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Be smart about phones: How to build a mobile commerce strategy

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11th Aug 2014
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While most businesses have dedicated time and resources into drafting and implementing an actionable ecommerce strategy, the same can’t necessarily be said of their response to mobile commerce.

However, retailers shouldn’t fall into the trap of assuming that their ecommerce strategy will encompass mobile shoppers. Mcommerce has its own idiosyncrasies and should be viewed as a discipline that is distinct from ecommerce – and therefore it requires its own strategy.

“What was initially thought to be an excellent second platform for existing websites has rapidly become an entirely new platform needing to command its own specific strategic plan and in turn has had a significant impact on consumer’s buying behaviour,” explains Alison Curry-Taylor, operations director at Daily Internet.

“Mobile shoppers are expecting a much simpler, stripped down and savvy experience and are therefore unwilling to persist with retailers who cannot deliver an excellent and secure-end-to-end shopping experience in a small window of time. The overall mobile retail user arguably needs a much more intelligent website than the traditional ecommerce desktop websites offer.”

John Watton, director of digital marketing, EMEA at Adobe, adds: “A strong mobile commerce strategy is essential now as the rate that customers are interacting on mobile is increasing so rapidly. Retailers across the board are finding that their customers are increasingly browsing their websites via mobile.

“In our European Digital Roadblock research, which surveyed over 350 European marketers in April 2014, we found that most companies have realised the importance of mobile, with 32% investing more than last year and 12% investing a lot more.”

With investment on the rise, organisations need to ensure that they have the correct vision and goals in place, or else they run the risk of jeopardising its effectiveness.

But where should businesses start when building a strategy for their mobile commerce initiative? First of all, organisations should conduct an audit of their current capabilities to get a realistic picture of where they are presently in terms of skills, resources and technology.

“It’s important that any business looking to implement, update or change their mobile commerce strategy first take note of where they are realistically,” advises Paul Crutchley, strategic engagement director at GSMA. “Taking an honest and hard look at what measures they have in place in terms of technology and education and then looking at where they would like or need to get to in order to compel their customers and grow their base. And then mapping out how to get there, complete with milestones and regular check-ins.”

As with the development of any strategy, laying the groundwork is fundamental. This means not only getting a good understanding of the company’s present resources, but also thoroughly analysing the marketplace – what is the competition doing; how can your organisation differentiate; what does a typical mobile user look like; what mobile platforms do they use; what is their current user experience; and what do they expect from mobile services?

“The groundwork that needs to be undertaken needs to look at the marketing intelligence that the retailers most likely already have on their business, their consumers and what they want,” recommends. Dan Cohen, regional director at Tradedoubler.

“In addition, the following needs to be considered before progressing. Firstly, there needs to be a clear understanding of the consumer’s mobile behaviour and how it differs to that of online. Then, the mobile purpose can be defined within the business and goals (both short- and long-term) can be set followed by a mobile competitive analysis.”

John Watton, director of digital marketing, EMEA at Adobe, adds: “Brands need to work out where their audience hangs out and where traffic is coming from in order to optimise the experience across all channels. An audit should always be carried out to get to the core of what your customers want and expect from a device. This will be different from brand to brand, it could be that your customers want to continue their session when they’re back on desktop, or maybe it is quality graphics that attracts them to your business.”

With this information collated and scrutinised, brands are then encouraged to map out how they ideally intend mobile commerce to fit into their customer’s journey. Crutchley provides the following tips:

  • Step 1: Define the use cases or case studies which make up your ideal or existing customer journey.
  • Step 2: Look at what touch points you want to make with along that journey and what technology can best reach those customers.
  • Step 3: Understand what can enable mass market for you, deciding on a technical solution that limits your growth or doesn’t enable reaching further than your existing customer base could be a bad move.
  • Step 4: Determine what success looks like for you, and establish what ROI looks like.

With all of this prepped and enshrined in the strategy, the organisation has a clear line-of-sight to appropriate strategic goals and KPIs, including what the business is ultimately seeking to accomplish with the initiative. Now it needs to establish how it will achieve these aims. This means that work on the strategy must progress to cover processes, resources and technology.

And while Cohen emphasises that it is critical that a strong synergy between the technical teams and the business departments is established so that they are aligned, there is also work that needs to be done outside of the company walls.

“For mobile commerce to reach its full potential collaboration is essential. It can’t just be about businesses operating independently of one another – this will only serve to further fragment the market as well as products and strategy,” notes Crutchley.

“Merchants, mobile operators and banks need to co-operate. They must work together in key intersections, like defining e a consistent transactional journey, online and in store, for consumers and staff. 

“The goal for all parties involved is to deliver a consistent service to all customers, as a baseline. This means providing ubiquitous services for transacting, engaging in loyalty programmes and couponing and ensuring new technology  is brought in-store to help support and enhance the overall shopping experience. Once these baseline items are in place businesses will be able to provide access to decision making and digital experiences, no matter what handset, tablet, or network.”

From a technical perspective, Cohen suggests that there are six key elements that must be squared off within the strategy:

  1. The user experience. “Usability is the single most important factor for mobile commerce,” says Cohen. “Imagine a consumer wanting to purchase on your site, but being confronted with a long form to fill out. They are likely to go to a competitor and purchase it there. Site navigation and search functionality is really important and must be properly thought out.”
  2. Web or native app. “What type of solution do you want to deliver to your target customers? Each has pros and cons – a web app is quick and cheap to implement and can be updated in real time but internet connectivity and browsing speeds can be frustrating for the user.”
  3. Target platform. “There are many different mobile and tablet platforms and so making the right choice on platforms is important and depends on the usage of your target market and location of usage.”
  4. Security. “This is a big issue in the digital world and as the mobile landscape gains traction and becomes the device of choice for many consumers, this will influence a consumer’s willingness to purchase on a mobile device.”
  5. Marketing. “The next challenge is to market the solution to generate maximum revenue. Several methods such as geo-targeting, location-based services, discount codes and mobile payments have to be considered – as well as mobile advertising and in-app tracking and promotion.”
  6. Value-added features. “This really depends on your business sector and what you think the users want. For example, loyalty schemes, barcode scanning, store locator maps, ‘click and collect’ functionality can all be used to attract the new consumer and retain them.”

A further point to consider is how the mobile site should fit into the portfolio of other digital platforms that the business has a presence on. Thomas Gronbach, a digital quality expert at Keynote, explains: "Mobile sites need to be consistent with other versions of the site and should be familiar to repeat shoppers in order to maintain their business. Considering a ‘three screen approach’ when expanding online services is extremely important. Consumers expect to be able to visit websites on whichever device they have to hand – tablet, smartphone or desktop – and the service delivered on each should be consistent.

"With different devices come different capabilities and therefore challenges, making development more complex. For example, differing screen sizes make it more difficult to present website content consistently across different devices. The rewards of taking all these into account when designing a mobile strategy, however, will see adoption rates soar, as usability and relevance is key to which app or site a visitor chooses."

With these details baked into the strategy, there remains a handful of final points to consider, relating to the delivery and ongoing maintenance of the mobile commerce initiative. According to Alex Sbardella, product strategy director at Red Ant, key points to consider during the strategy building process, are:

  • How will the mobile ‘brand’ be created? “The nature of mobile and the way users interact with it are very different from other channels,” says Sbardella. “It is important to think about how this will impact upon branding and the best way to integrate with your overall brand story.”
  • How will the product be delivered? How will you integrate mobile with your primary channels? Do you have the required skills in-house or do you require the services of a third party?
  • How will the product be released? Have you considered app store approval time, integration with other marketing initiatives as part of an overall marketing strategy, how to make best use of online rankings and reviews?
  • How will the site be monitored and maintained? The mobile product needs to be monitored, maintained, fixed if necessary and regularly updated if it is to continue to engage customers.

Once these final questions have been considered and solutions decided upon, the strategy should be both robust and actionable. With this in place, a business will be well-positioned to make every success of its mobile commerce initiative.

“The mobile landscape is constantly evolving, and a robust strategy goes a long way to ensuring you can keep up and make the most of developments,” suggests Sbardella. “The fragmented nature of the mobile channel also means that strategy has a vital role in providing a clear path to mobile engagement that truly delivers on specific business aims.

“Having a strategy in place provides a method for measurement, allowing for reliable analysis of mobile financial contribution to the bottom line. Not having one, or failing to give it proper time, resource and attention, can lead to a loss of user trust and engagement.”   

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