mobile platforms, omnichannel

Nitin Mangtani, founder and chief executive officer of mobile platform provider PredictSpring, noted that this past holiday shopping season was “record-breaking” for retail, with online sales breaking the $3 billion mark on Black Friday. Moreover, mobile commerce sales on that day exceeded $1 billion, which represented a 33 percent gain over the prior year.

The increases reflected a clear shift toward consumers who are increasingly comfortable with the notion of using their mobile devices — whether an iPhone, Android or tablet — to shop and buy. And while conversions with mobile commerce remain low, Mangtani expects this to rapidly change.

Here, the ceo discusses how retailers need to adopt a mobile-first strategy as well as some of the important market trends driving m-commerce.

WWD: Why was 2016 an inflection point for mobile commerce?

Nitin Mangtani: Two important trends emerged in 2016. First, we witnessed the continued evolution of mobile. Whereas mobile used to be one channel in retail, it has very clearly emerged as the nexus of all channels. Whether consumers are shopping online or in-store, browsing, comparing prices, seeking promotions or interacting with sales associates, their first stop is a phone or tablet.

We have also noticed a significant shift in shopping behavior. As our friends at Facebook described — consumers are now shopping with their thumbs. Smartphones are with us always and everywhere. We rely on them to conduct virtually every aspect of our lives, and shopping is no exception.

WWD: Thought leaders and industry experts have been touting the benefits of mobile commerce — but why is adoption still slow?

N.M.: I would argue that adoption is not slow. Think about brands such as Amazon and Zappos and apps such as Uber, HotelTonight and Airbnb. They all had record-breaking years with respect to mobile commerce. What that tells us is that consumers are ready for mobile commerce.

And brands are following suit with more retailers starting to realize that they must have a mobile-first mentality to stay competitive. Additional corporate resources are being allocated to the development of highly functional, easy-to-use and fast native apps and mobile-based sales associate tools. As an increasing number of brands accept this reality, we will see a dramatic increase in the adoption of mobile commerce.

WWD: So how can retailers drive conversions, and what are the top three mobile strategies they should focus on to really move the needle?

N.M.: There are three strategies that retailers should follow to drive conversions.

First, it’s all about rich media. As we’ve seen with the success of Instagram Stories and Facebook Live, people love live-streaming and videos. Users develop a deeper connection with a brand when they feel closer to it, and nothing makes them feel closer than live content. Live content is authentic and not rehearsed and it’s an opportunity for a brand to engage its customers. Brands can enhance mobile app experiences by introducing fully shoppable content where customers can instantly shop-the-look and buy items directly from a live fashion show.

Also, consumers aren’t willing to compromise on speed. Whereas it used to be acceptable for a page to load in three seconds, they now expect pages to fully load in less than a second. Consumers have been delighted by apps such as Snapchat that offer rich, dynamic experiences with virtually no lag time. However, many retailers struggle with this because they haven’t committed adequate resources to develop proper native apps and instead rely on slow mobile experiences.

Consumers are also becoming increasingly comfortable using digital wallets, such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay. In fact, Apple’s ceo Tim Cook recently announced that Apple Pay had tripled its user base since the beginning of 2016 and that transaction volumes are up 500 percent. Consumers want a fast, simple, secure payment option and retailers who don’t offer a digital wallet as a checkout option will continue to see lackluster conversion rates.

WWD: Why is speed so important?

N.M.: Speed is the most critical factor to executing a successful mobile strategy, and it’s often overlooked. Speed directly impacts conversions, period. Google has spoiled consumers and taught them that huge amounts of information can be accessed in just hundreds of milliseconds.

Today’s consumers expect everything to be available now and have no patience for slow loading. And while they expect immediacy, they are not willing to compromise on ease of use or functionality. They are accustomed to using apps like Facebook and Uber that reinforce the “mobile-first” mind-set by offering mobile-addicted consumers the power, ease of use and most importantly, the speed that they demand.

As retailers try to engage more deeply with consumers, they are loading up their pages with rich functionality and slowing down load times. This has a direct and negative impact on sales. A study conducted by Dynatrace showed that a half second difference in page load times can make a 10 percent difference in online sales.

One thing is clear: brands can offer both enhanced functionality and faster speeds by using native apps rather than mobile browsers. Native apps provide the speed and functionality that consumers are demanding and allow for better engagement with store associates. Store associates can also rely on apps to quickly obtain useful information about shoppers, communicate directly with customers and offer seamless checkout.

The bottom line is that consumers want speed. Speed leads to sales. Retailers must invest in a mobile strategy that guarantees speed.

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