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Where to start with retail and mobile

By Gary Schwartz
October 27, 2009

Gary Schwartz is president/CEO of Impact Mobile

Gary Schwartz is president/CEO of Impact Mobile

The 2009 consumer is way ahead of any national retailer’s marketing department. The consumer is leveraging her phone as a “mobile mouse” to click, search and explore in the mall and in the aisle.

The retail chief marketing officer is looking for some new-fangled, high-tech way of engaging with this itinerate shopper. The sage truth is that the marketing department is chasing shadows.

Instead of focusing on the consumer and how she is leveraging mobile in their stores, retailers are investigating widgets and applications that have little to no reach or frequency in their consumer base.

There are two simple things that I would suggest to the retail or manufacturer chief marketing officer.

Learn from history
Take a Google back into the 1990s and look at the then-emerging trends on the Internet. History tends to repeat itself.

The Web browser was becoming standard on the desktop in the mid-’90s. During this period of enormous growth, businesses entering the Internet arena scrambled to find consumer models that worked.

Many companies were lured into thinking that developing applications on the desktop would give them market share and consumer mindshare. They did neither.

Indeed, the desktop become too fragmented and difficult to navigate.

As the PC browser matured and the speed of the Internet pipe increased, server-side solution that functioned inside the browser – ASP applications – became standard fare.

Isolated in the browser, these in-browser solutions need a communication channel to engage and reengage the subscriber. ASP applications used email as this retention tool.

We are presently reinventing the wheel with mobile.

With the smartphone revolution, applications are the rage. “I-want-one-too” CEOs are running to their agencies and IT departments and developing application that only 5 percent of consumers are returning to after a lonely month on the phonetop.

So what are mobile consumers using?

Learn from your consumer
Take an undercover trip to your local store, peer through your security cameras and watch the consumer. She is doing two things in your aisles: using her phone to browse and to text.

Is the consumer opening the browser to find tips and information to help with her shopping experience? Is she messaging home for the shopping list? Possibly.

But the shopper is certainly not scanning 2D codes with her phones. She is not opening the security on her Bluetooth settings for inbound offers. She is not all downloading your application to her phone.

The consumer‘s mobile and online toolset is similar. She is using her browser and messaging as the first data-click. Focus on these channels.

These mobile channels are so powerful because:

• They are both standard on any phone nationally;

• The consumer is already onboard;

• They are proximate to purchase intent and point of sale.

The chief marketing officer should start where the consumer is: What is your text CRM strategy? What is your mobile Web strategy? Solve these and you have the ultimate last-mile retail solution.

Gary Schwartz is president/CEO of Impact Mobile, New York. Reach him at

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