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Best Buy exec: Scaling mobile is a challenge

June 14, 2012

NEW YORK – A Best Buy executive at the 2012 MMA Forum said that the retailer is seeing good results from its mobile pilots. However, scaling the strategy is more difficult.

The panel discussion, “How Mobile Can Bridge the Gap in the Multi-Channel Commerce Landscape,” focused on how brands and retailers can use mobile to drive their multichannel strategies. The Best Buy executive focused on the need for retailers to educate consumers on how mobile can enhance the shopping experience.

“What we are seeing is that mobile pilots always perform amazing,” said Don Wortley, senior digital marketing manager at Best Buy, Richfield, MN. “But when you try to scale it to make it more relevant to the business, it becomes much more difficult.”

Educating the masses
While there is a lot of focus on smartphone penetration, there are still some consumers who are not actively engaging with many of the features that the devices offer, per Mr. Wortley.

In a recent study, Best Buy asked shoppers if they are active smartphone users and, if so, how they use their devices. One shopper who only used the device to make calls and occasionally to check email was excited to learn how to use it to scan a bar code.

“When we think of all these super streamlined experiences, we still have to educate the masses,” Mr. Wortley said.

Best Buy is in the process of introducing new Connected Store formats that will feature central knowledge desks and enhanced store checkout that will support in-store pickup for online purchases.

The retailer is also in the process of making plans to drive greater use of its mobile tools.

“We have not done a good job educating consumers on the tools we have,” Mr. Wortley said. “We’ve had a beta culture where we stick stuff out there and haven’t wanted to advertise until it is polished but that is never going to happen.

“We are currently making plans to drive usage of tools, to put some resources behind that,” he said.

Taking down silos
The other panelists included Frederick Stallings, associate mobile director at Airwave, Rebecca Lieb, digital advertising and media analyst at Altimeter Group, Dave Etherington, senior vice president of mobile and marketing at Titan Media, Sal Candela, mobile director at PHD and Kerri Smith, director of mobility at iProspect.  The moderator was Walt Doyle, general manager at PayPal Media Network.

Much of the discussion focused on how retailers are often siloed and that this can present challenges in terms of being able to create meaningful mobile-driven experiences for customers.

“One of the challenges in mobile has been that it has been approached from a very technological perspective when the challenge is how to deliver content that has a level of intelligence for consumers,” Altimeter Group’s Ms. Lieb said.

“Until corporate silos on the client and agency side are broached, we are not going to be able to connect the dots and give consumers what they expect and want and need,” she said.

In order to drive mobile success, there needs to be more collaboration and sharing within organizations if they are to address how consumers now see all of a brand’s various touch points as an opportunity to buy, engage or do whatever they want to do.

“How do we reach all of our customers and provide them opportunities that they want?,” Airwave’s Mr. Stallings said. “We start to alienate consumers if they don’t understand the technology.”

Currently, only between five and 15 percent of brands’ advertising budgets go to mobile and those numbers are not likely to increase until there is wider adoption of some mobile services.

“We need to work on that 5 to 15 percent,” said Mr. Stallings said. “There has to be a massive adoption and usage – that is when we will start to make the shift from an advertising perspective and move from looking at the mobile user to connected users.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New  York

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