Now that the rush of Christmas and the New Year sales period has calmed down, retailers are probably taking a moment to reflect on what was a very difficult year and work out how to turn things around for 2012. Many companies have taken huge steps in the right direction but there’s still a lot more that can be done.

2011 was all about the multichannel experience, with almost half (49%) of companies saying that a multichannel customer experience is ‘very important’ to their business and a further 40% rating it ‘quite important’. (econsultancy multichannel customer experience report, November 2011)

Marketing experts talked about how important it was to create mobile-optimised web sites and apps to support your customer experience. And this was true – Ofcom data showed that smartphone ownership nearly doubled in the UK between February 2010 and August 2011 (from 24 per cent to 46 per cent).  However, YouGov predicts that smartphone ownership is now predicted to jump to 68 per cent for 2012, meaning that companies need to start thinking about the next step up from multichannel.

mcommerce in storeThe first generation of smartphone owners are now evolving and their expectations are growing – they’ve grown used to mobile search and mCommerce and are now looking for additional ways to shop and connect with businesses. It’s no longer just about mobile shopping or visiting a store. Consumers are now using smartphones to look for deals both en route to stores and while they’re in them, as well as sharing information on social networks where news (especially bad) spreads worldwide very quickly. Businesses need to take note or risk losing out to competitors as the impact of delivering poor experiences in one channel impacts consumers’ perceptions of the entire company.

Business need to think less about multichannel and focus more on the concept of an ‘omni-channel’, incorporating bricks and mortar, online, call centres, mobile, social media, tablets and even interactive TV. Separating each one and creating several different marketing strategies means that when it comes to integrating a business-wide strategy, many companies come unstuck. econsultancy’s multichannel customer experience report also indicates that 48% of companies still haven’t integrated their mobile app into the overall customer experience.

2011 saw many companies succeed in creating some of these multichannel presences but fail when it came to cross-promotion. Investment is needed to ensure that this is built on for 2012. Some companies have already started, using solutions such as ordering via mobile and collecting in-store, ordering online and returning in-store, building store locators in mSites or apps and enabling consumers to access shopping baskets in-store, online and on their phones but there’s still a way to go.

With news of a continued recession, it’s going to be a tough year for retailers so it’s more important than ever before that they provide a personalised and relevant experience to consumers. Remember 2012 will be all about service. Subtle improvements could really make the difference when it comes to outperforming your competitors.

Key considerations for retailers in 2012:

  • Make sure you have some sort of mobile presence
  • SMS is just as important (if not more) than a mobile website – just over 50% of the UK still own a non-smartphone (Kantar World Panel Com Tech) so it’s key to be able to capture this audience. Marketers need to remember that apps and m-sites still fail to reach a large proportion of phone owners while SMS open rates are around 90% and covert at a rate that is 400% higher than email marketing (Econsultancy)
  • Once your mobile presence is in place, check that it’s easy to use – with over half of users stating that they expect sites to download as quickly on their mobile device as their home computer and 60% stating that poor performance will make them less likely to return to the site (Gomez mobile web user experience survey), companies will be ensuring that their mobile sites deliver the experience quickly, easily and efficiently. A well designed site, which operates as quickly as possible could make all the difference
  • Think about mobile search – there’s no point creating a mobile marketing strategy if consumers can’t find your products. Mobile searches accounted for approximately 9% of search activity in 2011. This is projected to increase to 20% in 2012 (A4U m-commerce report), making it a perfect time for companies to increase their mobile search spend
  • Don’t get drawn into the app v mSite debate. Neither is better – they are designed for completely different things. Apps give users a smooth navigation, interaction and user experience, whereas mSites are used for their immediacy. The best strategy is to go down both routes to capture as many consumers as possible
  • Capture mobile data – include a field to capture mobile numbers. Touch screens allow for lots of mistakes and data entry takes time. Keep the data capture to a minimum – email and phone number are enough to generate impressive results
  • Why not try Push messaging? Create your ‘omni-channel’ experience by using it to remind consumers of forgotten items in a shopping basket or a long lost wish list. It can also be used to send appointment or contact cards
  • Don’t forget to advertise your ‘omni-presence’. Taking time to build fully optimised mobile sites and apps will be useless if you neglect to promote them. Think how long it took to build up the traffic to your desktop site and how much marketing it took. Use this as a base for mobile. Use SMS campaigns to send the mobile site address to subscribers, embed QR codes in direct and in store marketing materials, purchase mobile keyword campaigns, do all the things that you’re currently doing but include the mobile site and app
  • Integration, integration, integration – A mobile presence should fit into an integrated, multichannel marketing strategy. Think about what data is being captured by your mobile activities, and how this information needs to fit in your organisation. Will it help to maintain up to date customer records? Or do you want to help new customers quickly sign up a new service? Done right, not only can you replicate the success of loyalty cards, money-off vouchers and personalised, targeted offers but you can track, anticipate and even influence customer movement in-store on online
  • Realise that a mobile commerce strategy needs to be smarter than simply taking orders via a mobile device. Smartphone owners are now relying on their devices to help them shop, even when in store to read reviews, compare prices at other retailers, watch demo videos, search for discounts and coupons. Use your mobile marketing strategy to reach out to these consumers and allow them to redeem vouchers via their phone. You’ll be surprised to see how many new customers you attract and existing customers you redeem

John Barratt

John Barratt