Is mobile transforming retail? Yes, truly and completely in just a few years. Are you pondering that I am exaggerating-mind you, if businesses can reach consumers anytime, anywhere on mobile, wouldn’t it change how they do business? Mobile technology will change the way businesses and consumers interact. However mobile is yet a tiny channel for companies but this will change; and the change is likely to be dramatic.
The explosion of smartphones, the growth of mobile web, the availability of mobile broadband, and the ever-growing usage of SMS are offering retailers newer opportunities to communicate with consumers and potential consumers and enable them to shop via mobile.
With the upsurge of mobile penetration in the world, currently there is a significant impact on the shopping patterns. Retailers too have caught hold of this trend for optimum benefits in the developed worlds, but in India we are yet to reach that pace. Nevertheless, we are on the track and making all possible moves to leverage the mobile penetration. And the mobile channel has got due attention by retailers due to the promising impact on retailers at the bottom line.
Industry is witnessing an exponential growth in the mobile advertising and mobile consumers are slowly responding to retailers’ efforts, who are constantly working to leverage the mobile channel for sales, for creating loyalty among customers, and also for building brand value. Retailers are investing in mobile advertising to reach and influence people throughout their purchase habits and also create awareness, engagement, consideration, conversion, and loyalty.
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Retail & M-advertising Affinity
Mobile offers an immediate opportunity for retailers to connect with customers in a more meaningful way. Retailers have realized that as the mobile device is being personalized more, it has also created a tremendous opportunity for unique, individual personal marketing programs.
A mobile channel helps them to differentiate from competition and acquire loyal customers as a result of this.
Juniper Research has forecasted that the mobile retail market globally to be worth over $12 bn by 2014, up from $4.1 bn in 2009-representing an average annual growth over the forecast period of nearly 24%. At present, the global market is dominated by revenues from mobile coupons, which accounted for two-thirds of the market in 2009.
comScore, a research company, reported that mobile retail users are not just using mobile to help them identify and research what they want. They are also using mobile to make purchases (through a mobile browser on application). Specifically, 21% of consumers surveyed by comScore said they made a purchase using their phones in the last 30 days, not including app store application purchases.
And of these purchases, the majority were retail- or travel-related with consumer electronics and clothing/accessories leading the list. The report stated that retailers have increased their mobile advertising spent; the number of retail advertisers on mobile has doubled, reaching 6,445 in June 2010 up from 3,045 in June 2009.
This observation is further supported by the data from Millennial’s ad network, which shows that vertical ‘Retail & Restaurants’ was the number #1 ad vertical in Q1 of 2011, both in the US and internationally.
Dippak Khurana, CEO & co-founder, Vserv.mobi says, “As people move from mobile phones to internet-enabled smartphones, smartphones are enabling consumers to create and store shopping lists, scan product bar codes to compare product characteristics, and access coupons and promotions.” Similarly, as per Abhay Doshi, senior director, product and marketing, Flytxt, slowly the usage of the traditional media is decreasing and retailers are strongly focused on mobile to engage their customers. And several others are integrating mobile into the traditional marketing programs and strategies.
M-advertising helps in increasing the sales and it creates immediate transactions. It is emerging as a service channel apart from being a marketing channel. Indeed, retailers are able to get higher rates from mobile advertising as compared to the average traditional media marketing tools like online or print.
Opportunities & Right Practices
Retailers ought to tailor messages for the mobile channel. They ought to consider text limitations, mobile web capabilities, and handset variations. Defining the right tools and strategy is like winning half of the battle.
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Of late, mobile advertising has created a great opportunity for retailers who use m-advertising correctly. Mobile technology must be integrated with retail stores, consumers could be helped to find what they need in-store. Retailers can set up a mobile-enabled retail stores. By utilizing different mobile channels such as mobile web, search, applications, SMS, multimedia messaging (MMS), email, Bluetooth, and content serves as an additional way for retailers to efficiently promote unique, timely, and personalized offers.
“Mobile advertising campaigns should be tailored for retailer needs including interactive voice, click-to-call, call-to-buy, and related promotional elements and data capture,” says Doshi. Such steps will engage and influence millions of consumers to make real-time purchase decisions on-the-go.
Mobile display, text and search advertising helps retailers to acquire new customers, diversify their user base, and drive incremental revenue. An integrated campaign approach aids advertisers to drive sustained impact and results including greater audience reach and deeper consumer engagement. A few retailers in the developed countries have witnessed huge benefits of multi-channel plan as compared to standalone initiatives.
SMS has turned out to be a simple and an effective tool to drive store traffic and maintain customer loyalty. Also, mobile display advertising augments the store traffic and helps retailers to keep up with the demand of loyal customers.
In an instance, a US based Ace Hardware successfully increased its brand awareness to 60%, there was 14% increase in purchase intent over the average mobile audience and there was a 7% lift in consumers planning to visit Ace Hardware in the near future. All this happened when Ace Hardware partnered with Microsoft Mobile Advertising in 2009 for a month-long campaign.
What Microsoft Mobile Advertising did was, it developed a targeted media solution to engage users through behavioral targeting and displayed media across Verizon Wireless Deck and Microsoft Windows Live mobile properties. Ace targeted users with 4 promotions-20% off bag sale; ‘Tis the season; after thanksgiving sale; and your holiday helpful place.
Besides, it also drove consumers to a branded page that contained an assortment of content including in-store sale information, a store locator, branded videos, and an SMS sign-up page for users to hear more about future promotions.
“Coupons and deals which can be redeemed at the point-of-sale have proved as great ways to drive consumers in-store. Mobile web is gaining importance in India, many companies are working on mobile web design as well. It is wise to have a store locator option on landing page and help on-the-go consumers to get the address and even directions to the nearest location,” says Amit Bhartiya, GM & VP, mobile & ViziSense, Komli Media.
Retailers ought to choose appropriate mobile partners, who can help them leverage the power of various mobile media and mobile advertising practices. Having a right vendor who aligns with their needs is important. It is also imperative to continuously track, measure and analyze the results and to make adjustments as necessary throughout the advertising campaigns.
Therefore retail brands are advised to develop campaigns and strategies that reach beyond the usual list of content sites and channels. And let’s not forget the importance of timing. Advertising that takes advantage of the window of opportunity around holidays and events (such as Mother’s/Father’s Day) can pay dividends.
Furthermore, Doshi shares, "They should view channels like MMS because it can be used for information and as it is a rich media it will help in influencing subscriber purchase behavior. They need to have an upcross channel and a multicross channel campaign." Along with mobile advertising, location based services, mobile commerce, and rich media are adding value to consumers experience and the retail industry.