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StrategyJan 25, 2018

Mobile Retail: 4 Ways to Maximize Your Customer Engagement

Nathan Shaub

Over the next few weeks, Credera will be exploring the growth of mobile commerce and highlighting mobile retail tactics and best practices through a series of articles. This is part one of our Mobile Retail series—4 Ways to Maximize Your Customer Engagement.

“Physical stores are still the primary way people acquire merchandise, and I think that will be true 50 years from now.” This may have resonated when Ron Johnson, Apple’s former senior vice president for retail, said it in 2011, but the world of retail in 2018 is significantly different.

Online sales surpassed in-store sales in each of the past two Black Friday weekends, and mobile’s share of those online sales continues to increase. According to the National Retail Federation, 63% of smartphone owners consulted their devices when making a purchasing decision during Black Friday in 2017, with 29% actually completing purchases on their mobile device. By 2020, mobile sales are expected to account for half of all digital sales, reaching more than $270 billion annually.

Although there will likely always be a role for traditional brick-and-mortar retail, mobile is well positioned to shape the industry’s future and become a go-to customer-facing channel within the next five years. While this shift will not affect every retail business, the vast majority must prepare for a significant mobile presence.

So, how do you compete in mobile retail? We will answer that question by progressing through the typical mobile customer journey, including customer engagement, shopping and browsing, and closing the sale. To kick it off, we will discuss four tactics to drive customers to your mobile channels:

1. Leverage the Power of Social Media

What is social media?

More than just a tool for looking up former classmates or getting the news, social media helps people, businesses, organizations, and the occasional spambot build relationships in a virtual space. Social media in 2018 is more than just Facebook and Twitter; Snapchat is now the primary messaging platform for many young Americans, and Instagram and Pinterest are emerging as powerful commerce engines.

Why is social media important?

Social media is ubiquitous (four in five Americans have a profile), millennial-driven (millennials spend six hours per week on it), and increasingly mobile (nearly 80% of social media time is spent on mobile). Social media is also a critical avenue for influencing purchases. User reviews, product photos, and influencer fashion statements all contribute to how consumers view your brand. Social media is impactful because it is personal—when a consumer sees your product, they are seeing it on a feed created just for them.

How can you use social media to drive mobile engagement?

Consumers are spread over a number of channels and networks, so take the time to understand where your customers spend their time on social media. If your customers look for trending fashions, then partner with influencers on Instagram. If your customers look at product reviews, then answer their customer service questions on Twitter or Facebook Messenger. If your customers look to shop, then promote your app with one-click downloads.

2. Explore Affiliate Marketing

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is the partnership between your organization and either affiliates or influencers to leverage their market reach. Affiliates are organizations such as blogs, online magazines, or complementary brands, while influencers are individuals such as celebrities, bloggers, or social media stars. Both affiliates and influencers have strong networks oriented around specific interests, including travel, fitness, and fashion.

Why is affiliate marketing important?

Affiliate marketing is a great way to connect with customers who are similar to your current customer base but outside your existing reach. Partnering with relevant affiliates to create and promote content can enhance your credibility by identifying you with an established brand. Leveraging existing networks via affiliates and influencers can be faster and cheaper than identifying and contacting individual consumers in your target audience. For instance, Old Navy has partnered with several notable musicians, designers, and social media influencers to create campaigns linking their clothing to the most current fashion and pop culture trends.

How can you use affiliate marketing to drive mobile engagement?

Before jumping headfirst into working with affiliates and influencers, you need to understand what group of new customers you are hoping to reach through a partnership. Once you choose your target market, identify influencers and affiliates already interacting with them. Often, the affiliates with the largest networks are leveraging social media, particularly through mobile devices. Pick someone you know and trust, and work together on a small, targeted campaign to jointly expand your spheres of influence. This will likely be a process of trial-and-error, but the opportunity to quickly expand your market reach should be more than enough incentive to begin.

3. Develop Effective Direct Marketing Campaigns

What are direct campaigns?

Direct marketing campaigns are composed of messaging sent to specific consumers, often through email, text, or push notifications. Email is a well known, albeit overused, method of direct advertising, but text messaging and push notifications have been growing in popularity and acceptance over the last several years.

Why are direct campaigns important?

Email campaigns may seem outdated, but they consistently deliver a positive ROI for the vast majority of companies. Texting and push notifications allow nearly immediate access to consumers, as 90% of SMS are read within three minutes. If you have an app, push notifications also help keep customers engaged; eCommerce apps see engagement nearly tripled for customers with push notifications enabled. Whatever route you choose, direct campaigns are proven winners for engaging your customers.

How can you use direct campaigns to drive mobile engagement? 

The key for marketers is to make sure you avoid the spam folder, instant deletion, or even worse, the dreaded “unsubscribe” button. Successful marketing emails are short, interesting, and punchy, from the subject line to the action item. Be sure to optimize email for all platforms, especially mobile. More than 70% of consumers will delete emails that do not load properly, and nearly 20% will unsubscribe. If you have an app, thoughtfully plan your push notification strategy ahead of time. Consider utilizing rich notifications with embedded images or videos to increase open rates. When sending texts, require action from the customer, such as expiring deals or contests requiring a response to enter.

4. Synchronize Online and In-Store Experiences

What is experience synchronization?

Experience synchronization is the coordination of digital and in-store experiences. This requires open collaboration between internal teams on promotions, offers, and aesthetics to create an integrated experience for the customer. Crate & Barrel is a leader in experience synchronization—recent innovations include the use of barcode scanning on mobile phones to facilitate in-store browsing and seamless crossover between all devices to encourage shopping on desktop and mobile.

Why is experience synchronization important?

The most successful brands strive to create holistic, omnichannel experiences that encourage customers to engage with the company’s brand through all channels, which keep the brand top of mind for the consumer. And customers are catching on to the trend; three in four now expect a consistent online and in-store shopping experience. Failing to meet this expectation leads to customer frustration and, ultimately, attrition.

How can you use experience synchronization to drive mobile engagement?

First, ensure the aesthetics of your digital and physical experiences are in alignment. Failure to match simple elements like themes and colors is confusing for customers and reflects poorly on your brand. A good start to integrate digital and physical is to reward customers who use your digital platform while in your store with coupons or exclusive deals. Once you have the basics in place, stretch for more advanced features such as barcode/QR scanning or interactive store maps.

If you already have a strong mobile presence with your customer base, use these four tactics to evaluate the effectiveness of your current strategy and bring new customers to your mobile channels. If your business has yet to fully embrace mobile, now is a great time to start. Mobile capabilities are not just reserved for larger companies; small and mid-size companies with an impressive mobile presence are becoming more and more prevalent.

Here at Credera, we work with clients to craft exceptional mobile platforms and optimize eCommerce to engage customers and grow revenue. For example, Credera developed a mobile eCommerce application for Backcountry with a focus on integrating social media and connecting customers with sponsored athletes. Upon completion, the new platform generated three times the historical site traffic with a higher conversion rate.

Given the growth of mobile and how it is well positioned to shape the future of retail, now is the right time to grow your mobile footprint. Use this guide to expand your mobile reach, and stay tuned for our next article on Mobile Customer Experience.

If you would like to discuss ways you can grow your mobile retail channel, we are happy to discuss some good starting points for your business. Feel free to reach out to Credera here or send me an email directly at nshaub@credera.com.