Commentary

Mom Guilt, Mobilized

"What are you getting Mom for Mother's Day?"

"You guys are divorced. Why do you care? You're not reading those co-parenting books again, are you?" My daughter turned 17 last week and seems to believe that she is now too old for divorced parenting tactics. She's never too old to be a wiseass, however.

Once we get past the snideness (yeah, I was trying to be a good co-parent, so sue me), I toss her my iPhone and tell her to check out the 1800Flowers app. "Try flowers," I say.

Which may or may not be a gift for Kevin Ranford, director of Web marketing at 1800Flowers. Ranford, who has seen some encouraging momentum from his mobile strategies, tells me he will be working 24/7 in the coming weeks. The company has had a WAP site for two years and now has apps in both iPhone and Blackberry stores, all enabled for m-commerce and thriving, he tells me. Shopping via the mobile data channel has accelerated in the last 12 months, he says, "and there is some nice growth on the app side."

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I asked Ranford the same question my daughter first asked me: Why order by the mobile data channel when a Web site screen usually is close enough for such things? This actually is something I wonder about when it comes to mobile commerce. How many instances are there when I need to order a book, flowers, or other mainstays of the Web e-commerce world in such a hurry that I can't wait to get to a bigger screen and the deeper catalog of a Web site? "It is convenience and on-the-go shopping," says Ranford. "We have a very loyal customer base, and we've been taking the opportunity since launch to make sure the customers are rewarded for the mobile offering."

For this Mother's Day, for instance, 1800Flowers has a "SpotaMom" promotion across platforms. But if you text "spotamom" to the "Flowers" short code, Ranford and co. will give you a 20% discount. He says that so far the mobile part of the business is additive. He isn't seeing evidence that he is simply moving customers from one ordering platform to another. Mobile keeps the brand more top-of-mind for existing customers and the mobile platform is opening a new customer base.

"For strong repeat users, the apps are great," he says. In fact, there may be evolving a two-tiered approach to m-commerce strategies. The WAP site could become a destination for occasional buyers and new customers, since that is traffic that would be driven more by campaigns and direct typing of a URL. The apps could appeal more to that loyal base and so be designed differently. "From an applications standpoint, the apps are a home run," he says. He says repeat purchases are good off of them and the average order price is "nice and strong."

For now, the design and offerings in both apps and WAP are driven by the online bestsellers, about 6 to 10 top sellers in seven to nine categories. The apps may offer the opportunity to go deeper, however.

The iPhone app is nothing fancy but direct and straightforward. Illustrations and merchandising are pretty much absent from a very text-driven interface that gets you into the right category and down to a dozen selections (each with a full screen image and description) in about three clicks. "We really [design] around how to keep this easy and on-the-go," Ranford says.

Unlike Amazon's more elaborate m-commerce experience, this is less about browsing and more about getting the right choice quickly. I am imagining frantic husbands and absent-minded kids alleviating guilt after that "doh" moment (forgot about Mom!). You could wait until you get back to the office or home, but then of course you run the risk of forgetting again.

I am not only divorced but a quick study, so I don't seem to be making quite as many mistakes with my new partner, or at least not the kind that demands a bouquet. So I am not much of a flower buyer. But if I were, then the next obvious steps for 1800Flowers for me would be SMS alerts for key events or some form of personalization. Right now the SMS reminder service is presented to new email reminder subscribers, but further integration of the program is planned. Randford says the SMS alerts worked well last Valentine's Day. Ultimately, he expects to build out the program to include personalized events like birthdays and the critically important anniversaries.

In these early stages of mobile commerce, being there is key. But as this platform evolves and people's comfort with mobile ordering solidifies, then service and customization could be the real differentiators.

A service-oriented and personalized m-commerce product might even help me remember the details I so conveniently forget.

"Wait a minute," my daughter says. "Isn't Mom allergic? You should know that, shouldn't you?"

"Oh, really? Hmm. Is she? It must have slipped my mind."

"Alright, Dad, knock it off. Remember, I'm the one who has to bring her the Advil and Claritin now. Isn't there a chapter on this kind of thing in that book of yours?"

3 comments about "Mom Guilt, Mobilized".
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  1. Chris Lorenzoni from Velti, April 21, 2009 at 3:33 p.m.

    Steve, thanks again for another timely and well written piece on mobile commerce! This will be Twittered about ;)

  2. Jim Mcdonnell from Papa John's International, Inc., April 21, 2009 at 4:48 p.m.

    Steve,

    I particularly enjoyed your e-column today. I get the "why wouldn't the customer just go use their computer?" question quite a bit.

    Our business is different than 1800FLOWERS, but my answer may apply to them and Amazon Mobile and many other.

    My computer is up stairs and generally off. My Blackberry is in my pocket and always on. My kids (and the rest of my life) are usually down stairs. It is quite a production to get up stairs and order pizza online, particularly when the wife is out and I have two small kids to supervise and feed. I can order pizza, or anything else I can order online, via mobile web without anyone missing a second of Dora the Explorer. And I do not need to shop. I need food.

    Thanks,
    Jim

  3. Benny Forsberg from FNG Marfketing AB, April 22, 2009 at 5:59 a.m.

    Hi Steve,
    a realy good and thoughtful article about monetizing on the growing mobile market.

    For a long time I have been a non-believer of mobile web - browsing and using a mobile for reaching web content makes you a disabled user...

    A combination of platform problems, misapplied technology and lack of compelling content gives the user bad and frustrating browsing experience.

    Specific problems included:

    • Multiple clicks to access content
    • Merchandising of content on the devices is difficult to navigate
    • Appearance of confusing messages such as ‘source unknown, continue?’ prior to downloading games on some handsets and networks
    • Successful downloads saved in a handset location where the consumer is unlikely to find it.
    • Multiple Mobile OS - everytime you change mobile phone You have to start all over...

    ...but suddenly I slowy find myself more and more a believer!
    Last week I a friend of my from Stockholm, Sweden send me link to a new type of wy to reach web content on a (normal "old") mobile phone. The whole famile (two teenagers, me and my wife) have now become mobile web junkies.

    When it´s possible to get what you want quick (1-3 cliks) away on your mobile - than wy bother get up from the cosy livingroom couch - with 3G or wlan-ready phones - I just quickly go to my stuff page and check the latest hockey results or whats on all the TV channels tonight (all on nice mobile web ready pages 1-3 cliks away).

    Me, my family and friends realy like using mobile apps that´s addressing the navigation challenges with a one-click-to-content solution. I think this is could be the beginning of fortcoming mobile 2.0 interface (for normal phones with small screens and joggle navigation). One platform to reach all and navigation (allmost without typing urls).

    Try it for yourself at: http://demo.squace.com/

    I also find a lot of common sense in stuff at:
    http://universalmobileinterface.wordpress.com/

    For the mobile web to emulate the success of Web 2.0, the industry needs to embrace the dynamism and choice users come to love on the Internet of today.

    Maybe this kind of software is the way to go.

    Thanks,
    Benny

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