Mobile shopping may be the fastest growing retail trend this year and next. How merchants market to mobile shoppers could soon have a significant impact on sales and customer loyalty.
There is no question that shoppers are using mobile devices — smartphones and tablets — to research buying decisions or make purchases. In June 2012, as an example, Nielsen found that some 47 percent of American smartphone owners had used mobile shopping apps that month. On average, shopping apps were used about 17 times a month to check prices or make a purchase.
A separate Nielsen survey from earlier this year found that in general, mobile shoppers preferred mobile websites to mobile apps — with more than half of mobile users regularly accessing retailers' mobile websites.
Combined, mobile websites — that is, responsive websites — and mobile apps are having a huge impact on shopping. Again according to Nielsen, nearly 60 percent of smartphone users accessed a top-five retail site or app during the 2011 holiday season. That number is expected to grow during the 2012 holiday season, and remember this data does not even include tablet users.
Thus, armed with a responsive site and a platform-specific mobile app, there are three other marketing tactics that merchants may wish to consider.
1. Integrate Text Marketing
Customer acquisition can be a significant investment for online retailers. Just consider how much is spent on pay-per-click advertising or how much time is devoted to social media and email marketing. Savvy retail marketers have already learned that adding site visitors to an email list can lead to lasting customer relationships and repeated sales.
In the mobile environment, text marketing, which is also called SMS marketing, is a natural extension of the ideas behind adding visitors to an email list. Mobile shoppers are frequently using smartphones, nearly all of which are equipped to receive text messages. So consider offering mobile visitors a discount — perhaps 10 or 15 percent — when they register for a "Monthly Specials” text message.
Then each month, send a text with a compelling offer for shoppers. Flash sales work well with text marketing.
2. Cross Promote Apps and Mobile Sites
Mobile, which includes both responsive websites and mobile applications, provides retail marketers with multiple customer touch points.
As an example, imagine an online retailer of fishing equipment and supplies. This imaginary merchant will have a responsive, mobile-ready website featuring lures, rods, reels, waders, and more. Plus, this retailer might also have a fish-finding app, designed to help fisherman locate the best rivers or lakes in their region.
If these two mobile properties — the site and the application — are each promoting the other, this fishing gear merchant might soon create a cycle wherein shoppers use the app, the app recommends products based on a particular fishing spot, and the shopper makes additional purchases.
Mobile apps and responsive websites don’t need to be complicated, but they should give shoppers some real value and cross promote each other.
3. Beat Competitors' Pricing
It is important to note that there is a difference between mobile shopping and mobile buying. A shopper looking at an item on a responsive retail website does not necessarily imply that the shopper intends to purchase from that site.
There has been a lot of media coverage about “showrooming,” which occurs when a shopper enters a physical, brick-and-mortar retail location, but compares the price on the rack with online prices for the same or similar items.
Although showrooming can favor online merchants, who typically offer lower prices, it is no guarantee. This is especially true for multi-channel sellers that have the same prices online as they do in store. If the price is not lower online, shoppers are even more likely to make the purchase at the store they are standing in.
With this fact in mind, mobile ecommerce marketers should consider a low price guarantee or price-beating offer. This might be a button or message shown only to shoppers using mobile devices, which offers to beat any retail price. Shoppers simply need to answer a couple of quick questions such as what store had the item priced lower, with the address, and just like that the mobile shopper is converted and a sale is made.