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Mobile: a key driver of retail

By Retail Technology | Monday July 14 2014

Mobile marketing expert Mikko Lietsalmi says m-commerce is more than just another item on the ‘to-do’ list of modern retailers

With a large share of online sales in the UK taking place via smartphones and tablets (a quarter according to a new study from eMarketer), there's no doubt that shoppers are increasingly turning to handheld devices to make purchases. 

M-commerce has developed significantly in recent years and has become a basic necessity for brands to have, according to Mikko Lietsalmi, co-founder and CEO at mobile marketing company Oikian.

“Consumer confidence has grown and mobile functionality has matured, making it one of the strongest shopping channels available”, he said. “Retailers that choose to ignore the mobile channel are at risk of alienating shoppers and missing out on its enormous revenue potential. This is evidenced by the success of tech-savvy retailers like Argos, who generated £400 million from m-commerce last year.”

More than just another channel

With that said, mobile is not just another channel from which to shop, according to Lietsalmi, but rather a strand that connects and enhances the other shopping channels and that has ultimately become the key driver of retail. 

“Today’s shopper has expectations that are evolving rapidly; they require relevance across all channels, and the gap between online and in-store has faded from their minds,” he continued. “Instead of choosing between channels, consumers count on a joined up shopping experience, where their preferences and tastes have been predicted.  For this reason, tailoring each interaction via mobile is essential for providing a personalised shopping experience.”

He gives the esample of Daniel Footwear, which launched its first mobile app last month. The app, which centres on personalisation, brings shoppers into stores by sending out bespoke offers and promotions to consumers who are within close proximity of a store. The app also lets shoppers know when a product they’ve been waiting for has arrived in-store or has gone on sale. 

“The benefits of personalisation are clear – crafting a bespoke, tailored shopping experience increases loyalty and improves customer retention,” said Lietsalmi. “In fact, research from Econsultancy found that personalised offers were one of the most important factors in encouraging repeat purchases.”

Influence of the social sphere

With mobile usage dominating social media, (the majority of social interactions are made via mobile), mobile is a highly valuable tool for retailers in the social space, according to Lietsalmi.

“The social sphere has become a significant platform for shoppers to gain informative advice on their purchasing decisions. In turn, retailers are benefiting from consumers posting pictures of items and checking in at stores, as this increases brand awareness among shoppers’ peers.”

He outlines that mobile can offer something which other channels may not, which is instant access to social media and the ability for shoppers to share moments in real-time. “One of the main advantages of mobile is the exposure brands can receive from it; it has the unprecedented power to take any campaign or promotion to the furthest level.”

Fashion, mobile and exclusive moments

Lietsalmi also highlighted how this year’s London Fashion Week demonstrated just how influential mobile is on the social sphere. He pointed to research by Bell Pottinger Wired, which showed that consumers engaged with London Fashion Week 39% more on mobile site Instagram than they did on Twitter. 

“Both models and celebrities took to their Instagram pages to publish pictures and videos, which collectively racked up millions of comments and likes,” he said. The biggest interaction came from a ‘selfie’ video posted by model Cara Delevingne, which attracted more than 216,000 likes and over 4,000 comments. 

“The event showed just how powerful mobile can be in involving the wider public in exclusive moments. In order to encourage mobile usage in-store, retailers should offer free Wi-Fi, which is now a basic essential, rather than an added luxury.”

More than just another ‘to-do’

Lietsalmi suggests that instead of employing a tick-box mentality, where mobile is approached in a compliant manner, retailers should think about why they’re adopting mobile technology and how it can enhance the overall customer shopping experience. 

“The retail sector is currently experiencing robust growth in the mobile channel, with m-commerce outpacing e-commerce and bricks and mortar spend. Retailers that continue to stay ahead of the curve with mobile and provide consumers with a targeted, interactive experience, will be the ones to prosper.”

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