companies can design a seamless experience from traditional web to mobile devices, which helps drive mobile commerce.

Social Location Marketing

Location based services are one of the most important emerging trends today for retailers and this session will look at how marketers can use social location marketing effectively as part of their campaigns, including optimizing for mobile.

Interactive Patterns in the Mobile Space

A session dedicated to designing for the tiny space on mobile device screens.

Our Devices: How Smart is Too Smart?

This session will look at how mobile devices are driving consumer behavior and how the user experience is evolving.

If you’re at the event, please be sure to say hi.

Driving Mobile Commerce Holiday Season Success in 2011 from the Lessons of 2010

February 17, 2011

Mobile commerce hit its stride during the 2010 holiday season, with some retailers driving up to 7% online revenue through mobile devices.  eBay reported a 134% increase in US mobile sales during the 2010 holiday season, resulting in almost $100 million in mobile commerce sales, and “highly connected” mobile power users accounted for an estimated  $127 billion in consumer spending during the 2010 holiday season,  according to a recent study published by IDC.  Even with these impressive numbers, many retailers didn’t pursue a mobile commerce strategy in time for the holiday season, and many of those who did, didn’t realize the full potential of their investments in mobile commerce.  So, what steps can online retailers take to make sure they have an effective mobile commerce strategy for the 2011 holiday season?  Some suggestions include:

  • Invest in a mobile optimized site. Mobile commerce starts with the mobile web,  and if you haven’t optimized your website for mobile devices, you are not only missing an opportunity to drive online sales, but also the opportunity to grow competitively as a result as the nascent mobile commerce market matures.
  • Adapt to what your consumers want in a mobile experience- Having a mobile site is ultimately about making it easier for consumers to transact, whether it be online or in-store.   Understanding how consumers use your mobile site and making sure it reflects that experience will determine whether they transact or not.  According to a recent survey by eMarketer, the top activities consumers performed using their smartphones in the 2010 holiday season included: finding a store location, research specific products, browse products, price compare products, look for discounted deals, and check product availability, among other activities.  Are these the same preferences of your consumer?  If so, does your mobile website reflect these capabilities?  If not, consider incorporating them in time for the 2011 holiday season.
  • Do something different- The retailers who experienced success in the 2010 holiday season with their mobile strategy were those who did something different to make mobile shopping more attractive to consumers and to make their brand stand out, such as Steve Madden’s use of gift cards and mobile coupons and JC Penny’s Christmas themed promotional offer featuring badges and coupons.  Mobile commerce is a fantastic area of innovation and a great place for retailers to “WOW” consumers, raise awareness and further differentiation of your brand.  The time is now to start thinking about what you could do differently in mobile commerce in the 2011 holiday season.
  • Expand to other devices– While smartphones should remain the primary focus, especially as their penetration rate among total mobile device usage rises, retailers should consider other devices part of their strategy.  Feature phone (or WAP) enabled sites will continue to be used by the majority of mobile users, so reaching that audience will remain important.  Also, with the explosion of tabular devices recently (in addition to the iPad), optimizing a tabular-specific site will become important, especially for retailers who have a lot of web traffic coming from tabular devices and consumers that tend to shop from on their sofa, coffee shop or other places where tabular devices are likely to be used.   If you didn’t think beyond the smartphone in 2010 holiday season, do so in time for the 2011 holiday season.
  • Ready your consumer base–  While consumer adoption of mobile commerce is rising rapidly, many consumers still do not associate shopping with their phone.  Even fewer probably realize that your brand offers a mobile shopping channel.  Promote mobile shopping early in 2011 so that maximum awareness and adoption can be achieved in time for the holiday season.  Promote it online with your traditional website (Target is a good example of this), social media (Twitter, Facebook page), online ads, as well as in-store, such as in-store signs and training associates.

The 2011 holiday season will be the biggest yet for mobile online sales.  Getting ready to capitalize on the opportunity should start today, beginning with the lessons learned from the 2010 holiday season.

How Online Retailers Should Be Thinking About Facebook Connect

February 15, 2011

Facebook and it’s 500 million + users represents a large potential market for any company who sells online.  The question for retailers is how to best reach this audience, and perhaps more importantly, how to use the vast amount of user social data in Facebook to enrichen the shopping experience on your site. Facebook Connect helps do both for retailers.

Facebook Connect is the evolution of the Facebook platform that allows websites– including online ecommerce sites– to connect with a user’s Facebook identity, profile, friends, and overall social graph.

Online retailers should be thinking about Facebook Connect in several different ways:

Site Registration and User Authentication

One of the main objectives of online retailers is to get a shopper to voluntarily share their contact information and create an identity on the site and with the brand.  This not only shows a higher committment level from that shopper to the retailer, but also gives the retailer an opportunity to actively reach out to the user in the future.

Facebook Connect allows retailers to simplify this process by making it easy for the shopper to join the site via one click using their Facebook credentials.  A shopper who is a Facebook user (and chances are they probably are among the 500 million users) who visits your site is more likely to register on your site than if they were not a Facebook user.  In fact,  according to Facebook, sites that use Facebook Connect have seen increases of 30% to 200% in site registrations. In addition, when they return to your site, they’ll be able to authenticate using their Facebook credentials without having to remember a separate, site-specific credentials.

Demandware (a client of mine) prototyped Facebook Connect site registration, where a user’s info is auto-populated on site registration page when logging in with Facebook:

Contextual Social Sharing

Another important goal of retailers is to increase the amount of time users spend on site, as well as how much they share about the company’s products and brand off-site.  When shoppers use Facebook Connect on a retailers site, they grant permissions for the site to post to their wall on Facebook, including easily share products, reviews of products and purchases made.  Facebook says sites that use Facebook Connect have seen a 15% to 100% increase in the number of reviews and other user-generated content on the site.

An example of contextual social sharing in action can be seen with Demandware Mobile, where users who have logged into the retailer’s site with Facebook can share products and comments on the product directly from the product details page to their wall on Facebook:

Also, the “Like” button lends itself to social sharing, where shoppers can see directly on a retailer’s site who else in their network also liked a particular item.  The Levi’s Friends Store demonstrates a good example of this, as well as how products can be merchandised based on Facebook likes:

Personalization

Creating a more personalized, “virtual word of mouth” shopping experience is another important goal of retailers.  Since Facebook Connect accesses a shopper’s profile data, retailer’s are better able to personalize the shopping experience. Birthday information, shopping list, interests, and preferences of both the shopper and his or her social graph can be used to serve up products that better match the shopper’s preferences.

Perhaps the best example out there is Amazon, which let’s you see what’s popular amongst your friends who’ve shopped on Facebook, and suggests gift and birthday ideas for friends in your Facebook social graph.  Amazon also serves up product suggestions (music, books) based on your interests in Facebook.

One of the main challenges with personalization with Facebook Connect is that you need a large number of people in your Facebook network to take action on the sites you shop in order to gain the benefits of Facebook Connect.  If none of your friends take action, then the social intelligence Facebook Connect provides is rendered useless.

Facebook Connect as part of your strategy

While Facebook Connect represents a means for retailers to reach a the large Facebook user base, retailers should approach it as one option among existing capabilities around site registration and authentication, contextual social sharing and personalization.  Connect should work in-line with the investment you’ve made in these areas, and not be viewed as an alternative.  As Facebook activity across the web grows, particularly on ecommerce sites, Connect will increase in value to both shoppers and retailers.  Until that time, pursue Connect as part of your strategy, and invest more as consumer adoption and activity increases.

The Relevance of Native Apps for Retailers

February 10, 2011

This post is co-written by Gary Lombardo and Matt Caroll, President of Ignition Commerce.

When launching or improving a mobile web site, many retailers often neglect to include native applications as part of their overall mobile strategy.  While mobile commerce starts with the mobile web, native applications provide an important source of revenue and opportunity to extend the brand.  As a result, online retailers should consider native applications as part of any effective mobile strategy.

Why Native Applications are Relevant for Retailers

Native applications will play an important role in projected growth of the mobile channel for the foreseeable future.  Some of the reasons include:

1. Native applications are faster.   Speed is an important consideration for mobile shoppers despite 3G connections that remain slow in some areas.  When downloaded to a mobile device, native applications contain most of the components necessary to render the UI on the handset.  As a result, less information needs to be sent from the server during the shopping session, providing consumers with a much faster shopping experience in the process.

2.  Mobile web does not offer full native functionality.  As discussed in previous posts, the functional gap between the mobile web and native applications is closing, as evident by new mobile web functionality such as bar-code scanning capabilities, however; mobile web currently does not offer the same level of functionality provided by native applications. Until technology progresses and the gap closes completely, functionality specific to native applications, such as interacting with the device video/camera capabilities, geo-positioning and highly interactive UI components, will continue to make native applications extremely relevant element of any mobile strategy over the next few years.

3.  Native applications are immensely popular.   Beyond being an integral part American and European culture, the use of mobile devices in developing economies (just look at the recent role mobile devices have played in the uprisings in the Middle East) provides further evidence of the importance of mobile technology across the globe.   Termed by Pew Internet as “apps culture”, the embrace of mobile devices has resulted in the installation of native applications by 35% of adults.  The importance of native applications is further evidenced by the sheer number of downloads experienced by Apple since the release of the AppStore in 2008 with over 10 Billion downloads and growing. While Android has seen lower growth rates, it also continues to post impressive numbers.  According to Gartner Research, the popularity of applications shows no sign of slowing down with 17.2 Billion applications expected to be downloaded in 2011 which represents a 117% increase over the 8.2 Billion downloaded in 2010.  Given current and projected market penetration rates, online retailers should consider a mobile strategy that includes native applications.

4Native applications provide unprecedented opportunities to build brand awareness. The constant presence of a retailer’s native application icon on a consumer’s mobile device builds brand awareness while driving sales. Additionally, online retailers who maintain iPhone and Android native applications are typically viewed by consumers to be of a higher stature, providing lift to a retailer’s brand in the marketplace. Whether in iPhone, Android or both, the presence of native applications presents an online retailer in a favorable light and is perceived by consumers to be good thing.

5. Consumers prefer mobile optimized experiences, whether on the moible web or with native apps.When a site is not optimized for mobile commerce, whether through mobile Web or native applications, online retailers will sacrifice an estimated 5 to 10% of their annual revenue, as consumers using mobile devices will struggle to shop their site. Traditional PC-optimized websites do not effectively translate to mobile devices, jeopardizing revenue and consumers in the process.  With respects to consumer preferences related to mobile web vs. native applications, according to a recent survey by Adobe, native applications are preferred by mobile shoppers over mobile optimized websites among iPhone users.  Android users prefer native applications vs. mobile web optimized sites almost equally.  Based on the findings contained in this study, online retailers must utilize native applications to meet the needs of today’s mobile consumers.

Ensuring that Native Applications Are Relevant

While native applications are an undeniably important element of online shopping, they must provide a “well-rounded” shopping experience to be relevant and effective.  Online retailers must provide a tightly integrated shopping experience that includes the “core” functionality and impactful user experience typically found in “best of breed” ecommerce sites. Additionally, native applications should leverage the unique capabilities of the device. While these elements will be expressed differently from retailer to retailer, the following provides general guidelines for achieving a well-rounded shopping experience:

1.      Include “core” capabilities in native applications.  As mobile devices have become increasingly functional, customers utilizing mobile commerce applications have begun to expect the same capabilities available in a best-in-class Web-based shopping experience.  In an effort to provide consumers with mobile functionality that is both familiar and intuitive, promoting ease of use in the process, native applications need to offer the following “core” features:

  • Home to Category to Sub-Category to Product Detail Navigation
  • Cross Sells, Alternative Views, and Product Zoom at the Product Detail Level
  • Account Creation & Modification of an Existing Account
  • Search
  • Quick Checkout
  • Coupon Redemption
  • Save & Modify Addresses & Methods of Payment
  • Checkout as Registered, New, or Anonymous User

2. Provide a tightly integrated shopping experience. For a multi-channel merchant, the ability to present consumers with a consistent and integrated shopping experience, regardless of channel, is critical.  In an effort to provide their customers with a unified shopping experience, native applications must be tightly integrated with the eCommerce platform and allow consumers to access account information, wish lists, order history and cart contents from either a PC or handheld device.  When items are added to a cart on the eCommerce site, they must be immediately visible via handheld. Conversely, an account created on a handheld must be accessible through the ecommerce site.

3. Include functionality that takes advantage of the device’s unprecedented capabilities.  Native applications need to offer functionality that allows online retailers to take advantage of the unique capabilities provided by mobile devices.  For example, utilizing the geolocation services that are innate to the handheld devices, online retailers can provide consumers with turn by-turn directions, based on their current location, to their closest physical store. This unique feature allows consumers to quickly locate the nearest store location without even knowing their current address, driving in-store sales in the process.

Have a look at the demo below to get a sense of what a well-rounded, relevant native shopping app should look like.

A Better Approach to Mobile Couponing

January 12, 2011

Mobile couponing is one of the “hot” areas in mobile commerce today.  Mobile couponing is “the fastest growing and most obvious mobile marketing application” according to Borell Associates, with mobile coupon spending expected to grow at a rapid cumulative average growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 78%.  A recent study by Gartneralso showed that mobile couponing was one of the top activities consumers who use mobile devices for shopping planned on doing.

Mobile couponing is not right for every retailer, and is most logical for retailers with brick and mortar stores, particularly those who have seen success with paper-based couponing.  What will separate retailers who are successful with mobile couponing from those who are not, will be the approach they take  to mobile coupons.  Specifically, retailers who will succeed with mobile couponing are those who approach it differently.  Some ways to approach mobile couponing differently could be to:

  • Make mobile coupons available on your mobile website- Okay, this doesn’t seem all that radical (and it’s not), but many retailers who have a mobile strategy and offer mobile coupons, only do so as part of their native application and not part of their mobile website.  The reason why you’ll want to do so is that you’ll reach a wider audience with the mobile web, particularly as a richer experience evolves on smartphones.   Also, many retailers today already offer coupons through their traditional website, extending coupons to the mobile web is a no-brainer.
  • Create mobile coupons that are store specific–  As mobile websites and native apps are able to use the mobile devices GPS device, being able to deliver location or store specific coupons to the mobile consumer will become a reality.  The benefits are enormous: not only will the shopper be able to understand what deals they can find in that particular store, but retailers will be able to promote and sell excess inventory in a particular store, increasing effective inventory management.
  • Personalize mobile coupons– Making coupons relevant to the preferences, time and location will help not only personalize coupons, but make them more likely to convert customers.  For instance, target coupons based on past purchasing behavior or selected preferences for when consumers sign up for coupon alerts.  A consumer who likes men’s clothing would rather only receive coupons for those products, as opposed to women’s clothing that he wouldn’t be interested in.
  • Allow for consumer opt-in alerts other than SMS. Today, most mobile coupons are issued via SMS.  Provide alternative mechanisms for notifications, such as email or RSS.  Let consumers opt-in for notifications that work best for them.
  • Integrate coupons into the core mobile shopping experience–  Make mobile coupons and offers an integral part of the consumer mobile experience.  Allowing consumers to browse what coupons are available are a great place to start, but tying them to part of the overall mobile shopping experience will maximize effectiveness.  For instance, when a consumer scans a barcode on a product in-store, searches a product, browses to a product page, or undertakes another activity on the mobile storefront, serve up relevant coupons tied to the product they are looking for.
  • Provide coupons through location-based services– Location-based services (LBS) offer a huge opportunity for retailers, particularly when mobile coupons and offers are tied to the experience.  While consumer adoption of LBS is still low (about 4% according to a November 2010 study by the Pew Internet & American Life project),  the consumers who are bothering to check into your location are invested consumers, or in other words they really want to do business with you (otherwise, why bother checking in?).  The Gap has done a great job tapping this opportunity by tying offers to Foursquare check-ins, and Starbucks has done the same for mayorships. As LBS evolve beyond check-ins and mayorship rewards, and allows for quality of experience to highlight best places to shop (among other new capabilities), additional opportunities will arise for coupons and offers through LBS.
  • Offer coupons through other channels- One of the major challenges for consumer use of coupons is actually finding coupons.  Making them available through your mobile website and/or native app is a great place to start, but shouldn’t limited there.  Distribute them through social media—Twitter, Facebook, through blogging efforts, etc., but also through coupon aggregators, such as Yowza8CouponsZaversCoupon Sherpa, and Cellfire.  Find the one that makes sense for your brand, and increase the reach.

These are a few ideas on how to approach mobile couponing differently to succeed.  What other ideas do you have?

Five Mobile Commerce Predictions for 2011

December 28, 2010

‘Tis the season for predictions, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts on what to expect with mobile commerce in 2011. I don’t have anything big and bold to predict, but think that there are five hot areas to watch:

1. Transformed in-store experience.  Perhaps more than anything else, mobile represents an opportunity for retailers to transform the in-store shopping experience.  This ranges from using the iPad as a display unit to more strategic uses, such as allowing customers to do competitive price comparing (and training staff to support this experience), enabling sales associates to use mobile devices for speedier checkout, and consumer self-checkout.  While we probably won’t see a revolutionary change in the in-store experience in 2011 with mobile devices, we will start to see a more widespread emergence and innovative uses of mobile that will define the future of shopping.

2. Mobile payments.  Several alternative mobile payments methods emerged in the past 12-18 months, all of which helped consumers become used to using their mobile devices as a payment method when shopping.  Google Checkout and iTunes keep users billing info and make it easy for mobile users to check out.   Visa and Mastercard have their own apps, Paypal has made mobile payments a core part of their strategy, and several startups focused on mobile payments have emerged, such as Zong andFortumo.  Retailers such as Target and Starbucks support mobile gift card payments, allowing consumers to scan gift cards at point of purchase.  Using a mobile device will accelerate in 2011 with the reported release by Apple of the NFC chip in next version of the iPhone.  With such a high rate of adoption of the iPhone among smartphone users, using a mobile device as a payment method could take off in 2011.

3. Mobile couponingWith one third of US consumers saying they are likely to use mobile couponing (this number is even higher some international markets), it’s easy to see how mobile coupoining will take off in 2011 and beyond.  Shoppers already understand the concept of couponing, and retailers like Best Buy and Target use couponing in their mobile shopping experiences. What makes mobile couponing so intriguing is the rise of location based-driven offers.  Retailers are partnering with services such as Shopkick (who has seen early success with Sports Authority) and Checkpoints. Other retailers are providing location-based offers throughFoursquare (the Gap’s success on Foursquare is a good example) and Gowalla.  More retailers will adopt mobile couponing in 2011, with location-based offers becoming even more critical. Smart retailers will combine location based checkins on their own mobile sites, providing location-specific offers to shoppers.

4. Facebook + Mobile. Mobile is the logical place for social shopping to occur since shoppers who are in-store like to leverage their social network for making purchases and sharing experiences.  Social shopping is already an integral part of the mobile shopping experience with sharing on Twitter, checking in on Foursquare, sharinghaul videos, etc., and will accelerate in 2011, with Facebook at the forefront.  Retailers are just starting to understand the power of Facebook’s Open Graph API “Like” capability and social plugins, and very few have leveraged this effectively in a mobile experience– a real opportunity in 2011. Retailers will also start to leverageFacebook Places and Facebook Deals along with Facebook as an additional storefront (see JC Penny’s recent launch of a Facebook storefront), making Facebook commerce (“fCommerce”), an emerging opportunity in 2011.

5. Mobile web apps.  By now, most retailers understand that they need to have a mobile strategy starting with the mobile web. Many also understand that native apps make sense as well.  However, in the future, needing both will no longer be necessary with the closing gap between native apps and the mobile web.  Mobile web apps (or “hybrid apps”) will become more widespread in 2011, although technology won’t reach a point that will allow users to do everything in web apps that they could in native apps.  Innovative retailers will start to embrace mobile web apps in 2011, simplifying their mobile strategy while laying the foundation for a richer mobile experience of the future.

What are your predictions for mobile commerce in 2011?  How is mobile going to change the shopping experience the year ahead?

Lemons to Lemonade: Mobile Shopping Competitive Price Comparing

December 17, 2010

Mobile commerce continues to redefine the shopping experience, increasingly changing the relationship between retailer and shopper.  For some retailers this change can feel like biting into a lemon, but for other retailers, who are embracing a mobile strategy, it’s more like drinking a glass of lemonade.

One major trend underway that’s causing change is the use of mobile devices for comparing prices on products to find the best deal possible.  According to a recent survey by Gartner (Mobile Consumer Shopping Preferences, 2010: US), comparing competitive prices before going into a physical store as well as while inside a physical store were one of the top 3 things mobile shoppers in the US intend to do.  In fact, it’s something I’ve intended to do, so I went ahead and tested it out while I was shopping for a Christmas gift for my daughter the other day. I created a video of the experience, which I’ve included below (don’t mind the user-generated quality).  As you’ll see, I tested out price checking on both the retailer native app and a price comparison mobile app by a third party vendor.

Power Shift

The ability to do competitive price checking on a mobile device is a power shift from the retailer to the shopper.Many retailers are fearful of phone-wielding shoppers since shoppers can now really find out if the retailer’s special offers are truly special or if the products are competitively priced. If they are not, shoppers may leave the store to get the product elsewhere, or not even go to the store to begin with (or go to the retailer’s traditional website to buy it online).  This is radically different from the past where the convenience of finding out instantly what the best deal was on a mobile device was not an option.  For retailers who don’t have a mobile strategy, this is a new sour (aka lemon) reality.

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

This power shift is actually an opportunity for all retailers, especially those with a mobile strategy.  It’s an opportunity to turn turn lemons into lemonade and win more customers.  Some things retailers can do to win more customers with mobile competitive price checking include:

  • Work with vendors who create price comparison mobile apps to optimize the shopping experience for your brand. There are a number of vendors out there who offer competitive price comparison mobile apps.  Work with them (at least the ones that are experiencing large consumer adoption) to ensure that the mobile experience will help retain shoppers, even when you are not the lowest price. For instance, you could offer better deals on the product or related products once you know the shopper who is already in your store has done a comparison and you are not the least expensive. 
  • Make competitive price comparison part of your mobile website and mobile native app. Allow shoppers to be able to check not only your price, but the price of your competitors as part of your mobile experience. Yes, you will not always be the least expensive (or have the product in stock while a competitor does) and will lose some customers as a result, but the beneficial value you provide to the shopper’s experience will create a great amount of goodwill and loyalty to your brand, increasing the likelihood the shopper will shop with you in the future.  After all, mobile commerce is not only about driving transactions, but also about creating a richer in-store experience.
  • Modify your price-matching policies so that they include mobile price checking. Make sure it’s clear to shoppers, especially those who are in-store that your price-matching policy applies, including in mobile.    Train sales associates to convince shoppers (especially those using mobile devices) to purchase with you– being already there in the store often will be enough to convince them to do so.

What is your mobile strategy for competitive price comparing? Share your thoughts!

Mobile Commerce Starts with the Mobile Web

December 2, 2010

One of the questions every retailer faces in defining their mobile commerce strategy is what approach they should take: the mobile web or a native app.  While native apps are appropriate for some brands, the mobile web or in other words, optimizing your existing website for a mobile experience is the place to start.  It makes sense to start here for a whole number of reasons, but let’s describe the most important reasons why:

  • Your brand depends upon it. Consumers access your website with their mobile devices all the time.  If they come to it and see that it’s not optimized for the mobile web, they’ll not only abandon your site and not shop with you, but also form a bad image in their mind of your brand.
  • Consumers prefer the mobile web for shopping. According to a recent study by Adobe, 66% of consumers prefer to review content via the mobile web, while only 34% prefer to download an app.  eMarketer also found that consumers prefer the mobile web over apps for shopping– 78% to 22%.  The bottom line is that consumers prefer the mobile web over native apps, so start with the mobile web.
  • Maximize your reach. With the sheer number of mobile devices and mobile operating systems on those devices, the only way to maximize your reach to the widest audience possible is through the mobile web.
  • You’ll be easier to find. One overlooked aspect of ‘going mobile’ is that you need to promote the fact that consumers can now shop your brand on a mobile device. What easier way to promote it than tapping into how the vast majority of people find things online today– search (or more specifically, Google)?  Consumers will do a search on their mobile device, find your brand in the search results, then click on the link that will take them to you mobile website– much more natural and easy than having to locate your brand in a specific vendor’s app store.
  • It’s less of a hassle for everyone involved. When you make a change to a mobile website, you don’t need to get anyone’s approval (like you would with a native app)– you just push the changes through.  Consumers also don’t have to perform an update each time you update.  The mobile web is much less of a hassle for everyone involved.

Another major reason why is that the line between the mobile web and native apps is becoming increasingly blurry.  In other words, the major advantage that native apps provide– the ability to access the mobile devices capabilities to offer a richer shopping experience– is disappearing, with mobile websites increasingly be able to leverage all of the capabilities on the device.

Opportunity Knocks for Small Business Using Social Media

November 23, 2010

A recent survey from Ratepoint and recently covered by eMarketer, found that the majority of small business owners do not believe social media is an effective way to connect with customers, with attitudes largely negative.

The biggest surprise to me was that the majority (aboubt 55%) didn’t think that their customers wanted to hear from them on social networks. With the majority of internet users using social networks, the customers of small business owners are definitely using Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, blogging, and other social technologies.   Consumers using social networks also want to hear from their favorite brands and are more satisfied when they do, including small businesses.  The question then should be not if small businesses can connect with customers using social media, but how.

All this translates into opportunity for the small business owner who decides to use social media as part of their marketing and overall business strategy.   Since the vast majority of small businesses are skeptical, and presumably are not using social media or at least have an approach they’re happy with, the ones who do invest will have an advantage over the competition. They’ll be able to connect to prospects and existing customers more effectively since their small business competition is not. So, if you’re a small business owner not using social media, what are you waiting for?

Learn more about how to LEAD Your Small Business to Social Media Success