These days, it’s almost unheard of for a retailer to not have a website. We’ve all accepted e-commerce as an integral part of the world of buying and selling. But if you haven’t yet realized that mobile commerce has reached that same threshold of indispensability, consider this: More searches were performed on mobile than on desktop last year.

The mobile internet experience has become a part of everyday life — unlike some new, whiz-bang fad, it’s here to stay. And the mobile shopping experience is every bit as essential as the e-commerce experience. For companies, this means that the “flat world” the internet gave us has regained some of its convoluted topography. The virtual world has actually never been flat in terms of how we inhabit it.

As David Bell, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, put it, “The virtual world is flat in terms of the opportunity that it delivers to all of us, but…the way we use it to search, shop, and sell depends on where we live in the real world, which is anything but flat.”

His sentiments are especially true when it comes to marketing on mobile, where location makes all the difference.

How Shoppers Use Mobile

Digby (now Phunware) did an analysis of how shoppers use the 40 mobile platforms that the company supports for various brands. It found that shoppers are far more likely to use their smartphones to look up the location of a brick-and-mortar store than to make a purchase.

In fact, for each mobile purchase made, the store locator function is used 63 times. Before you read too far into that stat, though, there’s an important distinction to make. We often speak about mobile as if it’s one big ball of wax, but even within mobile, differences exist between smartphones and tablets.

For example, making seamless purchasing functions a top priority in the online experience for shoppers on desktop computers or tablets makes good sense. But for smartphone users, the priority should be making it easy for them to find your address and get driving directions to your physical store; mobile purchases should be a secondary goal.

This kind of mobile optimization is important for all businesses — but even more so for companies that do business in developing countries. There are 2.6 billion smartphone subscriptions around the world today. In just four years, that number is expected to reach 6.1 billion, and most of that growth will come from emerging markets.

Consider, too, that mobile is poised to be a leapfrog technology, meaning that some regions and countries will skip wired internet altogether and jump directly to mobile computing. Already, South Africa and Brazil have more smartphones than personal computers. Globally speaking, smartphone penetration has eclipsed personal computer penetration, despite being a much newer technology.

The key to conversion lies in knowing where, when, why, and how shoppers are using mobile to connect with your brand and then capitalizing on that invaluable data with smart strategies.

Using Real-Time Data to Inform Your Strategy

Mark Asher, director of corporate strategy at Adobe Systems, sees it this way: “Data intelligence is a core priority for 2016. This is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity — marketers and agencies are increasingly being required to show demonstrable ROI across end-user touchpoints.”

And he’s right. As with so many business functions, real-time data analytics can provide the edge your company needs to convert mobile users into paying customers.

There are three critical areas where employing real-time analytics can pay off big, including:

  • In-store mode. Apps are not just for loyalty points anymore. You can now utilize native applications to deliver unique in-store shopping experiences.Ninety percent of shoppers use their phones while in stores. Fifty-four percent of them are comparing prices, 48 percent are looking up information on products, and 42 percent are checking out online reviews.Using proximity marketing, when you know the shopper is in the store, you could move the shopping cart functionality down a page and pull reviews on a product page to the top of the app to highlight them.
  • Contextualization. Personalization — or its next iteration, individualization — is a powerful tool, but it’s a difficult one to utilize. Personalization uses data gleaned from past behavior to predict what the user will want next. But its algorithmic approach often ignores the fact that humans don’t always act as expected.This is compounded by a false expectation of accuracy, when in reality, people are more than the sum of their past behaviors. Moreover, it takes a lot of work for most marketers to generate all of the possible segments and create content for them. One promising idea is to incorporate more straightforward contexts, such as time and location, to provide utility to the customer instead of prescriptions.For example, if locational and behavioral data combined show that a user recently spent time looking at a certain product and that he or she is in the vicinity of a store that has it in stock, the app should highlight that item.
  • Customer expectations. Perhaps more than any other marketing model, succeeding in mobile comes down to meeting customer expectations.Today’s shoppers demand immediacy, simplicity, and relevance. Forrester Research calls it the “mobile mind shift.” Consumers now expect to be able to use their smartphones to find what they want when they want it, and they expect acquiring the product to be easy.Remember: Just because people look at products on a smartphone doesn’t mean that’s how they want to purchase them. A study of U.K. mobile shoppers found that 56 percent of those who researched a product on their phone while in-store went on to buy that product in-store.

What does all of this mean for the future of omnichannel marketing?

It means loyalty perks, easy online checkout, and fitting rooms based on users’ mobile shopping carts that are already prepared and waiting for them when they arrive. In short, it means anticipating every step of the customer journey to deliver exactly what each individual needs.

For todays’ modern mobile marketer, it’s not optional — it’s basic survival. If your mobile shopping experience doesn’t deliver everything consumers expect, they’ll find one that does.

Anthony Nicalo

Anthony Nicalo


Anthony Nicalo is the VP Platform at Mobify.