Shoppers Want Retailers To Be Mobilized

Just another friendly reminder to retailers: Your customers are way, way ahead of you when it comes to using mobile as a resource. Even my mobile-averse fiancée is ahead of most of you. And that is saying something. Whenever I hand her a phone in the car to look for directions or a local resource she still looks as if I 'd just handed her a rabid ferret. But she knows very well that I can get just about any product information we need on a smartphone. "Google it," she commands from the steam-cleaner aisle at Best Buy.

Well, luckily Best Buy has it covered (almost -- see below), but according to new research from Brandanywhere and Luth Research, they are rara avis. In Brandanywhere's new Mobile Indexer, which polled 7,000 sites on 10 devices, only 4.8% of U.S. retailers had mobile-specific Web sites. The top-tier retailers are faring better, but not well. Almost 23% of the major retailers as defined by traffic levels from Alexa had mobile Web sites. When broken down by verticals, the results across all merchants actually are worse, however. While auto parts retailers (20.78% with mobile Web sites) and auto dealerships (15.66%) were relatively more mobile-ready, department stores (3.41%), clothing and shoe stores (1.61%) and grocery stores (1.60%) were pathetic.



According to Dan Flanegan, Managing Partner, Brandanywhere, the big disconnect is with consumers who say they would give preference to retailers that had mobile presence. His company partnered with Luth to poll over 1,000 consumers on whether a brand's mobile-readiness affected purchasing decisions. "One in two consumers would give that preference based on whether the retailer has a mobile site," he says. "It indexes even higher with higher-value purchases. There is a big opportunity retailers can grab onto."

Luth and Brandanywhere also asked how consumers prioritize the functions they most need on a retailer's mobile presence. Interestingly, transactions were not among the most popular features. Foremost, they wanted to know about the special offers and coupons available -- what could make them shop smarter. But the second most desired feature was product pricing. Store location came next and then product information. Again, I have to imagine there would be variances according to product types. In Best Buy, for us it is all about product information and feature comparisons. On the way out the door to Shop-Rite, it is the sales.

Brandanywhere developed this Indexer to help agencies and their clients better understand how their digital presence is being seen across devices. The main focus here was on the mobile Web, where people are inclined to type in a familiar branded URL and hope for a desirable result. A number of mobile agency execs with whom I have spoken in the last year say they are making the "m-dot" strategy a priority for their brands. For years the .mobi extension struggled to become the commonplace suffix for all things mobile in the minds of consumers. In many cases the brands ended up creating m.brandname URLs instead. The best-case scenario is having a reliable redirect at the branded URL that kicks phones over to a mobile-ready version of the site. But as Brandanywhere's research shows, this reasonable expectation among mobile users is not being met.

But there are other roadblocks to mobilizing retail. One issue that looms waiting to be addresses is consumer confusion between check-in apps and branded retail apps. When I walk into my local BestBuy, what should I be firing up? Best Buy's app or ShopKick? Both? By the time I rifle through the options on both, my fiancée is long lost in the appliance aisle. And I hate the appliance aisles.

By the way, there is also the goofiness factor of scanning bar codes and QR codes to get an effect from a retail or check-in app. These check-in apps want consumers to behave like maze rats, scouring the aisles to scan codes into the apps to get "points" or "bucks." Sorry, I don't need another master yanking me around the store to scan products I don't want or need. That area of my life is already covered.

"Google this one," my fiancée commands.

"That refrigerator wouldn't fit in our living room, let alone the kitchen," I try to protest.

"I just want to see."

Yeah, well, epic fail. I know I have made this point, before but I am dead serious about the problem of cell phone reception in these cavernous stores. Just a few aisles into my local Best Buy, and its otherwise wonderful app is totally useless. Get into the center of that indoor football stadium that is Target and I think I catch my iPhone actually chuckling at me for trying.

Or maybe that's my fiancée.

10 comments about "Shoppers Want Retailers To Be Mobilized".
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  1. Sam Feuer, November 16, 2010 at 12:54 p.m.

    We are in talks with many retailers discussing exactly this and setting up the future of mobile navigation along with how users can save money once they arrive at x retailer and feel like a VIP throughout the entire experience.

  2. Brian Hayashi from ConnectMe 360, November 16, 2010 at 1:12 p.m.

    Dang it, the cat is out of the bag. After launching web marketing for hundreds of the nation's biggest malls, you're right, each store is essentially a big Faraday cage that significantly hinders most mobile services.

    There are, of course, alternatives. If you're an aspiring social shopping dot com and you want to market to retailers, you should have a handle on how stores should finance their upgraded infrastructure. Here are three ways to go about it:

    (1) cell phone signal repeaters and amplifiers
    (2) industrial-strength wifi
    (3) active RFID/NFC

    Don't cut corners!! All it takes is for the CEO to test out the brand new service at a flagship store and get BUSY NO SIGNAL for the whole service to be dumped.

    Remember, stores want a consistent experience above all else.

  3. Matthew Greer, November 16, 2010 at 1:17 p.m.

    Very interesting article Steve. What I found most interesting is the prioritized list of desired functions for a retailer's mobile presence:

    1. Special offers and coupons
    2. Product pricing
    3. Store locations
    4. Product information

    Location based marketing, mobile product searches, and mobile retailer searches are still developing areas of the mobile web. One thing is very evident though, consumers on the go require a different array of information as compared to what a retailer's standard e-commerce website offers. Assuming that a consumer in the parking lot of a shopping mall--or in the aisle of a Best Buy--wants the same information as a consumer sitting on her couch or at her desk is a risky assumption to make. That's because the consumer who is outside her house and actively shopping is further down the path of making a purchase.

  4. Howie Goldfarb from Blue Star Strategic Marketing, November 16, 2010 at 2:14 p.m.

    Steve this just potentially be a margin destroyer if not done wisely. If I only go to retailers that send me a special via phone it will cause competition to give better offers. Also the delivery mechanism does not exist in the proper way aside from SMS/MMS. We don't want to get slammed with offers at the mall. We want to do a call to action (and be conditioned to do so) that would benefit us and the retailer. But there are ways to leverage mobile that benefit both and increase loyalty.

  5. Justin Souza from Marlin Mobile, November 16, 2010 at 5:21 p.m.

    The mobile shopper’s expectation is for an immediate experience. A greater sensitivity for performance is necessary for online retailers moving toward a mobile presence. In many respects, the shopping scenarios outlined by the author are defined by speed. Intuitive design, simplified navigation, and speed – success begins here. Many factors are beyond the retailer’s control, specifically carrier quality, strength of signal, and battery state. To embrace the need for speed, retailers must begin to optimize their mobile presence with these environmental shopping factors in mind, while becoming accountable for what they can control and quantifying what they cannot.

  6. Edward Hunter from Loop Analytics, November 17, 2010 at 4:59 p.m.

    Good points Steve. I think it's important to note that mobile 'couponing' doesn't have to mean discounting, it doesn't have to erode margins.

  7. Vinnie Fiordelisi from 3Cinteractive, November 17, 2010 at 5:27 p.m.

    Prompted by the explosion of smartphone sales, retailers are speeding up their efforts to create a mobile web presence. We see it everyday as the amount of clients looking to develop mobile web sites has increased exponentially over the last year.

  8. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, November 18, 2010 at 10:39 a.m.

    In a symbiotic world - A man walks into a could be a Best Buy and looking to buy a product. He checks it out mobily. He finds it for less money at.....Target. SInce all big box stores have a "quality" mobile presence and meet all other big box store prices, you buy the product there. So does mobile equal the playing field with the big box stores (eliminating mom and pops who can't compete mobily) ? Does the marketing and ad depts. have to create other reasons for you, the shopper, to shop in their store?

  9. David Schreffler from Kony Solutions, November 19, 2010 at 12:14 p.m.

    Great article, Steve. It’s interesting to see that consumers give preference to retailers based on whether they have a mobile site. While many retailers have prepped mobile offerings for the upcoming holiday season, the important story is how they’ll be integrating new functionalities, like mobile social shopping features (location-based check-ins and offers) into their applications in 2011. I work for Kony Solutions and mobile app functions like augmented reality or barcode scanning are some of the tactics retailers will be using next year to improve a customer’s shopping experience, naturally increasing consumer adoption and potential m-commerce revenue. We actually recently released our top predictions for the types of technologies marketers will be integrating into their mobile offerings next year - feel free to check them out here:

  10. Matthew Greer, November 19, 2010 at 4:59 p.m.

    Edward Hunter: Very good point. I think that "mobile couponing" is a bit of a misnomer. Just because a coupon is offered via a cellphone doesn't mean that it is a deep discount offer. Quite often, retailers will advertise with location based services just to make the shopper aware that the retailer has a store in the area.

    I wouldn't be surprised if mobile coupons actually allow retailers to gain back some margins, as the shopper needs to be less convinced to make a purchase right outside of a retailer's entrance, as compared to a shopper who needs to print/clip a coupon and actively travel to the store's location to make the purchase.

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