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Why Retail Marketers Need to Put Mobile First

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The power of those glass, plastic and metal slabs we all carry around continue to alter the world, and that includes how consumers shop. For retail marketers, the growing ubiquity of smartphones in our lives sends a clear signal that we need to push mobile tactics ever deeper into our programs. From payment to web browsing on smartphones, here’s a quick look at several major trends that reinforce why it’s high time to take a mobile-first approach to retail marketing.

A Whole New Kind of Payphone

Paying with your smartphone has emerged as an increasingly popular force in retail. Millennials, who make up about a quarter of the U.S. population, are leading the charge to do away with credit cards in favor of the easy and seamless experience of mobile wallets.

Enabled by a short-range wireless technology known as NFC (for “near field communication”), all the major mobile players have delivered their own version of a mobile wallet, including Apple Pay, Android Pay (arriving May 31 in Canada) and Samsung Pay. With Apple alone reporting growth of one million new users per week, this technology will continue to rapidly convert users in 2017.

But mobile wallets are only one form of mobile payment. There’s also:

  • In-App Payments — Typically through a reloadable account tied to a retailer loyalty program
  • Carrier billing — payments charged to a user’s mobile phone bill
  • Mobile Point of Sale (MPOS) — Users pay with credit card on a merchant's mobile device or credit card reader
  • Online Payment Services — Payment is completed through a user’s account with the likes of PayPal, Amazon Payments or Visa CheckOut
  • Mobile P2P Transfers — Less relevant for retailers, these are direct transfers of money between two users’ bank accounts

With so many options, retailers can find the method that best fits their business and consumer experience.

Consider Starbucks, which has experienced great success with their mobile app feature, “Order and Pay.” Customers order their coffee ahead, pay through their Starbucks card account, pick up their coffee without standing in line and go about their day. This has fostered a strong loyalty loop with mobile at the core of the experience, rewarding regular customers with an easier way to pay, as well as points towards other goods.

Computer department store Micro Center takes a similar approach, although without an app or formal loyalty program. Instead, consumers shop via their mobile browser, reserving items for pickup at their nearest store within a guaranteed 18 minutes from the time the order is placed. The process ensures items are in stock, saving customers frustration, and speeding purchase. To support the model, Micro Center's website is mobile ready for easy browsing as well as payment.

Digital Retail = Mobile

Of course, enabling a mobile payment model encompasses a level of complexity that’s typically above a marketer’s pay grade. Even for those organizations not ready to dive into mobile payments, it’s crucial to put mobile at the center of any digital marketing strategy.

Let’s start with the obvious: nearly 60 percent of searches are now from mobile devices, so you clearly need a strong mobile friendly site design. (And if that's not enough to convince you a mobile experience is worth the investment, keep in mind that Google heavily favors mobile-friendly sites so your search ranking could also suffer.)

Designing for mobile requires a conscious shift in thinking. So much of our work as marketers occurs on the large screen of a desktop PC or laptop, but increasingly that’s not how people shop or search for retail purchases. If you develop a site for desktop browsing first and then mimick its design for mobile, you end up trying to cram far too much into too little screen real estate, or leave calls to action or links too small to press with thumbs.

An adaptive design approach is best. It goes further than responsive web design, which promotes a single version of a page that changes to the device: with Adaptive web design, you create multiple versions of the page design to fit various devices. This allows you to start with the most important functionality for the mobile experience and opt to leave out some of the more complex features that desktop users could still find valuable.

It’s a Mobile, Mobile World

If you’re not yet putting a mobile shopper experience at the core or your retail marketing strategy, it’s definitely time to start.

There’s nothing we love more than talking about the latest trends in retail, so get in touch to to explore some new ideas for what could work for your programs.

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