Marketing on the move: How to make m-commerce work for you

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

There is a storm brewing across the retail sector and the winds of change are leaving no corner of the retail landscape untouched. 

Ten years ago, the transformational storm of the internet gave rise to e-commerce.  Today mobility is at the eye of the storm. In particular, the growing use of internet-enabled mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers to research, compare, review and purchase products and services.

Retailers looking for new ways to drive revenue, secure competitive advantage and build relationships with customers cannot afford to ignore the potential of a European consumer mobile shopping bill of 14.6bn euros by 2012and the Forrester view that m-commerce sales are set to grow 40% each year for the next five years.

To seize a share of this market, retailers need to understand the mobile landscape and how to make the most of it.  It can be immensely difficult to know where to start, what to do and where best to invest resources. 

Since introducing our mobile affiliate programme last year we have worked with advertisers to identify and define the essential steps required to get to grips with mobile commerce.  Having developed successful revenue-generating campaigns for clients such as The Body Shop and Jessops, here are some of those critical steps.

Step 1: Get the proposition right

The first thing retailers need to figure out is exactly what their mobile objectives are and how mobile marketing and sales fit in with their business goals. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, no simple right or wrong when it comes to deciding what to focus on.  Decisions need to be based on your target audience, the nature of your product and the type of devices you wish to focus on.

For example, many organisations feel they have to have an ‘App’, because everyone else has one. That is not the case, it all depends on what your proposition is. A travel firm, for example, may opt for an App that serves more as a mobile brochure, with visuals and video links and other rich information; perhaps complemented by a mobile-optimised website that focuses on location-based services such as the nearest hotel, and offers transactional capability.

A retailer with a strong offline presence may wish to use its mobile affiliate marketing to drive traffic to the nearest store, perhaps including special offers or incentives that can be redeemed in store.  A services organisation – such as a bank or utility – may wish to focus in the first instance on providing high quality customer service over a mobile device.

It is also important to remember that the growing trend is for people to use more than one mobile device, including the growing use of tablets, in different places, at different times and for different things.  For a mobile proposition to work it needs to interact seamlessly across all these platforms – a tall order today for many retailers.

Once you have decided exactly what you want to get out of your mobile venture, you can then concentrate on making sure it works for your users.

Step 2: Focus on functionality

What works for your online site, will not necessarily work on a mobile device.  The need for a stripped down, clear, intuitive user interface cannot be overstated.  The faster and easier a customer can get to the information they want on a mobile device, the more likely they are to complete a purchase.  Frustrated customers will, in the end, simply go to a competitor site or you will lose them partway through a sale.

To decide on the format, layout and content of your mobile site you need to understand the devices your target customers are most likely to be using. 

Research suggests that most m-commerce today is undertaken on an iPhone, with the number of Android users increasing rapidly.  iPads and other tablets are threatening to become the m-commerce device of choice over the coming years.  This fragmentation of platform and operating system will only increase as smartphone and tablet ownership moves from the current ‘early adopter’ phase to become mainstream.  Early adopters are much more tolerant of less-than-perfect sites and are often happy to work things out for themselves.  This is something that will change dramatically when the less technology-minded mainstream audience comes on stream in the next few years.

Retailers also need to understand exactly what their target audience uses mobile devices for. In a world of 24/7 media and instant communications, people turn to their mobile devices for two things: to save time or to spend time. Saving time by buying train tickets on the go or spending time checking Facebook or playing games. Which of these behaviours is most relevant for your business?

Step 3: Drive and measure traffic

After making sure that your mobile offering works and is relevant to your audience, the next step is to drive traffic to your site or application – and to make sure you can track and measure activity and flow.

You can drive traffic in a number of ways, for example by building an affiliate programme that encourages potential customers to click through to your site, bringing more traffic and transactions.  If you have an App it is vitally important to get on to the ‘Top Ten Charts’ such as those on iTunes.  This will expose your site to new potential customers.

In affiliate marketing, advertisers to need to work closely with their mobile publisher network to implement pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns that are adapted to how people surf using mobile devices. Our mobile affiliate program also includes our unique Application Download Tracking (ADT) that enables retailers to monitor the success and ROI of their mobile App.

Step 4: Integrate everything

M-commerce is not a stand-alone channel. As mentioned above, consumers now engage with retailers and other suppliers through a number of devices. For the retailer the challenge is to ensure they offer a seamless yet tailored service across all these platforms. Mobile must be part of a holistic marketing plan that includes online and offline channels.

The Future

Mobile commerce is the future.  We are already seeing around six per cent of traffic coming from mobile devices, and with 6.7 billion devices expected to be connected to the internet by 2014, the mobile market for retailers will only get bigger and more complex.   

Important contextual information about individual consumers, such as their location, demographic, interests and behaviours will enable retailers to give consumers the customised offers they demand.  However, marketers will need to ensure that every consumer can decide on how much personal data they are prepared to share. 

Security will remain a critical area.  Some of these obstacles will fade over time as people become used to mobile purchasing; others will require concerted action. 

In the wake of this mobile storm, purchasing will have become a multi-device, multi-channel journey. The benefit to retailers will be a world where their products and services are intelligently marketed to consumers’ personal devices, increasing the likelihood of conversion and purchase. For consumers, a world where they can enjoy contextually relevant content and marketing about the products and services they really care about.

One thing is for certain, however, sitting out the storm is not an option.

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