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How retailers can become more mobile friendly

How retailers can become more mobile friendly

Mobile technology and devices have advanced tremendously in recent years, with smartphones and apps becoming more sophisticated and enjoyable to use. Connectivity and download speeds have increased, which has made it far easier for consumers to engage with content on their devices. What's more, the explosion of social media has resulted in a multitude of channels and apps that increasingly grab the attention of consumers; so much so that people are spending more time than ever with their eyes glued to their iPhone or Android.

Enter mobile retailing

According to Forrester, 59% of adult mobile phone owners use their devices to research physical products before purchase. Furthermore, at Salmon, a Wunderman Commerce Company, during Black Friday sales we saw record traffic peaks on mobile, with 66% coming from mobile devices, up from 51% the previous year.

The new generation of online shoppers is a key reason why an increasing number of retailers offer products and services via mobile. This section of the population are digital natives, whose default platform is mobile; in fact, mobile popularity has increased in recent years, overtaking desktop. This means the opportunity to increase conversion and sales for brands has relied on a solid mobile retail strategy.

Why the uptake has been slow

However, there has been reluctance from some retailers, who are yet to get on board with mobile retailing for three key reasons:

  1. The first is the technology itself. Retailers have had a number of years to create and finesse their online presence, but some have struggled with the rate at which technology is advancing as it moves to mobile platforms. Many of the technologies that enable responsive mobile user experiences have only been around a few years. This means companies often find themselves unable to upgrade and adapt at the same pace. Retailers with an existing online presence have had to invest heavily in these new technologies and, at times, the change has been costly in terms of money and time.
  2. Secondly, it is due to a lack of mobile strategy. Often the business strategy dictates aggressive timelines and developing a mobile presence isn't top of the agenda.
  3. Thirdly, some retailers are lacking the relevant knowledge. A lack of understanding can lead to apprehension about investing in mobile. For retailers, it can be difficult to know and comprehend just how big the market is and how much it is affecting their business. More often than not, this sees them bury their head in the sand.

To cope with these challenges, retailers need to talk to experts who can help them navigate the fast-paced, changing landscape and ensure that they aren't being left behind as the rest of the market moves forward.

So, how can retailers best implement a mobile retailing strategy?

Instead of adopting a big bang approach - i.e. making the entire website mobile responsive at once - retailers should target specific areas of the site first. Data and analytics should be used to identify these areas, ideally the ones that will ultimately lead to an increase in conversion. Often a good starting point is product pages, basket and checkout.

A common pitfall is to not identify the actual problem, and then to make assumptions as a result. Retailers need to list to their users, ask for their opinions, conduct focus groups and analyse the data. Often retailers decide to build a native app, but they need to know if this is what the users actually want and need. Could a mobile web presence suffice? The only way to know for sure is to ask.

Building for mobile should not be alien to retailers, all they need to do is use the same skills used to make the other areas of their business a success - listening to customers and ensuring they are constantly iterating and shipping new code to keep it up to date and functioning seamlessly.

The road ahead

There are technologies in the mobile space that are set to change the game for retailers. For example, Progressive Web Applications (PWAs), which are web applications that are pages or sites, that can look to the user like traditional app or native mobile app. The application type attempts to combine features offered by most modern browsers, with the benefits of mobile experience. The advantages of this over a mobile responsive webpage is that they're reliable and can work offline. They respond quickly to user interactions, and button clicks without jarring. Due to the experience being akin to a native app, it is very responsive, and can be added to home screen and push notifications.

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), an open-source website publishing technology designed to improve the performance of web content and advertisements, is also going to affect mobile retailing.

They key takeaway is that both technologies will improve the performance of retailers' mobile offering, which is incredibly important considering that 53% of users say the will abandon a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load! And, once loaded, users expect them to be fast - no lagged scrolling or slow-to-respond interfaces.

Making mobile a retailing reality

As consumers' ever-changing shopping traits continue to shift to online and mobile, there is a significant opportunity to secure a larger slice of the competitive retail market. Mobile sales are now a significant source of growth and this will enable retailers to provide tailored experiences directly to the shopper on their device. Importantly, back-end processes will have to be prepared for the increased level of purchases made via mobile, and ensure that stock levels and estimated delivery times remain up-to-date. Without fluid retail experience, shoppers will be left frustrated and may abandon a brand as a result. However, brands that can successfully build a robust, personal and immediate mobile service will be able to turn one-time shoppers into long-term customers.

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