The Retail sector has experienced a dramatic change over the last decades thanks to developments in mobile technology combined with a continued evolution in social media culture which has led to the rise of a new breed of buyers. Today’s Buyers are more demanding, discerning and sophisticated while the traditional selling models are not good enough to secure a sustainable sales flow. The digital age has brought about a world with instant access to information, where competition is just one click away. The shopping experience has moved beyond the physical stores, and begins quite some time before the actual purchase takes place.
The offering is global, not just that of the shop around the corner. Features, comments, prices and special offers can be compared in real-time, at home, while commuting or even in the shop. This has really changed the aspects of a buyer’s journey and as a result, customers can make an informed purchasing decision, without the need to set foot on the street. In fact, to put this into perspective, studies have shown that not only are significantly more users accessing the web from a tablet or smartphone than a desktop, they are doing so with more e-Commerce intent than ever before. During last year’s busy holiday shopping season, a third of all online purchases came from smartphone users. Not even Black Friday was immune to mobile fever, as nearly 40% of sales on the traditionally brick and mortar shopping day came via a mobile device. That’s almost 10% from the previous year.
So, why is this case, why is the retail world headed this way? Let’s have a look.
- Customers increasingly spend most of their time in the digital confines of the mobile world; therefore, so too must retailers. According to research, m-Commerce accounts for about 35% of all online retail transactions this year, compared to 30% last year. Japan, the UK and South Korea continue to lead the globe, seeing the greatest proportion of m-Commerce transactions relative to total e-Commerce (online transactions). This trend is expected to continue, with m-Commerce globally forecast to reach close to parity with traditional e-Commerce channels by 2018 and beyond. This shift to mobile shopping, and smartphones in particular, is reinforced by Accenture’s global consumer research report. Notably, 40% of global survey respondents admitted to shopping either more or significantly more through smartphones and tablets. The survey also found that 27% of people expect to purchase even more via smartphone and 47% can’t wait to receive real-time promotions on their mobile phone while shopping in store.
- Differentiate between having a mobile presence and being mobile first. The modern buyer expects retailers to have a mobile presence, that is, a functional app and mobile site. Yet this is something many retailers still have not successfully achieved. In the UK, for instance, less than 3% of retailers consider their mobile experience to be cutting-edge. In fact, 20% of retailers still do not have a transactional mobile site and almost half do not support mobile responsiveness. This in itself is detrimental, especially for millennials, as in the UK, the majority admitted that a poor mobile experience would make them less likely to buy other products from that company. However, functional apps and mobile sites alone will not drive customer adoption. Merchants need to go above and beyond by offering value-add, contextualized propositions that touch all aspects of the purchase journey, not simply focusing on the end transaction. Starbucks, for instance, is a market leader when it comes to a mobile-first mind-set.
Their introduction of an ‘Order Ahead’ function allows customers to order and pay for items in advance of collection from the store. This functionality extends Starbucks’ reach into an earlier, previously untapped stage in the customer journey whilst offering customers a proposition with a clear benefit: skip the queue. More generally customers can use the Starbucks app at every stage of the customer journey, from ordering ahead and paying in store, to collecting and redeeming loyalty points. This range of convenient, value add functionality gives buyers little reason to leave the Starbucks ecosystem, hence it’s no surprise this is considered a major driver of growth for the company. In fact, 21% of Starbucks’ sales are facilitated through their mobile app.
- Messaging apps and social media- reshaping the future of mobile. There is no arguing that mobile will be most significantly impacted by messaging apps and social media because of the shear reach and customer base they support. Today, 6 out of the top 10 most used apps are messaging apps. For instance, WhatsApp has over 1 billion monthly users and Facebook messenger over 900 million users.
Messaging apps are being heralded as the ‘operating systems of the future’; platforms which could eventually mark the death knell for mobile apps. The beauty of messaging apps is that they enable customers to easily access the functionality normally siloed in individual apps without leaving the messaging app. Platforms such as WeChat – a Chinese social messaging app with over 500 million active users- allows users to access a spectrum of services from within a conversation. For example, within WeChat, users are able to order taxis, buy cinema tickets, check in to flights, access bank statements and more. Facebook also has a similar strategy to WeChat, when it launched its Messenger Platform. With many other companies following suit (e.g. Microsoft, Slack. Kik), the race is on to be the messaging platform of choice in the new ecosystem.
Enterprises are leveraging the services provided in these platforms to interact with customers. Powered by a new concept, ‘chatbots’ are generally autonomous, using artificial intelligence to simulate a human conversion with the user for certain tasks, i.e. a chatbot could communicate the status of a customer’s order. However, not all chatbots are autonomous; a number are in fact just business employees at the other end of the conversion, utilizing the chatbot as a direct communication channel with customers.
Reducing the friction between product discovery, decision and purchase, social media is also transforming how consumers engage with brands and retailers. In fact, data shows that 32% of the world regularly uses social media, with 80% of it being consumed through mobile. This shows how major a marketing channel social media represents. Unsurprisingly, penetration rates tend to be highest for the younger generations (millennials) and lowest for older generations (boomers). This means that retailers need to think how best to meet the need of their different customer segments, bearing in mind that a one-size-fits-all approach may not work for social media.
This means that brands should adopt the best of retail strategies if they want to stand out. And this starts with having a mobile store. So, how can you make your own mobile store easily and in a way that integrates all these factors of m-Commerce? As a matter of fact it’s pretty straightforward especially with platforms such as iBuildApp. iBuildApp is a very easy to use mobile app creation, hosting and management platform. The platform allows businesses to create and publish iPhone and android-based apps in a matter of minutes. The web interface is solution-based with widgets for location/contact us, coupons, video, audio, pictures, RSS, Twitter/Facebook etc. It’s easy and requires no coding to make your own professional app.
You can promote your brand, set up your mobile store in minutes; the platform has everything you need to develop your desired app. With this platform, for instance, users can simply click on the ‘Create App’ button to get this template. Once purchased, a dialogue box will appear asking if you want to use the template right away or you want to use it later. Click ‘Use It NOW’ button if you want to start creating an app and using this template now- the system will navigate you through the app creation process. Otherwise, you can select ‘Use It Later’ button. The template will be available for you anytime when you start a new mobile app, in Mobile Templates section.
The Bottom Line
Mobile commerce, in all its forms, is growing exponentially. Consumers of all ages use their mobile device for shopping on-the-go, making more-frequent mobile payments, and connecting to other sales channels. This explosion of mobile usage offers challenges and opportunities to retailers as they race to provide reliable, always-on access to a new retail experience.