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Our industry has been talking about "year of the mobile" going back four or five years now. It was a long time coming but a pretty safe bet to say that it has arrived.
It's easy for us online people to be very excited about the opportunities that have arrived with the mobile era, for us to show off case studies and white papers about retailers with deep pockets who have already achieved great things on mobile.
It's undoubtedly a very exciting time. However, the reality is there are a number of internal challenges for retailers to over come when adapting to mobile and the rapid change in consumer behaviour that mobile is driving.
These challenges include:
This is a difficult one for any business that lacks representation of e-commerce at a board level. Getting time in front of people who decide on key business strategies and convincing them of the mobile opportunity is a challenge in itself.
This is especially true when conversion rates, even on mobile optimised sites, are typically lower than desktop sites. The journey is broken from an analytical point of view which makes proving the attribution of mobile very difficult.
To add to this you have the problem of internal politics and the age old argument of whose budget pays for mobile.
The truth is you can't be a prophet in your own village. if you are not making inroads convincing the business of mobile then maybe you need bring it to them. Build relationships with credible third parties such as google who can help you knock down any barriers and demonstrate consumer trends with wider market data.
Show the business how the market leaders in your area are utilising mobile. Don't forget mobile needs its own budget and resources to manage it effectively and make it work. Last resort, do it anyway and apologise after - chances are they will thank you for it!
Like everything new, mobile requires investment and there are number of areas that fall under this umbrella from Software & hardware to human resources and time.
You'll need a mobile website, maybe new hardware at the point of sale in store and it will take time and people to implement and manage these changes and investment. Be aware to cut your cloth accordingly to ensure you get an attractive return.
There are options for every budget from free wordpress sites to pay monthly solutions from magenta, right up to bespoke mobile solutions from the likes of usable net. These are just the critical success factors for mobile, once this is in place you need to think outside the box and be creative with how you apply your strategy.
Marketing opportunity cost
Okay, so you have your mobile site and brand new pos systems, now you need to drive visitors and footfall.
Unless you have deep pockets and commitment of additional budgets then the big question is "what are you going to sacrifice to invest in mobile?" Are you confident you have maximised the desktop opportunity? Probably not. What about that personalised direct mail piece - can we drop that?
It's still difficult to accurately measure the attribution of mobile but with smart phones out-selling desktop and laptop computers one thing is for sure, and that is that confidence is growing in mobile and increasingly complete purchase cycles are being completed by consumers on mobile devices.
Something unique about mobile is that it is being applied in different way by different companies. Being creative is the key to making it work for you so don't just copy what the person next to you has done as chances are it won't work as effectively for you.
Mobile has revitalised the affiliate channel for the multi/omni channel retailer. Vouchercloud was pretty much one of the first affiliates to market with their mobile app proposition and now has a sizable engaged audience that retailers can promote their offers to.
Quidco has a unique in store cash back program which again presents a great opportunity to utilise the mobile channel to drive customers in store and then incentivise a purchase - where the retailer has a great opportunity to up sell and cross sell.
The difficulty is in finding affiliates that want to help you make mobile work and appreciate all the challenges retailers have in making mobile work for them. It's got to be about working together, trailing different tactics and learning what works for your brand.
When is the right time to make the mobile move?
Many big brands were snoozing when the e-commerce boat left. Online pure-plays stole market share and made life very difficult for traditional retailers.
The boom in sales of smartphones over the last couple of years is rapidly changing the way consumers research and buy and we are already seeing high bounce rates and low levels of engagement on non optimised mobile sites.
Q. Have you used your mobile to compare prices and look at product reviews while out shopping?
Don't hang about, invest as early as possible to benefit from early learnings and gain a market advantage. Sooner or later we are going to see a big retailer disappear because they have failed to keep up with consumer trends and keep themselves relevant in what will no doubt become a hugely important channel.
Mobile has arrived and it is clear there are many challenges for companies to adapt and integrate it into their business.
Best to be proactive and meet these challenges head on now when consumers might be more forgiving rather than leave it and find yourself in the difficult position of playing catch up when your competitors are stealing your customers.