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Convenience has the upper hand over price in mobile retail

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March 19, 2013

As retailers continue to up their investments in mobile, they need to be prepared for consumers who increasingly expect to do more than price check via their smartphones and tablets.

Although the threat of showrooming is causing some retailers to significantly alter their pricing strategies, convenience is also a big factor in why consumers shop from their handsets. Nowadays, retailers are challenged to target two different types of mobile shoppers that each have different behaviors.

“The tremendous, triple-digit growth of mobile commerce in the last few years cannot be explained by price alone,” said Mitch Bishop, chief marketing officer at Moovweb, San Francisco.

“Yes, consumers use their mobile devices to be better informed shoppers, but the sheer volume and growth of mobile commerce has to be more about convenience,” he said.

Mobile convenience
Nowadays, consumers are buying everything from their mobile devices. At the same time, consumers’ expectations about their mobile experiences are also increasing.

Therefore, retailers need to align their mobile strategies to focus on more than price differentiation.

Convenience is all about creating a one-on-one relationship with shoppers, and the more personalized and contextual that a mobile experience is, the more likely a consumer is to come back to a mobile site or app to shop again.

Additionally, a convenient mobile experience means that the shopping experience is consistent across all screens.

As retailers begin to move forward to second-generation mobile strategies, contextually-relevant features will play a critical role in how consumers use their smartphones and tablets to research, price check and shop.

Targeted deals based on a consumer’s past buying behavior, mobile alerts and in-store mapping are all examples of features that retailers can tie into their mobile Web sites and apps to take the user experience to the next level.

The Best Buy Deals for iPad app

To keep experiences consistent and convenient, some retailers are embracing omnichannel marketing, which is aimed at creating similar experiences across all marketing channels.

“We’re seeing that integrated shopping experiences between online, bricks-and-mortar and mobile is the best approach for retailers,” Mr. Bishop said.

“This requires a holistic approach to the consumer using an omnichannel strategy,” he said. “This also means unifying your Web and ecommerce development so all channels are in sync.”

Differentiated strategy
Retailers need to understand their consumers when it comes to picking between convenience or price to build their mobile strategies around.

However, price is often a subset of convenience, according to Eric Feinberg, senior director of mobile, media and entertainment at ForeSee, Ann Arbor, MI.

“Each retailer’s audience is often unique when it comes to mobile,” Mr. Feinberg said.

“By measuring their customers’ experiences on mobile – and how that may impact behaviors in other channels – retailers can better serve their customers and prioritize changes that improve financial performance,” he said.

Although mobile holds a promise to retailers for more differentiated shopping experiences, not all retailers are getting it right.

For example, research from ForeSee has found that task-completion rates on mobile average around 70 percent. This means that the average mobile shopper is only completing what they set out to do on a mobile site or app 70 percent of the time.

There are also differences between types of retailer and how marketers position their mobile differentiation between price and convenience.

For example, bricks-and-mortar retailers have the opportunity to engage with shoppers in-store if the online experience is not up to par. Online-only retailers on the other hand have a smaller window of opportunity to build brand favorability with consumers.

“If a retailer is online-only, though, and doesn’t deliver a quality mobile experience, the chances are even greater that they’ll lose the business,” Mr. Feinberg said.

“It’s important that these etailers measure the impact of their online and mobile experiences, so they can maximize satisfaction and engender brand loyalty,” he said.

Different strokes for different users
Marketers also need to look at the differences between mobile app and mobile Web users to get a grasp on what shoppers are looking for.

For example, a new study from Compuware found that 85 percent of consumers surveyed prefer mobile applications over sites.

Specifically, 55 percent of consumers in the study cited convenience as the main reason why they chose to use a mobile app. Speed was also a factor for 48 percent of consumers, and 40 percent of consumers said that apps were easier to use.

Other top factors on why consumers used a mobile app were a better user experience, easier access to a bank account and ability to shop.

However, the study also points to buggy apps as a turn-off for consumers. In fact, 79 percent of consumers would only try using a mobile app once or twice if it failed to work.

Apps can be effective for retailers looking to leverage loyalty, but retailers also need to think about how their brand appears in SEO results when shoppers are in-store and are looking for quick information on the spot.

This means that having a solid mobile Web strategy is equally as important as having a strong mobile app.

“Even though consumers seem to be stating a preference for mobile apps, marketers need to be strive for a seamless experience and optimal user satisfaction across all channels – traditional ecommerce, mobile commerce and mobile apps,” said Stephen Pierzchala, technology strategist at Compuware’s Application Performance Management Center of Excellence, Detroit.

“Users have similar expectations for high performance on mobile apps as they do on mobile Web sites,” he said. “Consumers want fast, pleasing experiences, and mobile apps are no exception.”

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

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