With mobile ranking a close second and closing fast behind the venerable television as the most frequently used channel for media consumption, mobile is increasingly the tool consumers turn to for shopping — finding what they want and where to buy it, and discovering new products, special offers, rewards, coupons and more. However, despite nearly 80 percent of smartphone owners using their phones to assist them while they shop and more than half of US consumers carrying smartphones, why do more than 90 percent of purchases still occur in stores?
Here’s what marketers can learn from their in-store counterparts:
The In-Store vs. Mobile Experience
Marketers of all kinds are constantly looking for ways to engage new customers and keep the regulars coming back for more. Whether it’s Target adding a coffee bar or restaurant to sate the appetite of shoppers while they are out for an extended shopping spree, or REI hosting a special event featuring hands-on product interaction with local outdoor enthusiasts, in-store marketers can offer rich engagement that builds brands. While there’s no substitute for the sensory interaction in-store, mobile marketers have the ability to interact with shoppers in a different way: by sharing information about products, the company’s vision and positioning, customer experiences, celebrity connections, etc. It’s a different approach, and one that doesn’t require a native app, but it begs to be taken to the next level of creative execution.
The Convenience Factor
Brick-and-mortar stores are pretty much everywhere you might need them. They are generally well organized, have signs that make them easy to navigate and sales people ready to assist shoppers. Their products are widely stocked and available to experience first hand, making it attractive for most consumers, especially those who like to browse using all their senses. For most of us, what’s not to like?
Without sales people and the hands-on experience, mobile marketers have to work extra hard to make it easy to navigate their product “aisles” in a comparatively cramped space, create value and engage consumers with their brand; however, m-commerce sites have an untapped potential to satisfy a different need: speed and convenience. People use mobile devices to assist them in shopping at an advanced stage of the purchase cycle (a Google study reveals 88 percent take action the same day), but by comparison, the time spent vs. an in-store visit is fleeting. This makes it essential for marketers to cater to an express customer who wants to quickly search and learn about products of interest and expedite purchase, anytime of day or night. Mastering convenient product search, navigation, ranking and surfacing the most engaging items to shoppers is important.
In-Store Products vs. Mobile Products
For consumers, purchase risk is a key influence in their buying decision. The objective for in-store and mobile marketers is to mitigate risk and drive shoppers to make purchases with confidence. Standardized, modestly priced products already familiar to consumers represent low risk. These include digital products like music, books, DVDs, many CPG products and items that consumers have already vetted by some other means, e.g., through research or a respected recommendation. For this reason, it is no surprise this assortment of product categories are today’s leaders among m-commerce transactions, but categories like apparel and toys are on the rise.
However, the more complex, higher-priced and riskier products for which shoppers require hands-on interaction and more insightful information are largely the domain of in-store marketers. For mobile marketers, these products require more creative marketing and advertising platforms.
To reduce risk, the challenge for mobile marketers and advertisers is to provide valuable information to consumers in a concise and meaningful way. Doing a better job of displaying products in the context of how buyers intend to use them can help. For mobile, this may require tactics like creating a comprehensive visual catalog (e.g., multiple images: front, back, profile, inside view, close up to view surface texture, color, etc.). Adding descriptions that convey the context of the application can help, too, as in “fits any standard cup holder.” Just as important mobile marketers need to eliminate the obstacle of having complicated and costly return practices if the product does not meet the consumer’s need.
The lines are progressively blurring for shoppers between buying in-store and on their mobile devices. As marketers face the challenge of counteracting the effects of in-store “showrooming” to facilitate buying online, it only serves to drive retail innovation through better experiences and greater convenience. The smartest marketers are leveraging mobile devices as a hook to drive in-store traffic and loyalty, where a shopper’s average spend per visit is typically higher. These players provide shoppers with nearby store information, convenient online ordering and in-store pickup, more effective browsing, coupon and in-store loyalty shopping incentives to drive in-store foot traffic through mobile apps.
With mobile projected to soon surpass TV as the primary way we consume all types of media, how will mobile merchants take advantage of this opportunity to engage shoppers more often, more deeply and more conveniently than their in-store rivals?