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Mobile commerce helps users buy big-ticket items

Jul. 23, 2010

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Today, mobile commerce means a lot more than just buying a few products through your iPhone or Blackberry. More and more in the past year, mobile commerce has been impacting how consumers search, locate and decide to purchase products and services both online as well as in physical stores.

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As consumers are evolving into true cross-channel shoppers, the real mobile opportunity for retailers presents itself. Integrating mobile into a comprehensive cross-channel strategy ensures that you are meeting your customers where and how they shop for your products.

About six weeks ago, Sears launched a mobile application that allows wireless users to search its products, browse by category, review current coupons, etc. During the 2009 Christmas holiday season, Best Buy also ran a first-of-its-kind location-based augmented reality promotion to help drive traffic to their retail locations as consumers were out buying gifts. The ability to target customers who were near their store at that given moment offered a new way to interact with shoppers, and we expect to see more advanced campaigns to roll out in the next year-and-a-half.

Most of today's consumers use the Internet to plan the limited time they have for real, physical store shopping. To capture this shopper, a compelling traditional website is a must -- ideally one that is synchronized with what's happening in local stores. With a localized website in place, retailers, especially those targeting smartphone-wielding demographics, should take the next step -- capturing consumers who have already left the house.

The quick research conducted on a mobile device while in-store is frequently the final push customers need to close the purchase. Retailers that facilitate the research process through mobile shopping tools synchronized with in-store execution will ultimately close more sales, significantly increasing their ROI.

This is even more critical for retailers selling big-ticket items and expensive appliances, as they require more research and consideration than smaller purchases. The more sophisticated customer may also scan product barcodes in the store with their phone to instantly compare prices at different retail locations.

Whether or not they believe their products will ever sell over a phone, retailers can take advantage of location-based services and GPS-enabled phones to entice on the go consumers into stores. Product information, product innovation, prices and nearby locations to touch and feel products can be pulled through local searches by consumers.

Coupons and promotions can be pushed to consumers' phone based on their location even faster today than ever before.

Mobile commerce not only helps to drive customers into physical stores -- it can help close the deal once they are there. Consumers increasingly use their mobile devices as in-store shopping tools, often relying more on their smartphones than on pricetags or salespeople.

Such mobile in-store behaviors highlight the importance of complete synchronization between pricing, promotions and selection offered in-store and what your customers see via online and mobile research.

Tailoring your mobile sites to a user's location and offering localized product or promotional information consistent with your traditional website is critical to enabling customers' mobile research.

You'll also see online consumers but this time shopping in physical stores, take a photo, share an information link or simply ask some advice from friends in their social networks prior to their purchase.

Product reviews are a particularly important way to build customer confidence in a big-ticket purchase. Mobile consumers are looking not only for facts to support their purchase decision, but also endorsements from friends or other consumers that have already bought the product and have been using it for a while.

While still in its infancy, the mobile commerce evolution can involve some steps that retailers can take advantage of now, in order to be a step ahead of their own competition.

Additionally, the strong impact of social media as part of a complete cross-channel approach cannot be ignored. Those that tend to ignore it will lose. Already impacting the traditional e-commerce segment, the growing use of social applications through mobile devices underscores the importance for retailers to carve out a social media presence that ensures that their brands are visible and accessible, and that their websites are fully optimized for mobile viewing and sharing.

One important step in achieving this is to make sure that your traditional Web site supports your local stores. Then decide on your objectives for your mobile strategy -- what consumer behaviors do you want to enable on mobile devices?

With this strategy in hand, evaluate the pages on your site that support these behaviors. If needed, update the content on them to be more mobile friendly, or simply develop mobile-friendly alternatives.

The time to act is now. Those that do will reap the multiple benefits of mobile commerce not just for the short term, but for the long haul as well.

Source: eCommerce Predictions.

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