Thanksgiving 2014 was a milestone. For the first time, more consumers visited websites from mobile devices than from desktop computers. This habit extends beyond holiday online shopping – 53% of emails were opened on mobile devices in 2014 (a 500% increase in just four years). Mobile’s growth is a wake up call for anyone doing business online.
This holiday season, your emails and websites needs to be mobile-friendly or half your traffic will buy from brands that make it easier to read, browse, and shop from a tiny screen.
Brands offering a fantastic mobile shopping experience will maintain or grow their online base, and brands that don’t will lose customers.
Forward-thinking companies are leveraging mobile to increase their e-commerce ROI and generate in-store sales. To maximize holiday spending this year, see how mobile apps can integrate the online and in-store shopping experience.
Mobile shoppers browse before buying
‘N Sync gets what some brands don’t – buy-buy-buy is over (we couldn’t pass this reference up!). Customers are so over the pushy sales tactics. Instead, they want to price shop, read reviews, and see similar products to be sure they’re buying the right item at the right price.
Smartphones make it easier for customers to do product research, whether they’re browsing from their couch or pulling up competitor pricing in a store aisle. (Cough, Forrester says 34% of customers have used their mobile device to research products while in a store.)
Instead of fighting savvy shoppers, brands are using their mobile apps to supply customers with the information they need to feel ready to buy.
Neiman Marcus rolled out a Snap.Find.Shop feature in their mobile app that allows customers to take a picture of a product and retrieve similar items. They can purchase the photographed item or the product recommendations with just a few clicks.
Even better? They don’t even need to be in the Neiman Marcus store! By leveraging 3-D visual search technology, a person can take a picture of someone they see on the street and the app returns products with a similar look and feel that Neiman Marcus sells. The feature is currently limited to shoes and handbags, but Neiman Marcus intends to add additional product lines in the future.
The genius of Snap.Find.Shop is mobile shoppers checking out items from other stores are guided to instead purchase them from Neiman Marcus – a win for any brand.
Regardless of whether your company has a fancy mobile app, your customers will still visit your site or check out your emails before making a purchase. It’s imperative that when they’re in your store searching their inbox for a coupon, or on their couch browsing your products, they receive the same seamless experience from their mobile device as they would on a desktop.
The right time + the right place
It’s a reflex for most people to check their smartphone notifications and messages, making push notification a powerful tool for brands. Push notifications are messages from a mobile app to a smartphone (think – a Facebook notification). The notification isn’t hidden within the app, but is visible on the face of the phone, similar to a text message.
Push notifications not only grab attention, but also use the mobile device’s geolocation functionality to provide a message at the perfect time. Brands can send a coupon when a customer pulls into a retail store’s shopping center, for example, to compel a visitor to stop and take advantage of the deal. If a brand is hosting an event, they can use push notifications to remind customers to check in or visit a booth. For many customers, receiving a great deal at a convenient time is too good to pass up.
You can still leverage push notifications if you don’t have a mobile app. IBM’s Mobile Web Push functionality allows you to target website visitors on their phones with push notifications. Use mobile web push to send website browsers personalized promotions or helpful information specific to the page they’re reviewing.
Let’s get even closer to mobile shoppers
Brands take the concept of the perfect time and place to the next level with beacons. A beacon is a small piece of technology brands place in their store to recognize when a customer with their mobile app passes by. The beacon can trigger a push notification with additional information on a promotion when a customer is browsing in a specific aisle or looking at certain products.
Target is testing beacons for the iPhone app users in 50 retail locations nationwide. They’re currently testing promotional messages, like sending a push notification when a customer is nearby certain products in their stores. In future updates, Target might use beacons to improve a customer’s overall shopping experience, like re-sorting the customer’s shopping list as they move through the store, bringing items in the aisles they stop in to the top of the list.
Beacons are too cool not to include on our list, but we realize most brands aren’t positioned to take advantage of this technology. Not to worry – beacons’ impact is simply delivering a targeted and relevant message at an opportune time. Today’s marketers are empowered with exceptional access to behavioral data that can be used to send targeted and relevant messages across a multitude of channels, without ever using a beacon. For example, many marketing automation platforms, like Silverpop, offer robust targeting capabilities on any data you feed it, like shopping behaviors or web pages visited.
Sales reps that just “get” us
Your mobile app can empower your sales team and boost customer satisfaction. The same Forrester study mentioned above found 61% of consumers value asking a sales associate about product information, and 69% expect sales associates to be armed with mobile devices to perform simple tasks, like checking inventory.
Using your mobile app, sales associates can give on-demand information, like whether another store has an out of stock product, or whether additional product colors are available online.
Mobile apps also help sales associates get more personal with customers. Neiman Marcus gave in-store sales associates iPhones with their app to access a customer’s previous shopping history across channels and offer recommendations. The sales associate can cut right to the chase with customers by showing them items they’re inclined to like, as well as reach out to them about events that might interest them.
Can’t afford a mobile app? Check with your vendors. Some vendors offer mobile apps to provide better access to their inventory, so you can show customers different finishes, products in the same line, or similar items. It is a great way to expand your store’s inventory without having to keep it in-store.
Mobile apps bridge the online and in-store shopping gap
This holiday season, brands can leverage mobile to drive both in-store and online sales. With customers constantly within an arm’s reach of their favorite mobile device, brands will continue to find inventive ways to maximize the mobile channel. Call us fortune tellers, but we foresee the future of shopping to be a seamless, steady transition between channels, both online and offline, focused on enhancing the customer experience.