Are retailers doing enough to capture the mobile market?

Ross Bark, Principal Consultant eCommerce looks into who capitalises on mobile’s momentum in the Dynamic Business magazine.


The proportion of Australians transacting on mobile devices has seen strong growth over the past 2 years, with the amount of online retail transactions carried out on mobile devices rising to 32 per cent.[i]

In addition to making purchases, mobile devices are also being used to compare prices with other retailers (63 per cent), look for discount vouchers online (42 per cent) and to find product information or other options on a different retailer’s website (34 per cent).

Mobile’s momentum has continued to accelerate in 2013 with more than 1 million apps now available, more than 150 million tablets sold, and more than 1 billion smartphones in consumers’ pockets globally.[ii]

To capitalise on this momentum, retailers need to consider whether a specially created app or mobile optimised website is a worthwhile investment for their business. The value that a mobile strategy can provide to a retailer will depend on the products being sold, the market and the customer demographic.

London department store Harrods boosted its global sales through its new mobile-optimised site which offers international transactions and shipping options. The new site attracts consumers by offering a convenient way to shop on the go, and by opening up sales to a new audience of customers abroad.

The key to a successful mobile strategy is offering customers an enhanced experience that is unique to mobile, which is easy to use and meets their needs.

A good example of this is Italian fashion house Gucci which has quadrupled mobile revenue and experienced a 70 per cent growth in mobile conversion since the launch of its optimised Web site for iOS and Android devices.

The site also contains a store locator that uses a smartphone’s GPS to find nearby retail stores and link customers with local fashion events. In optimising their mobile site, Gucci has focused on the product within the site with the intention of providing a shopping experience that feels just as high-end as shopping on a desktop computer or in the store.

Retailers should also consider how a mobile offering will assist in acquiring additional loyalty members. Walgreens in the US designed its mobile site as a tool for building its loyalty program, and has already experienced an increase of over 72 million loyalty members in the past nine months by enabling  customers to earn points across all of the Walgreen’s channels – from in-store, online or from a mobile device.

A unique component of Walgreen’s loyalty program was the integration of a health and fitness program called Steps, with app users able to connect their walking and running activity to earn reward points as well as exchange ideas with the brand’s program.

Loyalty programs should be a key consideration when developing a mobile strategy, giving retailers leverage to differentiate themselves from ecommerce giants such as Amazon and eBay which compete on price, by offering convenience and brand loyalty.

Mobile has changed the customer experience in three ways: immediacy, simplicity and context.

When consumers use mobile, they want anytime, anywhere access to information, they want simple tasks and they expect relevant solutions.

While there is evidence that mobile devices are changing how people shop, the shopping process that consumers follow remains largely unchanged.

Nine out of 10 consumers visit online sites largely for convenience; the challenge for businesses is to meet the expectations of consumers online while concurrently influencing their decision to purchase.

When implementing a mobile strategy retailers often struggle to migrate the online experience beyond the desktop to one that offers consistent experiences across all screens.

This is mainly due to their inability to successfully engage their mobile strategy as a defined channel rather than a subset of their desktop site.

Mobile shouldn’t be seen as a secondary online channel to desktop, but as an equally vital channel for boosting sales conversion and as a key tool for researching before buying.

Consumers are increasingly task-oriented in their use of mobile devices. As a result, they also expect simplicity.

Salmat Digital recently launched a specially designed mobile site for an apparel retailer client, which provides their customers with a substantially improved mobile shopping experience that is consistent with their web user experience.

Since the launch they have seen a 180 per cent increase in mobile sales and a conversion rate higher than 2 per cent.

Retailers need to begin thinking about mobile as a seamless part of a broader shopping experience to fully harness the power of mobile. And clearly if retailers do not engage consumers on mobile, they risk becoming out-dated and overrun by their competitors.

The key strategy to achieve this is to focus on implementing a centralised product information management (PIM) system, providing the power for a retailer to push the right content to the right channels at the right time. This allows a seamless and consistent user experience across web and mobile.

Streamlining processes around a centralised PIM solution and ensuring tight integration with ecommerce platforms will help ensure retailers get the right product to the right place at the right time.

[i] Nielsen/Paypal Mobile Diary Study – October 2012

[ii] Forrester Research 2013


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E-commerce guru Ross Bark, of Salmat Digital, said by merging information gathered from social media sites with existing databases, marketers were hoping to predict real-time purchasing behaviour.

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