With the advent of eCommerce, brick and mortar retailers had to expand their customer experiences to include digital storefronts in order to remain competitive with digital pure-plays and visible with the growing masses of digital consumers. The big-box digital retailers like Amazon increased the pressure by under-cutting pricing and initially offering transactions without collecting state sales tax. However, while eCommerce is predicated to grow steadily and influence a continued shift in consumer behavior, the introduction of mCommerce will produce a new type of consumer behavior that supplements the in-store retail experience.
Initially, mCommerce behavior, particularly via tablet usage, appeared to be similar to that of digital behavior. Consumers were researching potential purchases and, in growing numbers, actually purchasing using tablets during leisure time. mCommerce via smartphones is changing typical digital commerce behaviors due to the fact that consumers use their smartphones independent of context. Smartphone usage is truly independent of circumstance, as long as we can connect. This provides a massive opportunity for retailers and brands to engage consumers in a relevant, real-time way that drives in-store traffic and transactions.
Access & Fragmentation: The Momentum Behind the Mobile Consumer
Mobile consumer behavior using smartphones is distinct, unique and in a period of rapid development. The shift in behavior is largely due to the availability of information outside of typical digital access points, like home and work, and the fragmentation involved in how consumers are accessing this information. Per McKinsey & Company’s April 2013 Report, iConsumer: Digital Consumers Altering the Value Chain, the number of apps downloaded has more than doubled to over 30 per user from 2008 to 2012. Interestingly, the apps we’re downloading are typically single-purpose apps. So, while the amount of information consumed has grown, it is more difficult for marketers to reach their audiences due to this vast fragmentation.
However, an opportunity has also emerged with the popularity of single purpose apps. Marketers can identify apps with audiences that are highly saturated with their target consumers and tailor outreach in a way that provides value, particularly in real-time. Offering coupons or special incentives to be redeemed in-store is a significant opportunity for retailers to drive in-store traffic and transactions. Mobile redemption analytics and tracking, like the solutions offered through Sparkfly’s platform, provides retailers with concrete data that measures marketing ROI.
Showrooming: A Disruptive Behavior that can Become an Opportunity
‘Showrooming’ has caused brick and mortar retailers concern because consumers are using their mobile devices to compare prices of in-store goods with the same items online and then purchase the item with the better price tag. ‘Showrooming’ has actually provided an important lesson in how retailers can evolve the in-store experience to leverage mobile devices for the benefit of both the consumer and the retailer.
Consumers are becoming more informed than ever about potential purchases. Through mobile shopping, research and social platforms and apps, consumers have access to real-time information that helps guide their choices. This presents retailers with the opportunity to learn more about the right touch points to reach and engage their customers. Partnering with relevant mobile apps to create targeted services and incentives that are tailored to their users’ preferences will not only increase ROI but also improve the customer experience, drive loyalty and initiate long term relationships.
Reaching Customers at the Right Moment, In the Right Context
Local market targeting is more than just a buzz word; it’s a major value proposition for mobile ad networks. It provides a huge advantage for mobile ad networks striving to increase their share of digital budgets. Detractors claim that local market targeting can’t take context into account. For example, if I’m simply standing near a car lot, does that mean I want to buy a new car? Probably not.
However, local market targeting is developing past geo-fencing, which is essentially just casting a virtual net around consumers at or near a specific lat/long, to blending the solution with different demographic, behavioral and time variables to offer more nuanced solutions. This enables both big-box retailers and smaller retailers to engage more potential customers and enjoy tangible in-store benefits.
What’s Next for Retailers and mobile?
mCommerce will undoubtedly evolve in the next few years. More consumers will use their mobile devices to research, talk about and purchase goods. Mobile usage will also provide retailers with an outlet to engage consumers and drive in-store traffic and transactions.
We’re at a pivotal point in learning how to harness a significant shift in consumer behavior that is inextricably linked to the physical world. The nature of smartphone behavior, that ‘anywhere, anytime’ access, provides retailers with a clear opportunity to reach potential customers. The key is for retailers to be thoughtful in their marketing approach, keep the customer experience top-of-mind and provide clear benefits to the in-store experience.