Mobile Commerce 2015: Playing Catch-Up with the Consumer

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eCommerce leaders know that they must constantly improve or face losing out - Innovation in this fast-paced market can quickly become the bare minimum. Download this paper to learn how to operate a continuous improvement mentality for mobile commerce and stay one step ahead of the competition.

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Retailers have learned that if customers don’t get compelling mobile commerce experiences, they vote with their wallets and go elsewhere. Mobile's role in the multi-channel is now indisputable, in fact 2015 will see mobile commerce spend increase by as much as 80%, yet many marketers are taking their foot off the gas, assuming that their work is done.

IMRG and Capgemini’s 2015 quarterly benchmark revealed that mobile accounts for 40% of all online retail sales - up from 32% in Q4 2013/14 - and increasing at the sharpest rate since that period. The research company noted that m-commerce’s share of online has grown 4,000% in four years.

The bad news is that “compelling mobile experiences” are short-lived: You might still be congratulating yourself because you didn’t get penalised by Google’s “mobilegeddon” algorithm update, or marvelling at your product listing pages which adapt to the user’s device. The problem is that, while one challenge is conquered, the mobile world continues to move on.

To meet this challenge and keep up, or at least afloat, brands need to approach mobile objectives with a business-first perspective. Understanding the customer’s needs is at the heart of this because there are far too many opportunities to fail to connect, leaving them at your competitor's door.

Extrapolating business actions from customer needs will reveal which of the many thousands of potential mobile strategies a brand should adopt, keeping customer focus and profitability at the forefront.

Mobile, search and the contentious advertising question

The big news in the first half of 2015 was Google’s algorithm change, favouring mobile-friendly sites and penalising those that failed to adapt to mobile devices.

To satisfy Google’s algorithm for mobile sites, the search engine suggests that you avoid non-mobile software such as Flash, minimise the need to zoom and give links space to avoid fat-thumb syndrome.

Essentially, these are three key elements of mobile customer experience that marketers cannot afford to ignore. Fundamentally, Google is forcing brands with cluttered, ineffective mobile capabilities to clean house or face obscurity.

Mobile advertising as a traffic generator

Mobile advertising is a bone of contention. For publishers that carry it, it provides a valuable revenue stream which, according to the FT, is estimated to reach $70bn globally in 2015. For brands, it is an ideal way of reaching consumers at the right time and place, particularly as more and more purchase journeys are starting and finishing on mobile.

However, the news that mobile ad-blocking is being seriously considered by mobile carriers and could be implemented as soon as the end of the year leaves all of this up in the air. Should brands continue to include mobile advertising in their strategy? According to the carriers, one of the main drivers behind the blocking proposition is that customers are estimated to lose between 10-50% of their monthly data plans to autoplay ads and pop-ups. In reality, it might well be that network operators are seeking a piece of the pie.

One way to ensure mobile ads are fit for purpose and don’t unnecessarily inconvenience the mobile user is to use data to ensure relevance, advertise on well-matched platforms and use creative that enhances the experience.

How mobile fits into the multi-channel customer experience (pre-transaction)

It’s clear that m-commerce as an alternative to shopping via a PC has already gone beyond a phenomenon - it’s now arguably the norm. The Centre for Retail Research states that Britain will make more than a quarter (28.6%) of all online purchases via a mobile device in 2015. However, the use of mobile as part of a truly multi-channel journey is yet to reach the mainstream. It is only a matter of time - mobile is the ultimate tool to bind the channels together and integrate on and offline experiences. Combined with emerging technology, the separation between digital and “real” is beginning to disappear:

  • iBeacons deliver real time offers based on precise customer locations;
  • Wearables, from Fitbits to Apple Watches, monitor and alter how people react to their environment;
  • Augmented and virtual reality devices, such as Oculus Rift and Microsoft HoloLens deliver immersive experiences;
  • Apps such as Blippar interact with hard copy text and images to deliver enhanced personalised content, connecting online and offline.

Joining the on and offline journeys via mobile

According to Google, 83% of US smartphone owners use them in-store. A report in Brand + Commercial highlights Columbia Business School’s findings that 12.6% of mobile shoppers use them to compare prices, scan barcodes and even make their payment.

Research from Walker Sands shows that, while only 4% of consumers have used Apple Pay in the last year, a much larger 18% say it makes them more likely to use their mobile to pay in the future. Currently, however, 80% are hesitant about making mobile payments due to concerns over security and privacy. As consumer understanding of these technologies and retailer acceptance rates rise, this number is set to shrink dramatically

Mobile service

The benefits for retailers of using mobile to cut across channels and find data streams where before there were none are clear. But the value exchange for the customer must also work in their favour. There is little point in encouraging the customer to scan labels or download apps if there is little reward for doing so. Perks like free wifi or discount codes can help generate the all-important data (such as email addresses) which link online and offline. Retailers must be cautious however, as endless form-filling or demands for loyalty cards or Facebook likes can lead to lost opportunities.

Beyond that, retail staff are also going mobile and being equipped with phones and tablets along the lines of Apple’s “Geniuses”, who arguably pioneered this form of customer service. Interestingly, the Brand + Commercial report cited above also noted that Schuh, while forging ahead with electronic receipts, found unmanned tablets placed around the store to be of little use, whereas the format seems to be working for Marks & Spencer and Debenhams.

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The app debate

Apps are an important consideration for retailers, but far from a panacea. Ampersand Mobile’s research found that 84% of consumers deleted branded apps after only one use. Certainly, they provide fast access to information and can deliver personalised content, sometimes even without access to the internet. But customers need good reason for apps to take up real estate on their phones.

For an app to prove useful it has to go beyond the mere catalogue. It must be a help rather than a hindrance (forcing customers to download an app to complete an action is frustrating and rarely necessary), and be shoppable. There is still little here that a mobile website can’t do, yet apps can be timesavers. For large multiples where finding product on the shelf is a chore, they can simplify these tiresome tasks. US retailer Target’s app has a wayfinder function, Tesco’s groceries app allows checkout staff to scan your Clubcard. Pizza Express’s app even allows you to pay for your pizza!

Moreover, downloading an app is a symbol of brand loyalty - or at least receptiveness - so should help retailers target better. Ampersand’s finding above will prove that good customer experience creates loyalty and apps are an excellent way of capitalising on that.

Social commerce

A large proportion of time that the consumer spends on mobile is dedicated to social media (some social platforms report as much as 80% of all sessions are mobile). Social commerce is, therefore, one of the biggest opportunities for retailers.

Before proactively selling on social however, it is essential that retailers cement their ability to communicate with customers. Customer service, social style is a combination of art and ruthless efficiency. Brands must be able to communicate authentically and be prepared to face customer issues head-on and in public, offering fast and efficient resolutions.

Most train companies in the UK enjoy active Twitter service feeds where consumers both receive and provide travel updates to make the experience of the wider travelling community a better one.

In fact, travel as a whole has benefited from social media as a quick feedback and improvement tool. From reviews to mobile check-in and room keys, to service updates and customer feedback, the combination of mobile devices and social platforms has created a vital real-time service tool which extends brand presence and service values beyond a brand's own properties.

Once your social channels are established, encouraging customers to interact with the brand via mobile outside of customer service is a simple case of quid pro quo. Making it worth your customers while might be easier than you think; competitions, loyalty points, special offers, premium content, personalisation, meerkats, your name on a coke bottle, free movies and much more have all been used to successfully drive social interactions.

Add a dash of personal narcissism from the selfie generation and marketers can tap into a huge volume of user generated content which has far greater reach than the brands own channels. Retouched instagram pictures of everything from beach and bikini to hotel plate can work in the brand’s favour. Encouraging on-site reviews on social platforms in the moment is proven to generate more positive feedback than once the holidaymaker is back at their computer, glum and exhausted after a bad taxi journey and airplane food.

But not all of this is a free ride. To work properly, investment is required. While a brand can sit back and believe that Twitter and Facebook are essentially providing a free customer service pipeline, the reality is that for this to function smoothly, both time and money are required. Getting this wrong can do more harm than good.

Tying the channels together

To further complicate matters, customer interactions don’t always stay within the social channels, moving across to email, call centre and even in-store. Successfully integrating mobile into the multi-channel strategy depends upon rigorous and robust data collection and CRM systems that can tie interactions together to enable a coherent response.

Once again though, the cost of integrating mobile and investing to solve one issue (in this case social customer service), has benefits elsewhere in the organisation:

Mobile acts as a conduit between the on and offline worlds, a critical tool to tie offline transactions to online history and building a more complete view of the customer.

Footwear retailer Schuh has embraced mobile in-store to improve customer satisfaction as well as gather vital data. The company uses electronic point of sale (EPOS) stations dotted around their Covent Garden store to issue E-receipts that allow the company to administer a 365-day-a-year returns policy. In addition, the company uses roaming mobile-equipped staff and virtual EPOS in-store to make the payments process so quick and painless, that consumers don’t even flinch as they hand over email addresses which enable Schuh to connect online and offline behaviour.

Customer satisfaction is further enhanced by the generous time period and no need to hunt for scraps of paper, providing the quid pro quo for gathering customer data. Monsoon Accessorize is another retailer using E-receipts, in this case to provide personalised customer offers via email post in-store transaction.

In the after-sales arena, mobile is attempting to solve customer woes in real time, providing ongoing records of past purchases (a boon for business people's expense headaches everywhere) through mobile payments and e-receipts. It is up to brands to make sure they are set up to capture this valuable stream of customer activity.

Payments and Security

Even if your mobile commerce experience is perfect in every other respect, it’s too easy to fall at the final hurdle. A bad payment experience can leave customers with feelings of unease, lead to poor reviews, or worse, cause them to abandon purchases altogether.

With this in mind, many find it easier to hand off payments to partners, including the likes of Worldpay, Sagepay, PayPal and Amazon. This offers real advantages in terms of customer trust, and can be particularly beneficial for security and ease of implementation. PayPal claims that its customers make half of all their online transactions via their service, so there’s strong evidence to suggest that recognisable trusted services increase shoppers propensity to purchase.

For those that choose to go it alone, there's a lot to think about, from data security to currency conversion or testing and security certificates. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to payments. As with everything, it’s imperative to deliver a finessed service which works as well for a mobile customer as it does for a desktop shopper. No option is without its hurdles and pitfalls, but make the right choices and it could be the deciding factor for your customers.

For more information and ideas on mobile commerce, check out another paper produced by eCommerce Expo and here.


It is hard to contemplate a brand in 2015 that doesn’t have some kind of mobile strategy. Even marketers who dipped their toes in the water a mere 18 months ago have already come up with several iterations to improve and react to customer needs. The sign that the trend is mainstream is that even services like Weebly, Wix, Squarespace and Wordpress automatically provide mobile optimised versions of created sites as part of their most basic packages.

But there is still a great deal of work to be done! Too many strategies are created purely for mobile without a thought as to how they will impact other brand touchpoints - slick email campaigns that lead, inevitably, to a poor call centre experience, for example. In the rush to do the ‘fun’ things on mobile, not enough thought is given to the dull information gathering that needs to underpin it. Marketers realise it’s a fast-moving landscape, but are often acting with haste not speed.

Mobile technology can accomplish great things for retailers, but its use should be considered with the customer in mind. It’s too easy to forget that your customers don’t care that you haven’t tied everything together - they just choose the best experiences. The term mobile-first has become a truism: If you’re not able to offer compelling mobile experiences, your customers won’t switch to a PC, they will switch to a competitor. With that in mind, perhaps it’s time we stopped talking about mobile-commerce and started talking about... commerce. Mobile is a given.

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