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Design Within Reach exec: Showrooming offers opportunity to build loyalty

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January 24, 2013

The Design Within Reach iPad app

Please click here to access the archived webinar

A Design Within Reach executive who spoke during a Mobile Commerce Daily webinar yesterday said that showrooming offers more of an opportunity than a threat for retailers.

During the Webinar, Mobile holiday recap: What worked, what didn’t and lessons learned , a Design Within Reach executive said the retailer has lost sales to showrooming. However, he insists that the bigger opportunity is in how mobile price comparison forces retailers to get the customer experience right.

“Here is your opportunity to embrace the change and the new technologies to better service your customers,” said Mark Simmons, director of ecommerce and digital at Design Within Reach.

“What’s exception about mobile is that it is a way for you to connect with the customer,” he said.

“Are you doing everything that you can to support the customer experience as they bounce around from one device to another?  If you do that right, you are not going to get showroomed – you are going to build loyalty.”

Biggest surprise of 2012
One way Design Within Reach is addressing showrooming is by equipping all of its sales people with iPads and extensively training them on how to use the device to make sure they are the best at selling what they sell.

“If you are in a competitive space, soon you are selling a commodity and you are going to have to provide a service experience to make yourself differentiated but also compete on price,” Mr. Simmons said.

“Think about all the ways that your business is different, embrace it and figure out how to do better,” he said.

All three presenters agreed that one of the biggest surprises during the 2012 holiday shopping season was just how big a role mobile ended up playing.

While there was a significant amount of talk about mobile’s potential impact on retail throughout the past 12 months, when it came down the biggest shopping period of the year, even these industry insiders were caught off guard by the consumer uptake for mobile shopping.

“The intensity of smart retailers trying to take advantage of mobile and of the customers who are there looking for it, even though we had been expecting it, was way over what we expected,” Mr. Simmons said.

“The customer is there and ready to use their device,” he said. “If you don’t provide them with the right experience, you are going to lose that customer.

“We saw mobile traffic go up 300 percent during 2012 and mobile ecommerce sales had similar growth. Because of the type of purchases that we see, we know we are keeping and retaining some of our best customers by having this option for them.”

The results suggest that mobile sites are getting faster, easier to use and providing better tools to convert users, per Wilson Kerr, vice president of business development and sales at Unbound Commerce. Across the approximately 400 retailers using Unbound Commerce’s platform, mobile traffic was up 69 percent on average while mobile conversions almost doubled.

And, it was not just tablet commerce that played a role.

“The variety of different retailers that were really embracing the smartphone as a shopping device surprised me in a big way and we are going to see more that to come,” said Sloane Kelley, interactive strategy director at BFG Communications.

The right stuff
In terms of what retailers got right during the holidays when it came to mobile, Mr. Simmons pointed to the sheer number of different strategies and tactics that were employed by retailers, showing that they are working on finding the best solutions.

In-app notifications was one tactic that was used a lot by retailers, who did a better job of delivering the right message at the right time so customers do not go somewhere else and also ensuring that converting was as seamless as possible.

Push notifications also played  role, with retailers using this strategy to make users aware of limited-duration sales and flash deals.

“We were constantly being bombarded with messages about the fiscal cliff in December which got people a little guarded with their wallets as we got close to the holidays,” Ms. Kelley said. “The companies that had the ability to send messages about flash sales scored well.”

Other positive developments included the use of photo social sharing to engage a younger, mobile audience and get them to advocate on behalf of a brand.

A lot of retailers also got it right when it came to leveraging geolocation in mobile.

“In New York City over the holidays, Google geo-search ads were almost everywhere whereas last year, there were none,” Design Within Reach’s Mr. Simmons said. “That was a pretty big change in how people are relying on maps in the mobile space to really keep customers engaged.

“This can alter behavior and keep customers from going to a competitor or lock that customer in,” he said.

Retailers also linked back to mobile optimized experiences from their social sites or in-store.

In some cases, the links took Facebook users, for example, to a mobile landing page that did not even exist on the standard mobile site, enabling retailers to provide their social fans with a private sale.

“The retailers that embraced this did very well and could start tracking the mobile traffic and start harnessing their social activity,” Unbound Commerce’s Mr. Kerr said.

Taking full advantage
In terms of which retailers and brands took full advantage of mobile commerce during the holiday season, eBay and Amazon came up repeatedly as examples of retailers with strong mobile programs.

For example, eBay used mobile to bridge the online and offline worlds in NYC and San Francisco with a program that provided a shopping valet who would deliver products ordered through mobile and picked up in various local stores within an hour.

“I really love examples of where the physical and the digital worlds converge and that creates a really powerful experience when done in the right way,” BFG Communications’ Ms. Kelley said.

What worked, what didn’t
In terms of the popular tactics and channels that worked over the holidays, Design Within Reach’s Mr. Simmons pointed to the use of a time-based sense of urgency, geo-based search, iPad browsing, email and in-store comparison shopping.

What did not work included social to direct conversions and app to direct sales.
“In general, social did not lead directly to sales,” Mr. Simmons said. “We still think it is extremely important to who we are as a brand.”

Some retailers also appeared to struggle with getting buy online, pick-up in store right.

Retailers also missed an opportunity by not tracking mobile-influenced sales. For example, mobile click-to-call, in-store purchases made after mobile discovery, social media shared links to discounts, and the emailing of product page details that later convert into sales on the standard Web site are all growing for retailers but many do not understand the role that mobile is playing.

Lessons learned
One of the biggest lessons retailers should have learned from the 2012 holiday period is that the time is now to start investing in mobile.

“Mobile is starting to gain broad acceptance, but we are still only seeing the tip of the iceberg,” Unbound Commerce’s Mr. Kerr said.

“For example, first-time visits to the 380-plus mobile commerce sites within the Unbound network reached an all-time high, representing over 76 percent of all visits over the 2012 holiday weekend,” he said.

“This means smartphone owners are discovering retailers’ mobile commerce sites in record numbers, and converting purchases.”

Please click here to access the archived webinar

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

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