Today’s shopper is undeniably mobile, and retailers who have been slow to adapt should take notice. Mobile accounted for 60 percent of traffic to retail sites and nearly 40 percent of orders in the fourth quarter of 2017 — an all-time high. For the first time in history, the majority of Christmas Day orders were placed on mobile devices, which drove nearly 70 percent of digital traffic during the holiday.
The growth of mobile commerce shows no signs of slowing down and is even more pronounced globally. In Asia for example, more than 70 percent of consumers shop on their smartphones, compared to 60 percent worldwide.
Multiple factors are driving the upswing in mobile commerce. Shopping on smartphones and tablets has become more convenient and appealing, as mobile search, connectivity and ease of use have improved. The channel is also attractive because of its speed and 24/7 availability, whether on the way to work or when stores are closed during a holiday.
Social channels like Instagram are growing as a source of inspiration for shoppers, while social networks like Twitter are becoming a prime place to resolve customer service issues. Apple Pay and other mobile payment services have made it easier and more secure than ever to make purchases. And many retailers have made both mobile sites and mobile apps more personalized shopping experiences.
How retailers can stay at the forefront of mobile
Investing in mobile is no longer an optional area for innovation — it’s a survival strategy. Retailers today must not only have a mobile-optimized storefront, but also use mobile to help shoppers find stores, research products, receive real-time offers, communicate directly with brands, and get post-sale service. For many retailers, the biggest challenges to implementing a successful mobile strategy are internal, including aging legacy technologies or turf wars based on the false premise that mobile will cannibalize the brick-and-mortar business. But brands can’t afford to stay behind the curve any longer.
Here are tips for retailers who want to make the most of mobile.
Prioritize the most important use cases for your customer
Retailers that get excited about mobile sometimes bite off more than they can chew by launching too many initiatives at once. A more effective strategy is to start with use cases that are most critical to customers, test them and refine from there.
Retailers should consider the entire customer journey, from discovery to engagement to purchase and beyond, and see where they can eliminate friction. For example, Casper, the online mattress start-up, has taken the pain out of buying a mattress by letting customers buy easily on a mobile app and offering a 100-day free trial, with home pickup if the purchase doesn’t work out.
Use mobile to bridge digital and the real world
Think of mobile as not just another channel, but a way to connect the dots between online activity and in-store experiences. Already, more than one-third of consumers report researching products on mobile devices while in a store, but more than 60 percent don’t think retailers truly know who they are.
Retailers can, for example, use mobile devices to help sales associates recognize customers that walk in or send alerts to help shoppers locate products they’ve searched for online. Suitsupply, a men’s apparel retailer, has mastered connecting the digital and physical. On mobile, the company allows customers to view images of suits, make purchases and interact with a personal stylist via video chat. When customers walk into a store, their smartphones communicate with tablets that associates carry, enabling them to offer personalized service.
Think beyond mobile apps
When retailers step up their mobile game, they often first think of a proprietary app. A mobile app works for high-frequency retailer businesses, such as major e-commerce sites or coffee chains, but apps that aren’t used often will get deleted. Think about other opportunities for growth, such as customer loyalty programs that give users access to exclusive products and services, in-store pickup options and post-purchase experiences, such as virtual interior design options for a new furniture item.
The next stage in mobile commerce
Given the rising importance of mobile, retailers must not only catch up but also stay ahead of innovations that are around the corner. Looking ahead, we will see the growing application of artificial intelligence to drive more personalized mobile shopping experiences.
AI will boost consumer engagement throughout the shopping journey and reduce opportunities for drop-offs, as well as helping store associates recognize and assist customers in person. Shopping within social channels will gain momentum, as well as on new varieties of increasingly connected mobile devices, such as televisions and touch screens on cars.
Today, 40 percent of Millennials say they use voice-enabled assistants, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home to research products, and the role of these devices in mobile commerce will continue to grow. Chatbots that can answer simple questions will also play a bigger role, allowing human capital to be redeployed more effectively.
Smart retailers are making thoughtful investments in mobile commerce, with an eye to creating personalized shopping experiences that build customer loyalty. And they’re preparing for the next big developments in mobile, particularly the growing role of AI. With the explosive growth in mobile shopping, it’s a non-negotiable priority for brands that want to thrive in today’s retail landscape.
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