Is mobile gluing omni-channel together?

shutterstock_182843906Sales by smart phone and tablet were up 138% in 2013, accounting for about 30% of total online retail sales. As a result expectations for mobile technology are high as both consumers and retailers alike adopt it as a practical shopping tool.

It plays a particularly relevant role within omni-channel retailing that engages the consumer through convenience and loyalty to achieve an enhanced shopping experience. A few technological issues are currently preventing mobile from achieving its full potential however, the most significant issue being websites that are not built for mobile viewing. Product search, price comparison and ease of navigation are the key deliverables that a mobile optimised site is expected to adhere to. According to a study from Accenture and hybris ‘Customer Desires Vs. Retailer Capabilities: Minding the Omni-Channel Commerce Gap’, conducted by Forrester Consulting, 39% of customers say they are unlikely or very unlikely to visit a retailer’s store if its website does not provide physical store inventory information,” said Chris Donnelly, global managing director of Accenture’s Retail Practice. “Increasing adoption of eCommerce and mobile technology by consumers underscores how important it is for retailers to introduce digital commerce into every aspect of their business to keep up with – and hopefully, outpace – their competitors,” concluded Donnelly.

So, how should mobile fit into an omni-channel shopping strategy?

  • Customers can research products online, including their price and reviews, with a view to buy now or later.
  • Mobile apps that are specific to brands can provide useful quick access to products and other related services.
  • Social networking and mobile go hand in hand and are a popular way for brands to interact with customers.
  • Promotions, such as voucher codes and QR codes, can be conveniently redeemed in store directly through mobile devices.
  • Beacons are increasingly being used by retailers to communicate with potential customers who may be nearby or in store.
  • Retailers use mobiles to enhance customer experience in store by offering on the spot information or a route to buy.

Digital data and performance consultancy, DataSauce, also encourages retailers to use mobile as a key connector. Founder, Tzvi Balbin, explains: “Over 50 percent of online browsing is now mobile, and that number will only grow. In addition to the sheer volume, mobile data is also potentially an engagement tool that bridges the gap between bricks and clicks. Make sure you are maximising these opportunities by placing mobile accessibility squarely in the driver’s seat of the shopping experience. Make sure your engagement content, especially reviews (reading and posting) and special offers, are easily accessible on mobile devices, and devise strategies that cater messages based your audience’s location (are they in your store?) and their previous engagement with your brand”.

Department store, John Lewis, is a great advocate of mobile retailing with 40% of its website traffic coming from the likes of smart phones and tablets. The success is attributed to the redevelopment of its mobile app and mobile website, including better highlighting of promotions, and improved navigation and product images. The retailer concludes that its overall success is rooted in its shops and that it continues to give customers multiple reasons to visit its stores.

As John Lewis and fellow retailers work to co-ordinate their channels in order to create a seamless shopping experience, it is clear that mobile is firmly rooted in place to help achieve this.