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Key mobile commerce lessons learned from eTail West

March 7, 2012

By Serena Ehrlich

Retailer ecommerce teams face new challenges each year as technology and consumer adoption continues to grow. By end of this year, it is estimated that chief marketing officers will spend more money on technology than chief information officers.

The eTail West conference last week in Palm Desert, CA, covered a wide range of ecommerce-related topics and challenges facing today’s retailers. The event showcased five core themes:

1. Are you mobile ready?: The massive effect that mobile will have on retail in the next three years
2. Optimize your Web site for mobile – yesterday: Mobile landing pages are required
3. Diversify the campaign: Multichannel integration is a must
4. Think before you leap: Social media: strategies before tactics
5. Every customer is unique: Personalize customer experiences through optimized content

Are you mobile-ready?
“In three years, it will not be technology leading the retailer to mobile marketing, it will be the consumer.” This powerful statement from Mickey Alam Khan, editor in chief of Mobile Marketer, Mobile Commerce Daily and Luxury Daily, gave eTail attendees pause. And it should.

Eventually, the first interaction with a brand will be through mobile, Mr. Alam Khan said. What experience are today’s retailers providing there?

There are currently 2 billion people online and 8 billion connected devices. By the end of the decade, forecasters estimate 8 billion handheld devices will be in use.

Considering the mobile phone is the primary POS research tool, and that mobile consumers have different needs, marketers need to design a strategy to meet consumers where they play. The mobile phone is the playground.

It is key to note that mobile messaging means being sensitive to the consumer. By providing customers with content of value, brands gain customer trust.

Customer trust is critical for establishing a long-term relationship between company and customer. For maximum success, companies need to create targeted mobile content and distribution strategies for reaching specific audiences.

So who is using mobile marketing? Walmart has millions on their mobile subscriber list. Victoria’s Secret, Charlotte Russe, Steve Madden, Domino’s and Armani Exchange also engage their consumers via SMS and MMS.

Should my company focus on tablet or mobile phone marketing? Both.

ETail West saw its share of discussions surrounding mobile phones versus tablets.

The truth is, marketers should be creating landing pages for both. The mobile phone is the first device used in the morning, tablet usage is strongest at night and the usage rates are skyrocketing.

Optimizing your content and the experience for both device types is a must.

Shoppers who own both a tablet and a mobile phone spend almost 60 percent more money online than the average user and are twice more likely to make a purchase using their mobile device.

Application usage also differs on phones versus tablets: 85 percent of phone users access apps, while only 61 percent of tablet users access apps on a regular basis.

And the driving reason behind mobile purchases? Consumer downtime.

Yep, consumers are bored and browsing your site – so every day that your site remains not optimized for mobile, the more users and customers you are losing due to a poor user experience..

Additional mobile marketing statistics cited at eTail West include:

• 98 percent of phones nationwide can receive mobile messages
• 90 percent of phones nationwide can receive MMS multimedia messaging
• By 2015, mobile shopping will account for $163 billion worldwide
• Mobile commerce is predicted to reach $30 billion. In fact, PayPal mobile volume grew 500 percent from 2010 to 2011
• 43 percent of U.S. retail sales are influenced by Web research, and much of that research is being done at the point of sale via mobile
• 63 percent of mobile phone users would give up chocolate over their mobile phone
• 40 percent of all retailer emails are being read on mobile devices
• 60 percent of tablet owners browse online shops with their tablet, 47 percent buy
• 60 percent of mobile phone owners browse with their phones, 29 percent buy

Start thinking mobile today: To be prepared for this huge shift in consumer behavior, discover what your customers want by using internal data and customer feedback.

Use that information to craft your mobile program and begin growing your mobile database as soon as possible.

And do not forget to measure your efforts. Implement, measure, repeat.

Although ROI in mobile tactics is a not a standard set of numbers, some metrics that can be used including site traffic, purchases, open rates and subscriber database growth.

Establishing mobile landing pages
How does a company establish a mobile program? First step: a mobile landing page. Why?

A mobile-optimized site is more effective in longer page visits, which lead to more purchases or desired actions via ecommerce than an app. It must come first before any mobile programs are implemented.

With 41 percent of purchasers citing bad mobile purchasing experiences, it is clear that mobile shoppers have high expectations for mobile retail experiences.

The critical metric for mobile shopping is speed. The average mobile landing page takes seven to nine seconds to load, the average desktop page takes three.

If a mobile user is browsing a site that has not been optimized for mobile, the user or customer has to zoom in and out to find the navigation and page for which she was looking.

Retailers must reduce this friction to drive purchases in the moment of impulse: cut back the number of clicks to purchase to three.

Top tips for a strong mobile Web site:

• Understand your mobile customer’s journey and intention
• Create a consistent, relevant and targeted cross-buying experience to fully engage the customer
• Design for the five-minute experience
• Tailor the user experience to the device being used, in other words, handset optimization
• Mirrored online interface to provide a consistency for your consumer
• Implement advanced share tools such as Facebook/Google + comment box, tweet and moShare to allow the customer to evangelize your brand
• Hyper-personalize each shopper’s experience
• Simplify checkout, create accounts with easy checkout and use market basket analysis to recommend items based on their past purchases or recent items viewed
• Keep it simple for the consumer
• Keep as much information above the fold – space on the site before you have to scroll – as possible
• Consider HTML5 as it provides a richer consumer experience. Flash players pose a barrier on iOS devices
• A/B test everything

Multichannel integration
One of the top themes that emerged at eTail each day was the need for retailers to implement multichannel integration.

Speaker after speaker presented case studies showing how a more integrated approach drove higher sales, better customer experience and the foundation for customer loyalty.

With customer personalization becoming the norm, retailers are looking at multichannel integrations to create custom experiences for each customer based on previous interactions in-store, online and in social media.

Cross-channel customization requires data collection includes everything from the first click to matching multichannel purchases, acquiring email address and mobile numbers, and multi-device cookies.

Using commerce APIs allow brands to extend reach into new platforms and consumer touch points.

Socializing each shopping experience has shown to be a great tool as well. Give your items a share to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or moShare button to let your customers easily send and share the product to their friends and family members.

Keep in mind, customers ultimately do not care about the channel they are on. They only care about the retail experience they get through each channel.

Using Big Data
Most companies are still struggling with how to use “big data” to drive customer personalization.

In fact, it is the No. 1 discussion topic in Silicon Valley right now. Why?

Because there is a huge amount of private and public brand and user-generated content being created and shared out across the Web. How are brands going to collect and use this information to provide the ultimate customer?

Big data challenges for brands include storage, usage, analytics and reporting.

It is important to note that customers are more nervous than ever about privacy.

Before you start gathering data, be sure you are transparent about it. Let customers know how they will benefit from your data collection through personalized content. Remember, customer trust is critical.

Social media: Activation or engagement?
Social media is simply a tool that brands use to interact with customers.
As such, the No. 1 requirement is to make sure your social program is customized for that experience and the consumer’s needs, not just a re-creation of another platform.

Retailers are still struggling to see how Social media affects ecommerce.

Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and Fancy allow consumers to discover, buy and share products. But how does a brand maximize its presence, cutting through the clutter of social content?

The first rule is to start listening to what is being said about your brand. If you can identify your consumer’s pain point, you can begin to make the changes needed to reduce the barrier to purchase.

If Toms Shoes sees a customer comment about a damaged shoe on her Facebook page, the company’s community manager immediately responds with information on this issue can get resolved. This action and visibility does wonders for a retailer’s reputation and customers’ confidence in repurchasing.

In the last few years, social media has been about trying a variety of tactics with high price tags and low results, including F-commerce, buying “likes,” haphazardly-placed QR codes, online discounts and coupons.

TO BE TRULY successful in social in 2012, one must think strategically, listen to the customer and build a personalized social experience and social offering that drives into additional programs and platforms.

Serena Ehrlich is director of marketing at Mogreet, Venice, CA. Reach her at

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