Having been the Holy Grail of retail for what seemed like an eternity, last Christmas finally saw the emergence of mobile as a seriously valuable platform for retailers.
An explosion in the number of retail sales made from mobile devices took place with an estimated £3 billion spent in the UK using smartphones and tablets in the 2013 festive shopping period. Mobile transactions accounted for 27% of all online sales, representing a 138% increase in mobile spend from the year before.
The surge of m-commerce is showing no sign of abating as Christmas 2014 draws closer, as the platform continues to gain traction with consumers and retailers alike. A consumer survey by consultancy Deloitte found that 72% of shoppers plan to use their smartphone to make purchases this Christmas, while 69% say they'll make purchases from a tablet. Recent figures released by IMRG found that in October there was a 43% year-on-year increase in mobile spending, which means retailers need to be m-commerce ready in order to capitalise on this opportunity in the run-in to the holidays.
While established high street retailers have been able to capitalise on the mobile opportunity, retailers in the hardware and DIY sector increasingly risk being left behind. Given the gulf in technical resources this is hardly surprising, but it shouldn't preclude smaller, independent retailers from having their share of the festive mobile feast.
Think mobile first
To really capitalise on the opportunities offered by m-commerce solutions this Christmas, retailers must adopt a strategy that caters to mobile shopping behaviour. Consumers expect the same fast experience on a mobile device as they receive on a PC or laptop, and failure to provide this will impact upon the success of retailers' mobile ventures. Research suggests that as many as 70% of potential mobile purchases are lost due to poor user experienc.
To overcome this, retailers need to provide an m-commerce solution that delivers a consumer experience consistent with the requirements of the mobile shopper. This means a short, efficient browse-to-purchase experience that is incorporated into the entire process, from navigation right through to check-out.
Going beyond the responsive approach
Too many retailers opt for a quick-fix, responsive design approach to their websites, aimed at creating a mobile-friendly experience. However, this doesn't always take into consideration the complete m-commerce experience, creating slow page loading times, difficult navigation and tortuous checkout processes which ultimately lead to abandoned mobile shopping baskets.
The mobile shopping experience is often more about task driven 'shopping with intent' than on delivering a long, engaged brand experience. Indeed The Integer Group found that a third of mobile purchases made on mobile happen on the same day the product is discovered, compared to the "days" it typically takes on desktop. As a result, m-commerce must be centred on a concise browse-to-purchase journey with a minimum of steps, and the mobile site should reflect the differences through every aspect of the navigation, right through to a simplified check-out process.
So how should a smaller retailer approach the development and launch of an m-commerce site that complements their existing desktop site, to make the most of the seasonal opportunity without breaking the bank?
With mobile rapidly catching up to, and in some instances overtaking, PC-based shopping it is tough to assess how investment should be allocated between the two platforms. This is made more complicated by the fact that business owners are justifiably concerned about the impact on sales of diverting resources away from the established desktop environment.
One way of avoiding this is through a software-as-a-service (SaaS) m-commerce solution, which leverages the relevant aspects of the desktop development to automatically populate the customised mobile store. Using a SaaS approach, retailers can accelerate the deployment of customised mobile stores that quickly enhance customer engagement and open a new sales channel.
The SaaS model also mitigates the risk smaller retailers face in investing heavily in mobile up front. By using a pay-as-you-go model, the cost is directly proportional to consumers' mobile activity, reducing the risk of a negative impact on other areas of the business.
M-commerce has seen several false dawns and has been a long time coming but it has now reached a tipping point at which retailers can no longer afford to ignore. The reality is that more customers now come to a retail business through mobile than any other channel. Mobile is regularly the first touch point with a brand for a consumer and a bad mobile experience will cause long term damage to brand perception.
Not only does mobile offer a potentially lucrative business avenue, it is also a critically important shop window in which to showcase your goods. With the high street now decked out in brightly coloured lights and tinsel, and products strategically placed for an optimal in-store experience, it's time that retailers' mobile platforms followed suit to help make the most of the seasonal opportunity.
16 December 2014 | 14:27 |