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How Mobiles are Shaking up the Retail Industry this Christmas

Nigel Arthur Wednesday, 11 December 2013.

Retail is now operating in the era of the mobile majority—where smartphones are integrated into every aspect of users' lives. For work and play, phones are an extension of ourselves, and shopping is no exception. Nine out of ten shoppers use their mobile phones for pre-shopping activities such as finding store hours and locations, and 84% of shoppers use their mobile devices while shopping to check product availability or read reviews.

shutterstock 126762221That's why savvy retailers are integrating mobile in their 2013 holiday strategies to drive engagement, revenue and loyalty.


Mobile sales increased 171% from 2011 to 2012 and represented one-third of holiday ecommerce results. Additionally, 16% of Black Friday sales were mobile. This year, U.S. ecommerce holiday retail is projected to grow 15.1% to $61.8 billion, up from $53.7 billion last year. Analysts predict mobile sales will take an ever-increasing share of this total, which means that retailers who make smart use of mobile are likely to harness the greatest growth. Mobile capabilities affect the in-store experience for customers, with 79% of smartphone owners using their phones to assist with brick-and-mortar shopping at least once a month. But a mobile presence is no longer enough—mobile
app integration is key to cultivate customer relationships. Why? Apps go beyond the catch-and release strategy of mobile web and search to forge lasting connections with customers. Content is guided by users' preferences and behaviors, and messaging keeps users coming back for more.

Inbox messages will reach the entire mobile audience:
Just like snowflakes, no two users are exactly alike. Not everyone opts in to receive push notifications, but savvy retailers are still reaching every customer by integrating a message centre within their apps. This allows them to deliver fresh content to an inbox within the app.

An in app message centre is similar to an email inbox, allowing users to check messages at their convenience. While push has the immediacy of popping up on a home screen, leading mobile brands
recognize that not every push deserves a shove. They segment communications to deliver some messages as pushes, and other, less urgent messages to the app's inbox. Message inboxes
can also differentiate content with iconography to signify various types of messages, such
as information about new products, special offers, or a Black Friday blowout sale.

Broadcast messages will dive immediate engagement:
Broad cast push messaging reaches an opted-in audience that is already engaged with your brand. With push, app engagement is nearly four times as high as it is for apps that don't incorporate
push, influencing app opens and ultimately revenue. Marketers who employ broadcast messaging must be wary of sending messages that can be seen as spam, because often, mobile users elect to
simply delete an app rather than search for appropriate settings to turn off push notifications. To avoid the appearance of spam, each message should contain value for the audience that can help them save money, discover a new favourite or streamline their day.

Retailers capitalizing on the power of broadcast push notifications will alert opted-in app users to immediate, actionable events such as a holiday doorbuster sale or a seasonal collection that just hit the racks. Links directly to a product page from the push (rather than to the app's home screen) allow users to immediately follow through with the push's call to action.

Rich Content will dazzle users with video and images:
Mobile messages aren't limited to text- marketers can send push notifications that direct users to rich app pages with video images and sound. Rich app pages through a message centre to highlight weekly specials, which users can browse at their leisure. Messages can also educate the audience about special holiday services such as free shipping or gift wrapping.
In 2013 retailers will increasingly use customers phones as personal shopping devices. Marketers can add information on new products and ther availability using rich app page templates that do not require developers assistance.

Apps to become more responsive to users behaviour:
As audience segmentation becomes increasingly sophisticated, retailers will reply on users behavioural cues rather than just their stated preferences to send messages that elicit action.
For example, if a user abandons a shopping cart, a retailer can send a message when that item is low on inventory, goes on sale or is nearing the end of its season.

This targeted messaging enhances uses experience by more closely aligning messages with what they've indicated they want. If the item is no longer available, segmentation can also help marketers send messages about similar or complementary or ask users if they'd like to be notified if the item comes back in stock.
As a corollary to this behavioural segmentation, retailers can encourage users to tag favourite products or build wish lists and shopping lists in the app. Walmarts app enables user to build shopping lists with their voices.

Store specific location capabilities enhance shopping:
The majority of shoppers now use their phones in store while they shop, creating an opportunity for retailers to leverage store specific location capabilities to increase sales.
In fact smartphone use in store increases the amount spent: those who use smartphones spend 25% more in store.
For example, retailers such as Hollister make the brick and mortar store experience more interactive by encouraging shoppers to scan photos or items in store to unlock exclusive content.
For uses who like to make a list and check it twice, retailers offer a shopping list feature in the app that links to a store map. This helps customers find the items they're looking for without a store employees assistance.

Wrapping it up:
U.S retail mcommerce sales will reach $59 billion this year (up 56.5% from 2012, and almost triple the amount spent in 2011) and mobile shows no sign of slowing down.

In 2012 alone, 70% of in store shoppers used a mobile phone with 62% accessing the retailers app or mobile web page while in the store. That's just one more sign that the mobile majority is here to stay, forcing retailers to radically shift their marketing strategy to capture this newly dominant market segment. Retailers who differentiate their apps and user experiences by incorporating push, in-app messages, location- specific capabilities and digital wallet coupons and passes will come out on top during this festive time.

Together these tactics will engage, entice and ultimately delight customers to bring a very merry mobile holiday for all.

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Nigel Arthur

Nigel Arthur

Nigel Arthur is a 20-year digital marketing software sales and services expert. He has led the Urban Airship EMEA office since its launch last year and In 2013, the EMEA office has seen more than 150 new global brands adopt Urban Airship's solutions to power their mobile engagement and loyalty programs. He has played a key role in broadening the companies offerings beyond its flagship, market-leading push messaging service to include location targeting, in-app messaging and its digital wallet management solution. Nigel was previously was the managing director of UK operations at ExactTarget -- a key Urban Airship partner. He has served in European sales leadership roles for Premiere Global Services, Responsys and WebTrends

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