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Social media is key to mobile merchandising

May 11, 2010

shoppingWith so many retailers using the mobile Web and applications as mini-storefronts, having a spot-on mobile merchandising strategy is becoming increasingly important to succeed and drive sales.

Mobile sites and applications need to include all the retailer’s top items via features such as “search all products,” “purchase” and “add to wish list” – but adapted for a time sensitive user. Time sensitivity is key in mobile merchandising because mobile users have less time to browse, but still want to take advantage of offers while not at a computer.

“Consider the mobile Web a time sensitive environment, and direct the same experience of the existing Web site with all the key features, but also organized and adapted for busy users with limited time,” said Nick Taylor, president of Usablenet, New York.

Usablenet now has more than 150 clients that use the mobile Web as an additional sales channel.

Consumers are accessing the Web on their mobile devices more, as a natural extension of their Web browsing. 

Retailers should not see mobile as a separate world, per Mr. Taylor.

The brand and site experience should match between the wired Web and mobile Web, but the user experience should be different and consider use-case actions.

Based around use case, top areas for use while on mobile are store locators, deals, account access and search.

These are many of the same key Web features but in a more directed mode.

“Deals around key dates like Mother’s day, Thanksgiving and other big deal days should be front and center [with time-sensitivity in mind, of course],” Mr. Taylor said. “Mobile allows you to highlight deals that are also occurring in-store or online, connecting email campaigns or SMS directly back to mobile purchase.

“This time of year we are also seeing big use for gift registry, allowing people to view, add to them, check status – especially with wedding season just about to start,” he said.

Social media
According to Daniel West, CEO of Unity Mobile, Orlando, FL, mobile social media can be used to allow consumers to share product reviews or get information on products/services and should be part of a mobile merchandising strategy.

Retailer Wet Seal also recommends using social media and user-generated content to present merchandise.

The company said it is a natural merging of the two most significant technologies today – social media and smartphones.

Social media provides engaging merchandising content whether it is user generated product reviews or product ensembles recommended by users.

“Mobile merchandising is in its infancy but combining social, in context and entertaining elements to present merchandise will capitalize on the key elements of the mobile user experience,” said Jon Kubo, chief information officer of Wet Seal, Burbank, CA.

Mobile Web sites let consumers search for product information, do price comparisons and shop for locations which carry the product/service at the time that they are ready to make the purchase. 

Providing the consumer the opportunity to purchase while on the go is also a best practice.

On shelf, leveraging mobile bar codes will provide even greater access to product and/or inventory information when the consumer is in store – all with a single click.

Location-based services which are activated on consumer opt-in while in-store provide a means to pass mobile coupons and time sensitive deal information to the consumer.

“With the peak holiday buying season in late November, December, a lot of brands are working to maximize their mobile strategies to encourage consumer participation,” Mr. West said. “However, the mobile channel should be leveraged year round in a company’s marketing strategy.”

How to
How should retailers decide what goes on their mobile home page?

The mobile Web site should not simply repurpose a retailer’s wired Web site. It should be made specifically for mobile. 

Most important is understanding customers and their goals when accessing a retail mobile site. 

Consider: How long would they generally have? What are their behaviors? 

There is no simple answer that can apply to all retailers because a site should be based upon the unique attributes of a specific brand’s customer base.

Keep it simple. Keep the merchandise relevant to the consumer on the go and keep the time of year, time of day, season and customer in mind when deciding on a merchandising strategy.
Ensure content is kept up to date. Offering consumers deals on Mother’s Day items after the fact is not going to work. 

For mobile Web, ensure ease of navigation and a reduction of the number of strokes required to access information. Ensure the site or application is easy to read and easy to navigate.

Also, be open to continual refinement based on consumer feedback and your own learnings.

“The mobile experience must be more engaging because mobile interactions are shorter and the user interface is limited by comparison to personal computers,” Mr. Kubo said.

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Giselle Tsirulnik is senior editor at Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach her at

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