In the age of pervasive commerce, every interaction with a consumer is an opportunity to inform, educate, and sell products. Pervasive commerce is enabled by pervasive computing. The connected consumer is the primary point of focus for all brands and retailers. And what does a connected consumer have? Gadgets! And several of them. Today, we are going to talk about the smartphone and how it is enabling commerce for the future.
According to a recent comScore report, as of March 2014, 166 million people in the US owned smartphones, already up 6% since December 2013. This is a good indicator of the growing adoption of smartphones and also of the excellent opportunity that this offers to businesses for connecting with consumers, building relationships, and selling products. Unlike a laptop or even a tablet, people carry their phones with them all the time. Smartphones function almost like an extension of the human body. Provided that businesses respect consumers’ privacy and not intrude without permission, the possibilities are endless here.
Much has already been said lately about the potential of geo-fencing and iBeacon technologies for reaching consumers when they are inside or in the vicinity of a physical store, and targeting them with relevant and personalized product offers. By combining business intelligence, consumer intelligence, and product intelligence, the right product offer can be delivered to the right customer at the right time at the right price and at the right place.
But the opportunities are not restricted by a consumer’s presence in a physical store. For instance, let’s consider social commerce. 75% of Pinterest’s user activity is done on mobile devices, according to the company. 30% of these users are using the app in-store to guide their purchase. People use Pinterest not just as a virtual scrapbook, but as a search engine to look for product recommendations. Sometimes, they even skip the e-commerce sites and look for products on Pinterest instead given its fun and participative nature.
Same goes for Twitter. 75% of its 218.3 million monthly active users access the site from mobile devices. That’s a lot of users. Given Twitter’s scrolling format, it is very important to catch a user’s attention in the split second of time that is available.
In this case, Amazon’s tweet to buy feature is invaluable for engaging the mobile consumer. Through this feature, if a user responds to an Amazon product link on Twitter with the hashtag #AmazonCart, the product gets automatically added to the person’s Amazon cart for future purchase. That is an excellent way to avoid losing consumers who think of something they need but forget to buy it at that time. This way, the item is stored in their cart and Amazon then engages through email to remind subscribers about unbought items.
When it comes to the actual e-commerce website or app, in order to drive engagement on this very lucrative channel, businesses have to prioritize consistency in product information, stellar user experience, and responsive design. So if a particular product is presented at a different price on a website as opposed to the mobile app, chances are you are going to lose that customer. Product pricing, shipping costs, promotions, deals, assortment, must be coordinated across channels. This will help develop consumer trust in the online process. With data infringement and privacy concerns looming charge, the need for consistency cannot be stressed enough.
Consumers today inherently expect seamless product-aware experiences and businesses have to deliver them across all of their channels to build loyalty. Amazon’s brand new Fire Phone is testimony to that. The Firefly feature on the phone recognizes 100 million items by image, text, or barcode, and enables one click shopping. Oh, the convenience!
Mobile payment applications and/or mobile wallets also greatly add to the convenience of shopping on phones, by cutting out the process of using cards. However, there are still many gaps to be closed here in terms of ease of technology and universal usage.
Another important factor to keep in mind is the screen size of the mobile phone. Is your user experience optimized for the smaller screen? Is it easy to add personal information? Is the checkout process convenient? How much longer does it take than checking out on a laptop? These user experience elements are crucial in delivering a smooth experience. A tedious checkout process is annoying and can turn off a consumer who was ready to make a purchase.
Responsive design refers to a technology that tailors content to different screen sizes automatically. So whether a consumer is accessing your website on a tablet, smartphone, or laptop, the content is still delivered in a consistent manner.
While designing mobile apps and websites, companies also need to figure out what features are most valuable for a smooth m-commerce experience. According to a survey conducted by the E-tailing Group and Branding Brand, the top features for effective m-commerce were store locators, detailed product information, inventory locator, the ability to refine and sort search results, and real-time product reviews. It’s clear that these features again are centered on consistency, trust building, and delightful user experience.
The numbers are in. The potential is tremendous. Forrester Research projects that sales resulting from consumers shopping on mobile phones will increase to $38 billion this year, compared to $24 billion last year. It’s not easy. There are many different pieces that need to fit together just right in order for this to be a fun and reliable experience. Are business ready to take the plunge? A great mobile experience is formed at the intersection of consistent and detailed product information, great design, and brilliant technology. Are you game?