Customers expect more than mobile-optimized websites. Don’t disappoint.

Here’s a simple piece of advice when planning your retail mobile strategy: Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.

I’ve written more than a few posts about how mobile is not just a smaller-screen version of online commerce, and that a “mobile optimized” version of the traditional website doesn’t get the job done (unless you’ve defined your total strategy as “create a mobile optimized version of our traditional website”). Remember when the web arrived in the early 1990s and most sites were “brochureware?” A mobile-optimized site is the modern equivalent.

Why isn’t an optimized website a good approach? The simple answer is that it doesn’t take advantage of the new technologies available and, more importantly, how people are using mobile devices and meeting their expectations.

Let’s look at four significant changes well underway in the digital world:

  1. The smartphone has become the go-to device for much more than just making phone calls. List all the things you now use your smartphone for and remember how you used to do them. Email (something completely new with smartphones) is a given. But what about the other items you no longer use? No one carries around actual physical photographs anymore. Paper maps are rare and so are calculators. And many people use their phones as their alarm clocks. The smartphone has become indispensable and often rates higher on “the list of things not to lose” than keys and wallets.
  2. Cellular communication speeds are increasing. The move from 3G networks to 4G/LTE is changing how we use wireless mobile devices. While specific speeds vary across geographies, 3G networks provided 3-4 mbps downloads and 4G now provides 7-10 mbps. That can be faster than many overloaded public WiFi networks, and puts us that much closer to instant gratification when downloading and interacting with our smartphones.
  3. Social networks are in full bloom. Facebook just announced passing 1 billion (that’s billion with a “b”) users. More than half of those are using mobile. And Twitter is processing more than 400 million tweets each day, with over 50% coming from mobile devices. Using smartphones to access social networks is beyond obvious.
  4. Big data has become foundational. Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion new bytes of data – and 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years. That means there is a lot of data that can be used to make the shopping experience a whole lot better. Yes, there are still some challenges to harvesting and leveraging this data, but the winners are already making great strides.

What’s important about these four technologies is that they work together to deliver an entirely new set of experiences for those who use them. That, in turn, creates new behaviors.

The rise of these technologies has been quickly followed by significantly higher levels of expectations. Consumers have raised the bar on what they expect. The corollary is that they have lowered the bar on what they will put up with. To see this in action, take a tour through the iTunes App Store and look at the customer reviews. When there are problems or unfulfilled expectations, customers are not very forgiving.

In the retail world, shoppers expect to use their mobile devices to see competitors’ prices, find products, keep shopping lists, see detailed product information, read reviews, get personalized deals and digital coupons, and even check out. It can go even further by taking advantage of uniquely mobile capabilities like product locations shown on indoor maps.

But those are just features. The bigger picture is the opportunity for enhanced shopper engagement. Mobile devices are extremely personal and can be used to vitally understand each customer – what they are interested in, what they want to buy and how they’ll respond to specific messages and offers. And the retailer can deliver those messages and offers at the right time.

So ask yourself this question: what could you do if you could have an effective one-to-one conversation with each shopper? That’s the real opportunity that mobile brings to retail. Start from that point and work backwards. Leave the knife at home and bring the gun instead.


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Categories: Consumer Behaviour, Technology


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  1. Going mobile may be the the best thing for retailers this holiday season | the new shopper engagement - November 12, 2012

    […] it comes to the design of your platform, make sure that it is not just a variation of your online website—customers today are much savvier and they expect a great deal more from their mobile […]

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