Mobile commerce is the fastest-growing segment of e-commerce, now accounting for nearly 30 percent of e-commerce sales, up from about 25 percent in 2015. Analyst firm comScore estimates that there are 189.7 million consumers who own smartphones, or about 60 percent of the U.S. population. The Wall Street Journal also reports that 51 percent of purchases are now being made on the Web, up from 48 percent in 2015 and 47 percent in 2014, and 44 percent of smartphone users report making a purchase using their handheld devices, up from 41 percent a year ago.
In addition, smartphones and handheld browsers now make it possible for shoppers to bargain hunt on the spot, compare prices with competitors while standing in the store, or see if a retailer has the same product in another size or color online--all while standing in the store. The lines between online and in-store transactions continue to blur as retailers strive to deliver an omnichannel shopping experience that engages customers however they choose to shop. And solution providers are playing an increasingly important role in helping businesses create that experience.
Here are just a few areas where retailers need solution-provider assistance supporting the mobile shopping experience:
Handheld devices become a smart catalog
No one can argue the convenience of being able to carry a computerized catalog in your pocket, and that’s essentially what a smartphone is. Many retailers and online merchants have smartphone shopping apps, and shoppers can use their Web browsers to look for bargains. It’s the ideal tool for on-the-spot purchases or impulse shopping. Often, shoppers will check online to see what they want first and then go to their local retailer to make a purchase on site, or order online for pickup at their local retail outlet. This requires retailers to integrate their inventory tracking and deliver goods where and when the customers want them.
Using your smartphone for comparison shopping
A new phenomenon is “showrooming,” in which shoppers go to their favorite outlet store to look at the goods on display, then hunt online for better deals on the same products. This kind of comparison shopping is what makes promoting an omnichannel customer experience so important.
The mobile wallet
Smartphones have become portable electronic credit cards as well. In addition to payment services such as Apple Pay and PayPal, banks are starting to develop their own mobile wallet apps so consumers can make secure purchases with a smartphone instead of a credit card. These types of transactions require a secure wireless infrastructure with data encryption and other safeguards to ensure a smooth and safe purchase.
Smartphones also offer a means for retailers to reach out to potential customers using proximity marketing. Retailers can broadcast special offers to smartphones in the area to entice consumers to come in and shop. Proximity marketing strategies are enabled using GPS and other location technologies. Stores also are starting to use beacon marketing, issuing mobile coupons to shoppers and offering instant savings as they pass goods on the shelves. These strategies require more sophisticated wireless systems to support smartphone and in-store marketing strategies.
Mobile technology is also playing a larger role in gathering customer feedback. Tracking mobile users allows retailers to assess the customer experience to remove roadblocks that impede sales. They also can use mobile devices to get immediate feedback about customer satisfaction. SMS surveys and even voice response surveys can provide in-depth insight into what motivates customers. To extract that insight takes big data expertise and analytics—the kind of expertise that retailers look to solution providers to provide.
There are many areas where solution providers can help retailers improve the mobile shopping experience. There is the transaction side, enabling online purchases and providing a secure infrastructure to capture customer information using CRM software. Mobile shopping requires fulfillment, which means managing inventory and shipping goods. Retailers need secure and reliable wireless environments in their stores to enhance the shopping experience and handle smartphone transactions. And, of course, retailers want to learn more about their customers to improve the mobile shopping experience, and solution providers can help them capture and sift through customer data to extract nuggets of insight that lead to additional sales.
Solution providers have endless opportunities to help businesses harness the mobile customer experience. It’s all a matter of deciding where you can provide the greatest value.