Mobile Surge for Shopping

Sending a text to a retail customer via cell phone isn’t a good enough way to connect anymore. Now, retail companies need to optimize mobile channels in such a way that customers can buy products, track pricing and comparison shop anytime and anyplace to remain current. This means businesses should have mobile versions of their websites in addition to custom mobile apps.

A February 2012 Consumer Electronics Association M-Commerce Forecast showed that 90% of consumers own a tablet, smartphone, or cell phone. Of that percentage, 37% participate in some form of mobile retail. Consumers spent an average of $642 on mobile purchases in the last 12 months, bringing the overall total to an astounding $124 billion. While the internet generated e-commerce, the iPhone and Android devices have spawned m-commerce.

Staples has greatly benefitted from m-commerce and now boasts mobile technology that allows consumers access to a virtual shopping cart in real-time, a GPS store locator, store inventory look-up and improved on-site searching. With an app and this mobile site, Staples is able to both research successful ways to interact with consumers via mobile devices and provide shoppers with easy ways to buy and compare.

Walmart has a similar base concept but with added updates. For example, consumers are able to add items to their shopping lists by speaking, typing, or scanning bar codes. Customers can also use the app to calculate the total price of the shopping list in real time as items are added and deleted. It also boasts in-store aisle locators for products a consumer is in search of. Walmart’s VP of mobile products, Paul Cousineau, notes that it’s the next generation of retail. Some give credit to for inventing this mobile commerce space. Incredibly, the online retailer created its first m-commerce site in 1999 and its first apps in 2008, far ahead of the curve. Apps provide phone interaction that mobile websites cannot. Amazon has apps compatible with nearly every type of mobile device.

While those companies may seem to have set the bar for m-commerce high, not every business needs to develop an original mobile site. Many companies, including Hallmark, have found that their mobile website can be a mini-version of their existing internet site, meaning they manage a somewhat uniform style across all channels. Because of this, Hallmark focuses on making its mobile apps different and has multiple apps worldwide.

CMO of e-commerce and online at Sears, Michael Murray, says he wants consumers’ experiences to be continuous and integrated. Sears’ goal of providing consumers with a seamless and consistent experience across all devices has worked well but not without hiccups. Admittedly, PC performance versus that of a mobile device is in an entirely different category. However, with technology constantly changing, Sears and other companies bent on consistency are finding progress is aiding their m-commerce goals.

Some companies, like Charming Shoppes, want to forget about e-commerce and focus solely on m-commerce. While the company lack a mobile app, it relies on its mobile website. It has proven beneficial, so much so that they claim they may never attempt to create an app. Ken Mowry, SVP of digital marketing and customer engagement, says they have not launched an app because of ìconcern over low adoption rate.î He feels apps are temporary while mobile sites offer more stability, something consumers wouldn’t be able to delete from their devices.

With this trend being fairly new, and with the boom in sales of smartphones and tablets, several brands have recently created or planned to created their first m-commerce investments within the past six months. Take PriceGrabber, a company that has created a few apps but not its first mobile commerce site until November.

PriceGrabber’s mobile site is different from their online site in that it offers location-based upgrades. It also launched an app titled DealGrabber that allows consumers to view amassed deals from daily deals companies. Also in the works is a program that allows users to photograph a product on their device and submit it to PriceGrabber. Most companies have found the old adage ‘keep it simple’ is the number one rule for m-commerce. Consumers don’t want to be bothered with the complex; their mobile devices are meant for easier user interface.

As technology and m-commerce expands, retail companies are scrambling to find their niche in the mobile market that best aides customer experience and ease of shopping.  What is your strategy?