What Does It Take To Be An M-Commerce Leader?

For a visitor to Britain, Argos must have taken a bit of getting used to over the years. It's been the butt of many well-intentioned comedy rants about being the only shop where they hide what they're selling in a warehouse and ask you to search for products in a battered catalogue -- even when you're in-store. It's the only shop that uses bookie's pens to fill in a form for something you've no idea is currently in stock. If it's not, you start the process again.

That was years ago, of course, and the retailer now truly is a high street leader. Put it this way. Argos is the only store I have purchased goods on from a mobile phone. I presume I'm not alone in saying it was the mobile channel that switched me back on to a high street brand I'd not stepped foot in for years.

So what does it do so well that others don't? In a word, it's digital. Yes, of course -- anything on a mobile phone is by definition digital but Argos is digital in that it has redefined its service around what customers with a smartphone in their hand want. It's meant as a compliment when I say Argos has done for mobile high street sales what Amazon did for Web sales.

In use, all you have to do is fire up the app and search for a product. A useful "refine" button allows you to narrow down selections and there are informative reviews available -- in fact, you can prioritise results around customer feedback.

That's all good, but the truly clever part is Argos has thought digitally. You can not only find out if the product is in stock with a delivery date, but even more clever, you can search for your nearest store that has the product in stock and reserve it for "click and collect."

What's more, it works. I've used it a couple of times and gone to different stores to pick up items that really were in stock and really were waiting for me. Click and collect is backed up by an SMS so you have an order number to show at the till when you pay.

I'd recommend they put the opening and closing times of the store your item is held at and maybe the post code so you can set a SatNav to take you there. Other than that, however, it's the perfect service. A couple of taps and you've not only bought or reserved an item, you've also been led through the process by stock availability. 

Argos has made the leap to understanding digital -- which is more about what you do behind the screen and how you make difficult processes such as stock availability look very simple so customers don't even have to think about it.

The fact that half of their online sales now come from the mobile channel speaks for itself. The IMRG, which dubs itself the "voice of e-retail," estimates that a third of online sales are made through mobile, and that figure is only set to grow.

Clearly Argos is ahead of the curve. From a store that has been the butt of jokes about stubby pens and guessing whether an eight-letter code would get your a toaster or a sofa bed, it has gone on to become a true leader of the high street. 

It knows to be digital; you have to think digital. No silos. No guesswork. Just useful information tailored to a time-constrained consumer's request.
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