There has been a large amount of buzz, articles and info. on businesses getting into mobile. In the last couple of weeks I have personally attended two conferences that had mobile as one of their key topics of discussion. My thoughts come from an article that I just read and will include with this post – about the fashion business and how that industry can make the most of mobile commerce. Coming from the fashion business as my first career it triggered some thoughts.
Most of us, even those of us who still do not have smart phones own phones that provide cameras, texting and email. We take those phones with us everywhere and use them as a beacon to stay connected, informed and give us the answers to the info. we need immediately. This simple deduction makes mobile a key player in how we live our lives day to day. For those that have a smart phone such as myself – apps are a key way to get information from brands, products and services we use and evangelize and keep customers informed. In some cases these apps allow the purchase of products from a mobile device, other apps provide updates about sales, events, promotions and new product launches. It makes sense in the retail world that finding ways to leverage mobile commerce should be high on the marketing budget and strategy list.
There are some of the big brands that have mobile apps both in the retail world at large – but also in the fashion world which is directly related to our attached article. Where I think that retailers can really start to think big- is by utilizing all the ways they can leverage different types of mobile commerce including mobile websites and texting to enhance the customer experience. Currently most retailers are still not interfacing with customers via their mobile phones in bricks and mortar locations. Most sales people are not using in-store mobile phones to share info. with customers, or using their computers to help customer take photos or share via text which is one of the largest uses for everyone.
Nordstrom’s has enhanced their customer ability to find product online and know where and whether it is in stock . Net a Porter the designer online fashion site allows you to purchase product from your mobile phone. Joe Fresh the stylish and economical fashion line featured in Canada’s grocery chain Loblaw’s uses their application to feature product, prices and style options in a fun way attached to store locations where looks can be found. Yet in-store experiences have still not been leveraged. As mentioned in our article free wi-fi is still not offered and many sales people are not thinking about the ways that they can leverage sharing, product colours or options that may not be offered at one location or available at another. What about helping a customer text products to friends -that can help them make a choice or decision to purchase? We are starting to see rewards for geo-location via mobile from companies like the Gap – who launched a contest for a free pair of jeans if you are one of the first 10,000 to check into Facebook Places on Friday.
As more people use their phone to manage all of their daily tasks – it be vital for retailers to think creatively on a variety of phone platforms – ways to communicate with customers in-store and out by the device that goes with them everywhere – allowing access to customers instantly and regularly. BNET features an article “How Fashion Brands Can Make the Most of M Commerce” authored by Lydia Dishman. The key for all retailers is not to just think in the world of apps -but to think of how mobile commerce can best be used in the way their target customer – is most likely to use their mobile device, integration of m commerce in-store and online and the engagement of employees that manage the sales in both of those venues.
It took them a while to embrace e-commerce so it’s easy to forgive fashion brands and retailers for taking so long to use leverage smartphone technology to reach customers. But they won’t get a free pass for much longer. At a panel during WWD’s CEO Summit, savvy apparel retailers are having no trouble wrapping their heads (and dollars) around mobile-friendly sites and apps as a way to boost revenue and connect with consumers.
James Gardner, CEO and co-founder of CREATETHE GROUP, an interactive agency whose clients include Burberry, Calvin Klein, DKNY, Neiman Marcus (NM) and others told me:
Spending is higher on the web, but the mobile apps help brands reach the consumer wherever they are with their mobile device, and offer another engaging way to interact with the brands, strengthen brand loyalty and to offer a creative way for shoppers on the go to browse a brand at their own convenience via an iPhone, iPad or another connected device. This ultimately helps drive sales. While a consumer may spend a few minutes window shopping via a mobile app but may not make a purchase, that action helps convert more sales online and in-store.
Though the preponderance of purchases happen on the Web, Gardner asserts that two of CREATETHE GROUP’s largest luxury retailers average eight to nine percent of their total sales through mobile. Flash sale site Rue La La projects even bigger results with 20 percent of its sales expected to come through mobile by next year.
The most successful brands to convert will offer customers an array of ways to connect and shop. But you don’t necessarily need to rely on an app. Gardner tells me that mobile commerce enabled sites are more important.
While apps were a craze and a focus for 2008 and 2009, what quickly became important to CREATETHE GROUP’s clients is mobile commerce – and really making their sites accessible and shopable on all mobile devices including the iPhone and iPad that do not support Flash, because anyone can access a retailer’s site on their mobile device whether a branded app is available yet or not. The focus shifted away from apps to mobile commerce, and our most recent examples of mobile commerce enabled sites include Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan, DKNY, and Juicy Couture. With these clients and others, we are in progress of the next level of optimizing mobile design and the checkout process.
If a brand has the resources to do it, developing an app can offer the potential customer a more robust way to shop remotely. David Yurman’s iPhone app for its timepiece collection allows users to browse collections, view detailed descriptions, make purchases through a personal shopper, and view product images in their actual size to see what the piece would look like on their wrist.
Smart brand managers would do well to begin incorporating location based services that go beyond a store locator. Nordstrom’s (JWN) recent inventory integration between stores and warehouse allowed shoppers to see what was available in nearby stores or shop online and pick up in the store. The initiative has made Nordstrom’s inventory turn at record-setting speeds (to 5.41 in 2009 from 4.84 in 2005) and improved margins on merchandise that would have languished on racks until marked below 50 percent.
There’s still plenty of room for improvement. Piers Fawkes, founder of trend research firm PSFK, believes retailers should encourage mobile phones in stores and provide free wi-fi for shoppers to enhance the browsing experience. Fawkes also suggests retailers to take control of their inventory cycles by synchronizing special discounts for groups.
You can encourage people to purchase when you want to move stock. You can also focus on your loyal consumers and reward them with group purchases. And you can test the popularity of new concepts or product ranges or brands before you make them.
One thing’s clear: if a multichannel shopper spends four times, on average, what a one-source shopper spends, fashion retailers who haven’t started developing mobile-friendly sites yet better get busy.