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Five ways mobiles are changing the way we shop

Charles Wiedenhoft //November 3, 2010//

Five ways mobiles are changing the way we shop

Charles Wiedenhoft //November 3, 2010//

While mobile commerce is still in its infancy, the eventual impact will be significant. Consumers are spending less time on traditional retail websites and browsing fewer pages. Instead, their attention is being diverted to social media and mobile devices. Research suggests that mobile will continue to grow as a retail channel:

• Total mobile purchases this year will reach $2.1 billion. That’s up from $390 million in 2008, and $1.2 billion in 2009 (ABI Research).
• Mobile shopping is projected to reach $119 billion by 2015, or 8 percent of total ecommerce (ABI Research).
• 22 percent of consumers expect to purchase from their mobile phones in the next 12 months (Experian).

It’s clear that a shift in consumer behavior is happening. Here are five ways retailers can connect with the new mobile shopper.

1. Mobile Commerce – Make the world a storefront.

Consumers are increasingly dependent on their mobile handsets to help them make better purchasing decisions at the point of sale. They are engaged in a range of activities including product research, price comparison and seeking recommendations from friends. As more people make the switch to web-enabled smartphones, retailers will benefit by offering mobile optimized shopping experiences.

Mobile shoppers need to find products quickly and won’t wait for slow loading pages. Retailers should make it easy for them to shop by scaling down large graphics and surfacing their most popular products on listing pages. Retailers also need to ensure that keyword searches containing product SKUs and other information found on sales tags return accurate results.
Barcodes are another way to enhance shopping experiences on mobile devices. 2D barcodes, often called QR codes, can link to mobile websites, product videos or click-to-call numbers. recently upgraded its iPhone application allowing users to can scan barcodes and instantly get product and pricing information from the company’s website. Some barcode readers provide analytics such as number of scans, unique users, handset information and demographics.

2. Location-based Services – Reward customer engagement.

Retailers are taking notice as location-based social applications like Foursquare (now with 4 million users) and SCVNGR grow in popularity. Shoppers earn points and unlock rewards when they check into store locations, complete challenges or provide suggestions to other customers. Retailers incentivize shoppers for their participation with digital coupons, discounts and special offers which are delivered to their phones. SCVNGR, a mobile social game platform, rewards users who share photos of GameStop store locations with wallpaper downloads and exclusive pre-release game screenshots. Customers also benefit by keeping tabs on their friends and sharing shopping recommendations.

Geo-fencing is another way retailers are connecting with their customers outside of home. It allows retailers to track the location of customers through signals sent from their mobile phones. Shoppers who opt-in receive a mobile text message as they get near a store location or other relevant point of interest. Brands like the North Face are extending geo-fences beyond store locations. The company plans to send customers branded text messages about weather conditions as they reach hiking trails and other outdoor recreation spots. These contextual messages are less intrusive than advertising and show promise of strengthening relationships with customers beyond retail storefronts.

3. Paperless Receipts – Keep shoppers organized.

With so many customer support issues taking place in public venues like Facebook and Twitter companies must strive to create raving fans of each and every customer. All too often positive in-store shopping experiences break down when customers find they need to return or exchange products and cannot locate the original receipts. Digital receipts solve this problem and offer a chance for retailers to improve the customer experience when it comes time to provide post-sale service and support.

Best Buy in partnership with Intuit’s QuickReceipts recently launched a digital receipts program. Shoppers who sign up have access to receipts on their phones making it easy for them to return or exchange merchandise, lookup warranty information, validate insurance claims and purchase compatible products. It’s quick for users to find a transaction because receipts are organized by date and merchant. The convenience of digital receipts is one small way that retailers can remove a common point of frustration from the shopping experience and help grow positive sentiment online.

4. Digital Gift Cards – Get rid of the plastic.

Mobile phones are starting to look more like virtual wallets as shoppers replace their plastic gift cards with digital equivalents. Convenience is what’s motivating them to make the switch. The sheer number of cards that many people receive each holiday season is difficult to manage. Forgetting a gift card at home is a frustrating experience. Digital gift cards offer consumers the freedom and flexibility of having everything in a single location wherever they choose shop.

Retailers benefit from digital gift cards by avoiding postage fees and paper processing. Digital gift cards are also attractive because customers typically spend 20 percent more than the card amount per transaction. Applebee’s is making it easier for people to shop for gift cards by selling them on its Facebook page. Fans who purchase the restaurant’s gift cards on Facebook can personalize them with album photos and video messages.
For more gift card tips check out the Holiday Readiness Guide for eCommerce from Neustar.

5. Mobile Coupons – Satisfy bargain hunters.

Much like digital gift cards mobile coupons benefit consumers because they are easy to access and manage on their phones. There are a number of ways that shoppers can opt-in to receive mobile coupons including SMS programs, online forms or mobile display advertisements. Coupons can be delivered via text message, barcode image or through a custom mobile app. Cashiers redeem the mobile coupons by entering text codes or scanning a customer’s phone.

Mobile coupons can be highly targeted and personalized. Retailers are able to deliver customized offers through location-based technologies. These promotions might take into consideration local preferences, weather conditions, store inventory or a customer’s previous purchase history.
The often touted and much anticipated emergence of mobile as a legitimate platform for brands to connect with customers has finally arrived. Now is the time for retailers to have a mobile strategy or start developing one.

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