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Mobile commerce in the bricks-and-mortar context

February 14, 2013

Andy Smith is client services director at Eagle Eye

Andy Smith is client services director at Eagle Eye

By Andy Smith

The rise in smartphone and tablet usage has established mobile as a key channel within the multichannel retailer’s arsenal for customer engagement.

Total sales via mobile devices in 2012 were up by a staggering 304 percent on 2011, and the role of mobile in retail looks set to evolve further, with industry predictions stating that mobile payments could reach $930 billion by 2015.

Taking tablets seriously
Mobile, a well-established driver for consumer shopping behaviour, now accounts for 28 percent of all British retail paid search clicks.

Tablets are relatively new to the retail scene, but growing in significance, with recent research claiming that shopping on tablets jumped 37 percent between fourth-quarter 2011 and fourth-quarter 2012.

Other research claims that 22 percent of U.S. tablet users alone spend $50 via their device every month. With this in mind, retailers would be wise to treat tablets as a viable route to sales generation.

Making waves in-store
There is clearly an undeniable opportunity for retailers to improve their commercial capability with increased investment in mobile sites. But how does mobile commerce work in the bricks-and-mortar channel?

In-store, mobile is often viewed as a threat.

After all, there is a danger that it will coerce shoppers to buy through another retailer. This is particularly true for smartphone users, over half of whom use mobile in-store to scan bar codes for price comparisons, reviews and product information.

Although valid, this view is somewhat shortsighted.

A report by Deloitte last year concluded that smartphone usage actually drives higher in-store conversion rates, and influences about 6 percent of in-store retail sales, equivalent to $23.5 billion of sales.

Keeping customers within your environment is essential, no matter which platform they choose to engage with you on or in which physical location they are. Wi-Fi is particularly effective here, providing a means for connecting with smartphone users when they are out and about.

Enabling Wi-Fi access in-store ensures that retailers’ own offers are top of mind for consumers.

In Britain we are already seeing the likes of M&S, John Lewis, Debenhams and Tesco investing in Wi-Fi that provides additional service benefits such as delivering product information and making sure calls to action are delivered effectively.

Wi-Fi also brings another opportunity for retailers to drive in-store conversion rates through promotional activity, with research showing that 74 percent of people would be happy to receive offers via text if logged on.

Pushing boundaries of mcommerce
For consumers, mobile provides a convenient, instantly available and fully-connected way to engage with retailers and brands, whether through general browsing or responding to a specific call to action.

For marketers, mobile allows any advertising or communication touch point in any environment to become a route to not just an online environment, but also an in-store transaction.

Retailers with a multichannel focus should encourage customer engagement that is accessible via the mobile device and deliverable in-store to make the most of this.

Of course, it makes sense to respond to evolving customer behavior. However, many retailers are being left stranded as they figure out how to win customers over at the zero moment of truth, as Google would have us call it.

It is important to remember that mobile ccommerce is not a one trick pony. Retailers are already benefiting from mobile commerce in terms of the purchase of goods, but more is to come in other areas.

Further to online mobile payments, the transfer of value through the phone and, in particular, discounts such as coupons or rebates, are going to come to the fore as retailers embrace mobile commerce.

With the right technology in place, retailers can rapidly merge mobile commerce and digital redemption, closing the digital loop at point of sale.

Furthermore, with the likes of mobile wallets and the transfer of value by mobile payment set to take off, the potential for added value functionality increases hugely.

IT IS certainly an exciting time to be in the retail industry, with the impact of mobile commerce looking both bright and imminent.

Retailers need ensure that they take the right steps to realize the benefits now to secure their place in the retail industry.

Andy Smith is client services director at Eagle Eye, London. Reach him at

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