Mobile Commerce was Huge for Holiday 2015… Now What?
Stores aren't dead, writes GPShopper's CMO/Co-founder. But the traditional store experience is.
This is a contributed post by Maya Mikhailov, the CMO and Co-Founder of GPShopper
Didn’t you hear?
E-commerce was massive this holiday, and the most significant e-commerce growth came from mobile devices. In fact, mobile’s influence on holiday sales was so huge that we still can’t stop talking about its impact on retailers. Well, that and the weather. It was too warm (but not anymore).
But this is not one of the thousand blog posts or breathless press headlines illustrating how mobile reached an important tipping point as a consumer channel. Though, did you know shoppers spent over $950M on mobile black Friday alone (couldn’t resist just one more stat)?!
Holiday is over, and now your organization has to do something about the shift in behavior due to a 5” screen that is glued to your shopper’s hand. So what did we learn and what can you do about it as you plan your 2016 Mobile Strategy?
Stores aren’t dead, but your store experience is.
Stores are not just places where consumers touch and feel products only to buy them online or on mobile. They are living and breathing brand experiences. Stores make you “feel” a certain way that opening a group of tabs on a screen cannot. They are emotional shopping avenues that still have the distinct advantage of impulse fulfillment. Over 50 percent of shoppers use their mobile devices in stores, yet many stores are doing nothing to connect to those customer devices and augment the retail experience. They are treating active digital shoppers as strangers in store.
This is a huge missed opportunity. “Surprise and delight” is not dead; it is moving to digital. This means that retailers need to look at digital tools and techniques to make their stores compelling and personalized to the customers that walk through their doors. Using store locations as an extension of digital strategy needs to be a priority to succeed in experiential retail.
Mobile Action Items for 2016
Connect your mobile strategy to your total customer journey – including your in-store experience. Start offering “In-Store Mode” in mobile applications to make them more relevant to the physical shopping experience. Mobilize your store associates – not just with mPOS, but with true clienteling tools that interact with shoppers’ own devices. Take a look at True Religion and its iWatch-enabled sales associates who are not only able to extend the aisle with their connected devices and flip those images to large screens around the store, but also pull up relevant customer information and preferences – all while keeping their hands free.
Also consider beacons, which are finally exiting the trough of disillusionment and entering the slope of enlightenment. What does this mean? It means retailers like Target, RiteAid, Belk, Lord & Taylor, and others are recognizing that behind the hype of beacons lies a great idea – connect with customers on their devices as they walk around your stores. Empower them further by allowing their devices to interact with their physical environment.
If they cannot SEARCH for you, they will FIND another.
Search and discovery are not just important for your web properties, but for your mobile ones as well. Playing the app game now has the same rules as web search – know your SEO and optimize for maximum discovery. This applies to both how the apps are found and what content is discoverable in them.
What is commonly overlooked is that desktop search visibility may differ from mobile search visibility, and having a strategy for the former does not give you guaranteed results for the latter. Know how your mobile web properties may compare and make sure all relevant content pages are mobile-optimized. That might be easier with an overall responsive template vs an adaptive strategy for mobile web.
App store optimization is an entirely different beast as well. Retailers and brands have a significant advantage of existing brand awareness to leverage strong search results in the app stores – but they may miss out on significant traffic without optimizing their store keywords. More importantly in 2016, both Apple and Google have launched significant initiatives to search within apps using the device’s search function (e.g. Spotlight Search).
Mobile Action Items for 2016
Focus on App Store Optimization. Learn what keywords are being searched for and what your ranking is for those words. Each app store has different factors which give weight to relevant search results. Tools like AppTweak and Mobile Action can help you discover, experiment and track. Also, they let you see how your competitors are ranking on key terms and track their progress.
The other side of search involves the content of the app itself. Retailers must make their app content searchable through using iOS9 App Search tools and Google’s App Search index. Increasingly these two platforms are rewarding apps that allow for searchable content and punishing those that don’t. Notably Google is giving a boost to those retailers who make app content discoverable by increasing their rank with shoppers using mobile devices.
Stop Measuring Mobile Incorrectly – It’s Conversion Per Visitor, Not Conversion Per Visit
Yes, people on mobile devices browse a lot. Why is this a bad thing? Cross-device shopping is the new normal for a majority of consumers. Google found that mobile is an important tool through the purchase cycle with 41 percent using mobile devices at the start of their research process, 61 percent in the middle and 19 percent at the end. In certain categories such as apparel, over 65 percent of research starts on the mobile device.
Thinking about mobile as only a conversion device misses the big picture of how the consumer is using this device to assist in their overall purchase plan. Measuring conversion rates on visits (which mobile generates a lot of) vs. visitors (unique users) is a flawed and outdated metric. It’s akin to measuring the quality of a LinkedIn post based on how many words it contains. Hint: More isn’t better; sometimes it’s just more. Instead, focus on how they act on the mobile device – specifically on apps.
And mobile app users are even more valuable in nearly every retail metric. When they buy on device they have a higher AOV; their per visitor conversion rate rivals or exceeds desktop and in stores they continue to shine. Retail app users visit brick and mortar stores more often; and according to Walmart, they spend 40 percent more per visit. These are in fact your most valuable shoppers. Now a contrarian would ask, “Is this causation or correlation?” But to a retailer it shouldn’t matter. Getting power shoppers to self-identify and then being able to increase their annual spend should be the goal.
Mobile Action Items for 2016
Identify and track the right shopper KPIs. As importantly, make sure your organization is on board with these metrics BEFORE launch. This includes engagement metrics (minutes per month) and commerce metrics both on the device and in your stores. Identify goals such as loyalty signups or cross-organizational metrics such as increased brand purchases annually per shopper. Also, unify your customer profile so that your organization can get a more accurate picture of cross-device shopping habits including in-store. This includes incentivizing registration so that your users can have seamless cross-device experiences and the retailer acquires the valuable business metrics. Make it easier for customers to shop cross-channel by exposing in-store inventory, allowing in-store pick-up and making it easy for them to pay regardless of the platform.
Don’t Snooze Through This…Scale and Security Matter for Mobile Success
Making an app well-designed and usable is just the tip of the iceberg of mobile application strategy. Under the surface is performance, security and reliability. There were some notable and very public crashes this holiday season from omnichannel retailers. But even those that didn’t black-out saw significant increases in traffic and a slowdown of their digital properties. In mobility, handling app scale can involve different strategies from mobile web scale. Apps can take advantage of even more local device caching. However, on the flip side, they can also generate a lot more load — even on a smaller user base.
Security is another issue that often takes a back seat to app design. As apps become a bigger player in commerce, application security must be included in the conversation. Although apps have natural defenses against certain types of attacks, they are not immune to malicious players.
Mobile Action Items for 2016
Don’t live load test. Meaning, you need to know what digital capacity you can handle well in advance of needing to handle it. Know where the “leaks” are and plug them. For security, make sure your provider is PCI compliant (at a minimum!) and has experience with app-specific security concerns. When in doubt, use a reputable third party to scan the apps for issues.
Mobile is increasingly taking a larger share of the digital shopping pie, yet many retailers were caught flat-footed in the 2015 holiday season when smartphones surged in generating spend. Refining Mobile Strategy means taking both mobile web and app strategy to the next level. Connecting with mobile customers is more than building an app, it’s executing a strategy that connects with stores, scales, and looks at the right analytics to measure cross-channel success. 2016 is a huge opportunity for retailers to stop being reactive with mobile strategy and start proactively connecting to their shoppers preferred digital device.
*Maya Mikhailov is the CMO and Co-Founder of GPShopper, as well as a professor at New York University (NYU) specializing in mobile marketing and strategy.
In recognition of her leadership in the space, Mobile Marketer recently named Maya one of the “Mobile Women to Watch” and the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) labeled her their “Guru of Mobile” two years in a row. Maya has been featured on Fox News and Women 2.0 as a “Female Founder to Watch in Mobile.”