How to make mobile a key driver of in-store sales

Understanding the role smartphones play in consumers’ path to purchase is only going to get harder as mobile ad spend rises, so what are the challenges and how can marketers look to overcome them?

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Every year in recent memory has been hailed ‘the year of mobile’, but as smartphone use grows and ad spend rises it is becoming increasingly vital – yet challenging – to attribute sales to mobile and understand its place in the path to purchase.

So is the advertising industry doing enough to show the value of smartphones and the role they play in consumers’ lives?

Exclusive research shown to Marketing Week aims to highlight the power of mobile search in driving in-store traffic and sales; it shows that more than half of all consumers would be more likely to make an in-store purchase if they saw an ad with a promotion or discount offer on their smartphone.

Nearly 50% of all consumers would make an in-store purchase if they searched for a product on their phone and the results outlined product availability at a local store.

The research of 2,029 adults by Jaywing agency Epiphany, shows that a quarter of consumers (24%) agree that seeing a mobile ad about a brand would persuade them to visit their local store – this increases to 28% if a consumer is served an ad within walking distance of that store.

We suspected online search was driving footfall and sales in-store, but we had no way of knowing this for sure.

Carly Hunt, Pandora

While it is clear that a connection exists between mobile advertising and in-store purchases, the challenge brands face is attributing digital marketing activity to sales, especially when the purchase is made in-store.

“It’s a common challenge for us to be able to connect the customer journey,” says Carly Hunt, UK digital marketing manager at jewellery brand Pandora. “We suspected online search was driving footfall and sales in-store, but we had no way of knowing this for sure.”

Working with Google and Epiphany, the brand took part in an in-store tracking project, the first of its kind in the UK, according to the agency.

The project covered 90% of Pandora’s 210 stores in the UK and connected GPS data with beacon data to find out whether users had entered a store. So far, the brand has found that mobile is a key driver of in-store traffic and that it is connected to location. “We’ve also seen a big impact on online activity driving in-store traffic around seasonal events, so we’ll be able to tailor our strategies to take advantage of this,” says Hunt.

The brand is still collecting and analysing a lot of the data but it believes inputting it into an attribution model will be “hugely beneficial to understanding the true value of online search activity and how the value of this compares against more traditional media”.

Hunt says: “Ultimately, I would like to see some budget shift from traditional channels to digital and search, but I think we have some work to do on priorities – if online search is driving both online and offline sales, how do we want to split the budget?”

Buying on mobile rises

The report also shows that the proliferation of mobile use on-the-go is having an impact, with two-in-five consumers (43%) using their mobile to search for products with intent to purchase, and one-in-three 18- to 24-year-olds purchasing on mobile.

Tom Salmon, managing director of Epiphany, says: “There can be a tendency to caricature mobile as a research channel before users turn to desktop to convert, but there’s a definite progression in terms of more customers converting on mobile.”

READ MORE: Two-thirds of marketers can’t measure ROI on mobile

In October, Google announced it was splitting its index of search results into mobile and desktop, which signals “the importance of understanding how customers use mobile devices along their path to conversion,” adds Salmon.

A separate study by mobile ad network Rubicon Project shows nearly half (45%) of all UK shoppers will make a purchase via their smartphones this Christmas.

The study of 1,000 consumers on their spending habits shows that 9-out-of-10 respondents will research online before going in-store. Looking at two specific consumer groups, it also shows that 75% of ‘millennials’ and 66% of ‘parents’ will be purchasing items on their mobiles this Christmas, and 81% of millennials and 82% of parents are more likely to engage with tailored ads.

The latest IAB and PwC ad spend report shows mobile spend grew by 56% to reach £1.7bn and mobile display now accounts for 51% of all digital display advertising. But as smartphone usage increases simultaneously with ad spend, it’s important not to flood the channel with ads and integrate measures of success for that spend.

READ MORE: Mobile innovation powers ad spend growth

nhs tinder

For NHS Blood and Transplant, a partnership with dating app Tinder allowed it to target 18- to 35-year-olds, who are the hardest to reach for organ donation.

The campaign, created with agency 23red, allowed users to ‘swipe right’ on six celebrity profiles featuring a dedicated logo to draw attention to the importance of organ donations. After matching with these profiles, users then received a message saying: “If only it was that easy for those in need of a life-saving organ to find a match” and a link prompting them to register.

“Rather than creating a lot of noise and competing in a crowded space we needed to try and gently interrupt people and build an intervention into an existing experience,” says Ceri Rose, assistant director of marketing at NHS Blood and Transplant.

The public sector organisation started with mobile and partnerships first rather than using a “big media budget” because “that is where we will build societal change, from the ground up,” says Rose.

The campaign resulted in a 92% uplift in registrations over the period of the partnership, compared to the previous year when the organisation was campaigning, and achieved 24 million impressions globally.

Rose says measurement is about “looking at lots of detailed measures” but also “building that up into a logic model” where more registrations and conversations ultimately lead to more donations and lives saved.

Currently there is no ‘silver bullet’ for attributing sales to show the value of mobile, for mobile-first campaigns the key performance indicators are set from the outset with mobile in mind,  but despite there being various tools, no one “has solved the problem perfectly”, says Salmon from Epiphany.

He adds: “If you can begin to track interactions on an individual level and start to piece together journeys you’ll start to recognise themes and correlations in behaviour.”

Look beyond the last click

“We are barely cracking mobile as an industry,” says Alessandra Di Lorenzo, ‎chief commercial officer advertising and partnerships at Lastminute.com Group, predicting a “back to basics” approach in marketing for 2017 as the buzz around using new technology increases.

Measurement in particular will be a focus for Di Lorenzo. She says: “We need to get better at the definition of attribution, last click versus actual acquisition – there’s a lot of work that needs to go into that part of the ecosystem in order to make our digital campaigns fully effective.”

Epiphany’s Salmon advises marketers to “look beyond the last click”. He says: “Even if mobile is just used as a research channel there is a necessity to attribute value to these research moments instead of just focusing on the last click before a sale.”

We are barely cracking mobile as an industry.

Alessandra Di Lorenzo, Lastminute.com Group

For brands with a physical store presence, Salmon believes the research phase on mobile does drive some customers in-store so “accurately tracking this and understanding the different touchpoints across different devices along the journey, allows you to attribute value to it”.

Andy Brown, global CEO and chairman at Kantar Media echoes this and advises marketers to move beyond pitting one channel against another.

He says: “Marketers increasingly understand the need to take a cross-platform approach to planning and measuring campaigns, particularly when it comes to how audiences consume and interact with content on mobile devices.

However, he adds, “there is still too strong a tendency to think in silos, for example, mobile versus desktop or print versus digital, rather than look at how different devices, channels and formats fit together for audiences”.

Knowing that consumers are increasingly on their smartphones, marketers are right to target communications to this device but they also need to understand whether that is effective and that is where accurate attribution can play a part.

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