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Speed differentiates mobile merchandising from online this year

By
December 7, 2012

Whether it is locating in-store inventory, checking out or linking shoppers to social media sites, retailers are merchandising their mobile sites and applications this year with the consumer’s time and patience top-of-mind.

Experts agree that with consumers shopping more from their handsets this year, merchandising for mobile specifically plays a big role in marketing. Additionally, marketers need to think about how holiday promotions on mobile sites and applications correspond to in-store merchandising.

“This season we are seeing more retailers make all of their merchandise available for sale on mobile, not just select items or theme-based offerings,” said Craig Besnoy, president and managing director of North America at Netbiscuits, New York.

“This means that retailers need to ensure their entire infrastructure is integrated into mobile, including product availability, pricing, store hours, customer service and loyalty programs,” he said.

“Retailers are now integrating mobile into their marketing messages. They are gathering device information and leveraging that information to merchandise intelligently based on location, device type, browsing history and bandwidth.”

Stepped up efforts
This year, retailers are stepping up their merchandising efforts for their mobile sites and apps.

Macy’s for instance, is using its mobile site to lure shoppers with free shipping, gift guides that broken into product categories shop and online-only promo codes.

However, what makes the brand’s mobile initiatives stand out is the focus on location.

The homepage on Macy’s mobile site prominently promotes a section where users can access a mobile coupon that is redeemable in-store.

Similarly, GPS is heavily integrated into Macy’s app and mobile site to help users locate the nearest store.

Whether a consumer is looking to shop online or go to a bricks-and-mortar store, Macy’s mobile app and site gets users to what they are looking for quickly.

On the other hand, Walmart is focusing on online sales on its mobile site, and promoting more in-store features inside its app.

Walmart’s mobile site features online specials and daily offers. Alternatively, consumers can use their device’s built-in GPS to find a nearby store.

When users open the Walmart app, a picture of a present fills the page. Users are prompted to shake the screen to unwrap the present.

“There’s no doubt that online shopping continues to grow dramatically,” said Mitch Bishop, chief marketing officer at Moovweb, San Francisco. “But these growth rates pale in comparison to the growth of mobile sales, which are easily double last year for many of our customers.”

“Online merchandising should share as much of the content, features and business logic between the desktop site and mobile experiences as possible,” he said.

“This allows retailers to focus on customizing the front-end experience for each touch point, he said. “Creating an amazing experience for mobile channels that takes advantage of unique mobile capabilities is critical for retailers.”

Social stance
Social media can also be an effective way for marketers to approach merchandising this year.

Mobile and social go hand-in-hand, and if used correctly can be used in conjunction to bolster brand affinity and revenue.

For example, Target is betting on social media to keep users dipping in and out of its mobile site and app this year.

The company’s mobile site and app is promoting a daily Facebook contest that the brand is running to give away a holiday gift to its Facebook fans.

Not only is this a great way for the brand to build its social media followers on mobile platforms, but it also drives revenue and repeat traffic with an incentive to bring users back to the mobile site and app regularly.

“Mobile apps give retailers wider scope to be interactive with the consumer and personalize their shopping experience more,” said Wladimir Baranoff-Rossine, founder/CEO of MobiCart, Newcastle upon Tyne, Britain.

“It is easy to find the nearest store, give directions and promote deals tailored to that individual,” he said. “This can be done with PC merchandising but doesn’t really have the same effect. I think mobile apps help to build that personal relationship with consumers whereas PCs can’t really do that.”

“Shoppers are often in a rush and will not want to waste time queuing or trawling the shelves for presents and will turn to an app to hunt down a deal, check prices or stock and locate their nearest store and this is something retailers really need to be cashing in on.”

In-store experience
According to some experts, it is important to think about not only how to merchandise an app or a mobile site but also how it will connect with in-store promotions and offers.

Mobile often serves as a bridge between online and in-store sales for retailers, meaning that smart brands use in-store, online and mobile to create a seamless shopping experience.

With mobile check-outs being used by more retailers this year, marketers are increasingly marrying the in-store and online experiences.

This can be particularly effective at building loyalty, whether it is through a rewards program or assisting consumers on the shopping floor.

“If you think about the old ways that retailers used big kiosks where you could find information such as gift or field registries, essentially what retailers are doing now is taking the experience on steroids with tablet kiosks,” said Scott Gamble, vice president of digital solutions at Alliance Data Retail Services, Columbus, OH.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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