The proportion of web traffic via mobile will hit 20 per cent this Christmas, according to IBM figures, and brands that fail to implement a mobile marketing strategy are losing out on sales by putting up ‘closed for business’ signs in front of smartphone owners.
But marketers wishing to make the most of the growing m-commerce trend that now includes big-ticket items need to negotiate an ever wider choice of operating systems, apps and advertising options.
Alex Kozloff, senior mobile manager at the IAB, says that brands must consider how they use smartphones and tablets. “According to our research, 60 per cent of brands haven’t done some of the basic functions of mobile. When you see the numbers shopping and researching on their mobiles, not being there when people are searching for you is effectively having your shop door shut.”
For some brands, the question is still whether to develop a mobile site, app or both. World of Golf, which runs driving ranges, has found that people have been accessing its desktop site via their smartphones, which prompted it to develop a mobile-friendly version with agency Grass Roots.
Chief executive Grant Wright says: “At first, I wondered whether it was worth the expenditure. But now I would recommend it to people.
“It is very easy for websites to grow organically and you forget how ease of use is vital, especially for new customers. Creating and designing a mobile site gets you back to what is important and what is practical. Ease of access is vital in a mobile website, it should be clear for consumers on where they need to go and you should be able to get what you need within three or four clicks.”
Kozloff suggests that a mobile site is better to have than an app. “It’s the first thing the consumer will get to after a search, as opposed to an app,” she says.
People now expect to be able to buy larger items via their handsets. Sainsbury’s, for example, added about 15,000 non-food items to the products it sells via mobile earlier this year, including appliances and technology.
Tesco is also looking to make customers’ lives easier through mobile – and therefore sell more via the device. Mark Cody, senior digital marketing manager at Tesco, says: “The growth in smartphone use means we expect more people to be using them to find out more about products and read recommendations. Customers will be able to use their phones to watch video demonstrations of our products, use technology such as augmented reality and add products to a gift wishlist.”
And it is when people are actually in shops that they are using their phones to help decide what to buy. As many as 38 per cent use their mobiles in-store and half of those compare prices of products, according to the IAB’s research. Added to this, 18 per cent of people use their mobiles to make buying decisions when they are in a shop compared with 15 per cent who ask their shopping companions.
Brands are capitalising on the fact that people are using their phones while shopping. Ann Summers has just launched its BlippTease campaign, where people can ‘try on’ virtual lingerie by pointing their phones at in-store posters and using the Blippar app to create an augmented reality image. If they really want to, consumers can share their pictures with friends on social networks before buying.
Meanwhile, this month L’Oréal is using geo-location to encourage people to visit salons that stock its Inoa hair colourant. When people download an app, they can then collect ‘bubbles’ via their smartphone, which will direct them to their nearest salon.
If this seems like a step too far for some, text messages can still be useful, claims Richard Mills, product manager at Pizza Express for Business.
“SMS is very easy. It goes direct to the phone and once the set up is there, it’s an instant reward. There is no waiting on whether the money has gone on the gift card or waiting for the reward to arrive in the post. You can see it there, it is tangible and easy to redeem,” he says.
The restaurant chain launched a business service earlier this year that supplies gift cards and electronic rewards to employers via email and SMS.
“Gifting in general, particularly in rewards, is about being able to offer instant gifts,” says Mills.
As well as being able to provide easy and instant gifts, mobile can also allow offers and ideas to be personalised. This can be really useful for harried shoppers in the run up to Christmas, suggests a report from IBM.
The more closely a retailer can match offers, products and content to an individual customer, the greater the reward for both merchant and buyer. The deluge of data that customers generate across websites, social media and traditional channels opens new opportunities to fine-tune personalisation – and retailers are getting in on the act, says Jay Henderson, strategy programme director of cross-channel marketing at IBM.
“Marketers should go where the customers are. They use multiple devices to help them make decisions and brands need to be in those channels and devices too. It is no longer acceptable to just reach people through email and not have that co-ordinating with what is going on with the mobile application or website.”
The IAB’s Kozloff agrees that brands should be integrated and have a presence across channels, citing the example of tablet commerce. “A lot of brands are waiting to see what to do with tablet computers and not really taking the plunge. But if there are people out there looking for you, it is essential to have a response to that.
“Research has shown that shopping is the number one activity on tablets. People are using these devices to shop and browse.”
As many marketers probably feel, it has been ‘the year of mobile’ for a number of years, but due to the amount of traffic on the devices and the rises in m-commerce, it cannot now be ignored.
Case study: Debenhams
Department store Debenhams is working to make its shopping apps fun. With an eye of the Christmas market, its iPad app has a ‘lucky dip’ function, where users can shake it for gift inspiration. Meanwhile, its iPhone app will feature a gift list builder, so customers can assign products to people in their phonebook.
Debenhams says that more than 30 per cent of its online visits are from mobile devices, which it thinks is set to grow ‘substantially’ over the Christmas period.
It launched its first app back in 2010, designed to target shoppers on the move and improve the in-store experience. Within five months of launch, the app had had 360,000 downloads and sales of almost £1m.
Features include a store finder, contact details, opening hours, facilities and a floor guide. People can also select items by type, brand, colour, price and size, as well as shop for sale items only.
There is also a wish list feature for users to create their shopping list and email it to friends and family as gift ideas for birthdays and Christmas. The wish lists can be created by scanning products in-store or by selecting them in the app.
Debenhams also launched its beauty club app last year, in partnership with PrePay Solutions. It features a beauty club card, which allows people to buy products and access exclusive offers, news and expert tips. Users can register their card and collect and redeem points as well as check their balance and transactional history.
People can even test nail polish colours on virtual hands, which can be customised to match their own skin colouring. The app also offers beauty videos and make-up tips with the option to buy products featured in the videos.