Four Ways To Think “Store First” With Mobile

March 30, 2017

To no one’s surprise, mobile is merchants’ top priority for 2017 — reflecting the runaway growth of mobile shopping activity. Amidst a bevy of potential priorities, merchants can reap the most benefit from mobile initiatives by adopting a “store-first” mentality that emphasizes connecting shoppers with physical retail outlets.

There’s no doubt that mobile shopping activity is soaring. More than two-thirds of all online shopping activity occurs on mobile devices, and mobile sales are growing exponentially: in the fourth quarter of 2016, for example, year over year mCommerce sales shot up 45% compared with 2015, and accounted for almost 21% of all online sales, according to measurement firm comScore.

Overall, 31% of U.S. consumers now say they’ve made purchases on mobile devices — a 24% increase since 2014, technology researcher Forrester found. It’s not surprising, then, that merchants participating Forrester’s annual retailer survey ranked  mobile at the top of the list of strategic priorities for the fourth year in a row, with an emphasis on achieving ROI through continuing mobile revenue growth.

But while mobile commerce sales are increasing, the $60 billion total is still just 1.3% of all retail sales, and 15% of all online sales. The much larger, if more difficult to measure, benefit of mobile comes from its influences over sales across touchpoints, and especially in stores, which Forrester estimates at more than a trillion dollars — or a whopping 31% of all retail sales and counting.

Given that fully 40% of shoppers now use multiple touchpoints when shopping, mobile’s sphere of influence should come as no surprise – but most merchants’ efforts to use their mobile sites for engagement and research, not just as mini-eCommerce sites, still leave much to be desired.

To encourage shoppers to use mobile devices to connect with physical outlets — and drive physical store sales — merchants should adopt not just a “mobile-first” approach, but a “store-first” mentality within mobile experiences that goes well beyond a store locator to prioritize potential connections to in-person experiences.

In some cases, that may mean building an app that enables immersion in the merchant’s branded experience and facilitates connection to store services. But with or without an app, merchants can go “store-first” by:

  1. Find ways to measure mobile influence, not just sales. Merchants should go beyond tracking mobile sales and conversion rates to capture more ineffable connections, such as usage of in-store wifi, usage of online tools to set in-store appointments, and downloads via store-specific QR codes or other custom URLs. Social media monitoring should include tracking of store check-ins and photos tagged with store locations.
  2. Grant universal inventory visibility to mobile shoppers. By now, the evidence is overwhelming that shoppers desire flexibility when it comes to order fulfillment. More than three quarters of shoppers used “buy online, pick up in store” (BOPIS) services in the past year, Kibo found — and the lack of such inventory transparency can actually hurt sales: 80% of shoppers say they’re less inclined to visit stores without the ability to see whether desired products are in-stock locally. While merchants are increasingly making this information available — some 53% already offer in-store pickup services, according to Kibo’s “In-Store Meets Online” merchant survey — deployment to mobile channels is uneven, with a few hapless merchants even offering BOPIS to shoppers using desktop browsers, but not those accessing mobile Web sites.Kibo merchant Helzberg Diamonds prioritizes connections to physical outlets by offering not only a store pickup option for orders transacted via the mobile Web site, but an appointment feature that allows shoppers leery of buying big-ticket items online (or especially on their phones).
  3. Prioritize product content for researchers. Fully 94% of shoppers now conduct research online prior to a store visit, according to Kibo’s latest consumer trends report. And given that accessing product information and pricing are the top three research activities shoppers undertake on mobile devices, merchants should spotlight customer reviews, product how-to videos, product comparison tools, and sizing and fit calculators within the mobile environment. By enabling research — regardless of whether shoppers choose totap “buy” on their mobile screens — merchants demonstrate an authentic desire to help shoppers find solutions that fit their needs.
  4. Factor stores into marketing campaigns. When it comes to mobile marketing, store locations should be front and center. Mobile search campaigns should showcase nearby physical outlets, SMS campaigns should be tailored to regional conditions and local outlets, and even email campaigns — two-thirds of which are now opened on mobile devices — can at least include prominent links to storelocators.Kibo merchant Party City routinely includes in email campaigns links to coupons for in-store use alongside online promo codes, as in this recent promotion, which also features a highlighted link to the store locator.

How are you using mobile to connect shoppers with store shopping experiences?