Mobile messaging in retail and the evolution of convenience
According to the latest annual Communications Market Report from Ofcom, by the end of 2015, two thirds of people in the UK owned a smartphone, using it for nearly two hours a day to browse the internet, access social media, bank and shop online (compared to just over one hour for laptops).
The multiplicity of devices means that having a responsive website is a requirement. And as a consequence of this multiplicity the path to purchase has become far more complex. Consumers typically snack on retail sites completing their user journey across multiple devices.
Recent research by GfK shows that 40% of consumers start their retail journey on one device and complete it on another — as many as three others. Consumers are now much more spontaneous and demand the convenience that mobile affords, responding to a need that is felt in the moment: on smartphones during a bus journey, desktops during the workday and tablets in the evening whilst half watching TV.
As well as shopping online, mobile is bringing the consumer in-store as omnichannel practices allow consumers to check items are in stock, beacons provide in-store loyalty schemes or the use of tablets by shop assistants creates an endless isle where every catalogue item can be viewed with a customer in an instant. Trends like click and collect are also transforming the delivery experience by allowing the customer to choose, at their convenience, where to they want their purchases delivered to.
And in a world where competition for fleeting consumer attention is fierce, it’s absolutely vital to make sure the retail journey as optimised as it can be. More than just building an engaging m-commerce site, retailers need to bring tactics into play that support the customer need for convenience throughout the new complexities of the buying cycle whether that’s online or in-store. From the initial impulse through to the delivery of goods, a steady interaction with consumers that builds engagement and delivers customer service will foster precious long-term loyalty.
The often quoted statistic, that messages achieve a 98% open rate, with 90% of those messages being read within three minutes of being received, still rings true. It follows that by taking a holistic view of the buying cycle that focuses on the importance of customer interaction, immediately you have many more intervals before, during and after a sale that messaging supports.
Before the sale, SMS marketing helps drive traffic to websites, particularly around product offers and promotions. This study indicates that consumers who are sent a text message are 40% more likely to convert to a sale, whilst almost 75% of consumers in this study would like to have offers sent to them via SMS, rather than see adverts on mobile apps or whilst they're browsing the internet.
During the sale SMS can be used to send a notification that an order and payment has been received. Whilst the consumer will leave the payment page within a moment, an SMS sent to their phone is a more permanent record of the transaction.
After the sale there are also many more opportunities to sustain consumer interaction. Once an order has been shipped and when it is nearing delivery or to change delivery times are all intervals where SMS is preferred over a phone call or email. Over half of respondents in this eWeek study said they would prefer to text with a customer support agent, whilst one in five consumers prefer a text message from a business to a phone call.
Prompted by the inconvenience of home delivery, the trend towards click and collect is also fast becoming the norm, with a reported 60% of retailers viewing it as an essential option in the last mile of the delivery combined with messaging as the notification channel.
Yet whilst mobile messaging is the most effective channel in terms of both cost and engagement, there are five rules of engagement that need to be observed.
1. Don’t cold call - build relationships first. For example, a retailer might send a text message to let the customer know that their order has been despatched. The next day they could send a satisfaction survey and follow that up the next week with a promotion based on the insights gathered from the survey.
By continually gathering this rich customer data, marketers can ensure their customer engagement is personalised.
2. Aim to create customer value and excitement rather than rolling out another standard promotion. For example, capturing birthday information and sending a personalised birthday promotion or keeping customers updated with the number of loyalty card points that they have to encourage them to come back into store to either add more points or redeem the ones they have.
3. Embrace and mine user data. This gives marketers the ability to really understand what motivates customers and segment them accordingly, tailoring product promotions that you know they are likely to be interested in from their purchase history.
You can also use this data for the RFM (recency, frequency, monetary) model, a technique used to trigger promotions or personalised messages based on how recently a customer has purchased (recency), how often they purchase (frequency), and how much the customer spends (monetary).
For example, if a customer has consistently purchased for the last ten months and then stops, you could send them a “What went wrong?” survey and then try and rectify with a tailored promotion based on their response.
4. Test and learn from the various campaign components to ensure that every element is properly optimised, the strength of the call to action, the impact of the offer, the most effective distribution times and sending in conjunction with other campaigns (direct mail/email etc) are all areas that can be looked at.
5. Be responsible. You are always going to find that a percentage of recipients just don’t want to receive marketing messages. It’s important to give everyone an opt-out option, as forcing them to receive unwanted messages is a sure fire way to alienate them. Opt out routes are also a legal requirement.
By understanding the mobile consumer and their complex user journey, it’s possible to develop a messaging strategy that looks at retail not as a tactical stab, but as a cycle. From marketing and promotion through to delivery and the next sale. And by taking a holistic messaging approach it’s much easier to achieve cut through, brand loyalty and customer satisfaction all of which will keep today’s fickle, convenience driven mobile consumer coming back for more.