If you’re coming up with New Year’s resolutions for 2016 (and you totally should), be sure to include mobile on your list. More than just a buzzword or passing trend, mobile has become a big part of consumers’ lives. As retail experts point out, while mobile isn’t the top channel for transactions, “it is becoming the hub that drives the rest of a customer’s activity.”
So how exactly do you implement a mobile strategy? The answer to that depends on your business. There are various ways to be more mobile-centric; you just have to assess each path to see if it’s right for your company. Below are a few ideas to get you started:
Adopt responsive designs
This is a must for any retailer that has an online presence. If you have a website, make sure it’s responsive. This means the site’s layout and design must be smart enough to detect the device that a visitor is using, so it can adjust accordingly.
Responsive designs make mobile browsing a lot more convenient. They minimize (sometimes even eliminate) the need to zoom and pan, so visitors can easily navigate the site and find what they’re looking for. This in turn, creates better shopping experiences and increases conversion. Apparel retailer Lilly Pulitzer, for instance, saw improvements in mobile conversion when they switched to responsive design.
The good news is, going responsive isn’t as difficult as you might think. There are numerous website themes and designs that are already optimized for the small screen, so you may want to check if you’re using a theme that’s already responsive. If not, shop around and switch to one that is.
Start designing mobile-first experiences
Think about any digital programs that you have in the pipeline (ex: online coupons or promotions) then ask yourself, did you create these campaigns for desktop users first or mobile users?
If it’s the former, you may want to rethink how you create your digital initiatives.
Remember that consumers are spending more time on their mobile devices. Site numbers in the past year alone have shown a 20% increase in mobile’s share of online sessions. People these days turn to their trusty smartphones or tablets when they need answers, want to be entertained, or when they need to get in touch with others.
And more important, an increasing number of consumers are turning to mobile before any other channel. In other words, they’re using mobile first. As a retailer who wants to keep up with modern shoppers, you may want to follow into their footsteps by creating mobile-first campaigns.
Several retailers have already started doing this, and have seen good results. At the 2015 Shop.org Summit, for example, QVC’s CEO Mike George said that the’ve not only embraced responsive design, but they’ve also been designing experiences for the small screen first.
Similarly, Billy May, senior vice president and general manager of digital, e-commerce, and corporate development at Abercrombie and Fitch said that they too are prioritizing mobile.
“We like to say that we’re mobile led… When I first started, we spent a lot of time on the desktop screen and worked down to the small screen. Today we [start on the] small screen and work backwards towards the large screen.”
This coming year, make it a point to adopt the “mobile first” mindset. Whether you’re launching an online sale or sending out an email to your subscribers, always think about the experience of mobile users, and optimize your efforts accordingly.
Adopt (or at least be ready for) mobile payments
Mobile payments likely won’t replace cash or credit cards anytime soon, but they’re gaining traction. Depending on your store or customers, it may behoove you to start accepting payments such as Apple Pay.
Just like mobile responsive design, adopting mobile payments may not be as difficult as you might think. Many modern POS terminals in the market are already equipped with mobile payment capabilities, so you won’t have to give your system an overhaul to start accepting NFC payments like Apple Pay or Samsung Pay. You just have to talk to your providers and discuss the best way to upgrade.
Communicate with shoppers using their mobile devices
Use mobile to actively communicate with your customers. We’re not talking about texting or calling them (unless this is something that your shoppers want). We’re referring to sending out timely and relevant messages that can enhance the shopping experience.
There are plenty of apps and devices that enable you to do this. For instance, there are beacons, which allow you to send tailored notifications or offers to shoppers depending on where they are in the store. Say a customer is at the footwear section, and the store happens to be having a sale on shoes. The in-store beacon can send that offer to the shopper when it detects that she’s looking at shoes, thus enriching her shopping experience.
Not too keen on using beacons? You can look into loyalty or customer management apps that allow you to communicate to customers in relevant ways. Consider Collect, a solution that allows you to send personalized rewards and perks to the members of your loyalty program.
Collect makes it convenient for both merchants and customers to earn and redeem rewards. It allows you to eliminate reward cards and instead implement your program using shoppers’ mobile devices. Best of all, Collect works with Apple Passbook, so when shoppers are near your shop, Passbook can prompt them to enter your store with an offer.
Make it easy for customers to complete purchases on mobile
Visit your mobile site and evaluate the shopping experience, from browsing products to checkout. Does your mobile store make it easy for people to find what they’re looking for? What about the checkout process? Can people go from “add to cart” to “checkout” in just a few short steps?
If you found your mobile shopping experience cumbersome in any way, take immediate steps to improve it. Again, the first step to doing this is to adopt responsive design for optimal navigation. Also improve your mobile merchandising so customers can quickly find the items they need. Finally, minimize the number of steps at checkout and see to it that shoppers can get in and out as conveniently as possible.
If you implement omnichannel programs such as buy online, pick up in-store, find ways to incorporate mobile into your initiatives. Perhaps you can start offering an “order via mobile, pick up in-store” program.
Take a look at what Kohl’s is doing. Earlier this year, the department store doubled down on its mobile strategy by implementing its in-store pickup program on the mobile platform. Now, when customers shop using the Kohl’s app, they’re given the option to have the item shipped to their home, or pick it up at a nearby branch.
Mobile is an important shopping channel to your customers, which means it should be an important channel for you. The small screen will continue to play a big role in consumers’ lives, and in order to stay relevant, retailers must work their way into their customer’s mobile devices in relevant and compelling ways.
Got any other mobile-centric action steps for retailers? Share them in the comments.
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.