Recently my mother entered the world of smartphones. Her transformation from mobile-inept to mobile-enabled took a matter of days. She went from only being able to use a phone with actual buttons to wanting to buy music and send photos, via messaging apps, to family across the globe.
Smartphones just have that affect, whether it's on individuals or in shifting entire markets and the way they function. It’s rapid and it’s happening here in New Zealand, transforming consumer behaviour before our eyes.
Today, hardly anyone can claim they haven’t picked up their smartphones or tablets to check out a product or service they’re in the market for, and eventually purchased it, whether that be on the device, on their PC or in store.
Yet businesses still dig in their heels when it comes to mobile platforms, citing a greater percentage of sales come from in-store. But consider what led shoppers to buy in-store.
The truth is, mobile commerce today is commerce. We can’t treat it separately anymore.
In March this year Big Picture investigated New Zealanders' take on using their mobile devices for transactions.
We spoke to 100 early adopters and the early majority and the answer was clear; consumers are no longer able to compartmentalise their shopping journey. If we were to map this journey (see the flow chart below), it’s not the linear one some still cling to.
Today it’s an entangled web of touchpoints including mobile devices, computers and physical stores.
What each business needs to work out is: What are consumers using their mobile devices for in their industry?
Not everyone is purchasing, some are just researching to eventually buy at home or in-store, so we should be enabling that journey. We’re still making the sales and it’s clear that mobile devices are helping that.
As an example, one woman in our study was seeking a pair of leather boots, so started her search on her smartphone, browsing websites on the go. Those that weren’t mobile-enabled were too hard to browse and she quickly moved on. Her next touchpoint was her iPad at home where she decided where she was going to buy her boots and what exact store had stock. Of course, stores without mobile presence were completely ruled out from her journey from day one.
A seamless experience with a brand is no longer an exception, it’s an expectation. Consumers want to feel that this entangled web they weave on their purchase journey is one they can start on any device and be completed via another touchpoint.
The brands that offer this gain greater loyalty, because consumers are using their mobile devices because they're convenient and these brands are seen to be making it an easy experience. Businesses should be reflecting this evolution, mobile teams and retail teams should be treated as one, working together to create that one experience.
Mobile-enabled websites are a crucial first step towards seamlessness. Consumers saw them as bridging the gap and easing those a little less tech savvy into the concept of mobile commerce.
Apps, on the other hand, are a different kettle of fish. Consumers are suffering from app fatigue and the app graveyard is continually growing. Some brands get a resounding thumbs up from consumers.
The likes of Trade Me, GrabOne, Hallensteins and ANZ seem to be getting it right, conversion was quick and many claimed they’d be back on these apps or mobile sites again.
It’s a significant moment for consumers to download an app for a particular brand; it’s recognition of their affiliation with a brand. We need to seize this opportunity.
Take the Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo’s Wake Up app. Every day consumers wake up to a specially composed song to match the weather. It’s not even about purchasing clothes, but Uniqlo has managed to create a reason for customers to have their logo as the last thing they see at night and the first thing they see in the morning.
Whichever way we slice it, there is a great deal of value in integrating a mobile offer into businesses. Kiwi consumers have their fingers and data packages at the ready; they’re just waiting for New Zealand businesses to catch up.
Businesses need to reassess the need to mobile enable their websites; create a synchronised journey across all touchpoints – mobile is not a separate offering anymore; remember to simplify the complex – make an experience that is intuitively designed; and approach mobile offers the same as we would a store experience. Remember it’s still about engaging visually. Those who don’t reconsider transforming their offering will get left behind.
Jo Mitchell is consumer strategy director at Big Picture.