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How Can Retailers Use Mobile Commerce to Improve Operations?

Mobile technology enhances a company's operational effectiveness

Mobile commerce technology still has plenty of room for innovation in retail operations, according to industry leaders at Shop.org’s recent presentation during the National Retail Federation BIG Show.

An article on Shop.org, which recaps executives’ new takes on mobile commerce and on other fundamentals of digital retail, highlights three key points. 

  1. Make print catalogs compatible with mobile commerce: Digital won’t replace print. Beck Besecker, CEO of Marxent Labs, cites Direct Marketing Association data to highlight that point. Retailers nationwide have 100 million active catalog shoppers and “80 percent of transactions still start with print,” Besecker tells Shop.org. Furniture retailer Ballard Designs is taking the lead by integrating mobile commerce with its print catalog. Customers can hold an app over the catalog to shop, pull up product reviews or add the product to a mobile shopping cart.

    The key for retailers is to integrate their catalog with their online site, and the two must be consistent. That means items for sale online should also be available at the store, at the same price. That seamless approach between shopping channels — online, mobile, print catalogs, bricks-and-mortar, etc. — is what omni-channel retailing is all about.

  2. Use current mobile technology: Image recognition technology is a built-in feature of cellphones, so why not use it for mobile commerce? It could enhance e-commerce features by allowing shoppers to create favorite products lists or fill a shopping cart with items using a mobile device. This approach goes a long way it meeting several key objectives of omni-channel, including making it easy to know your customer. The mobile app should concentrate on ease of use for the customer, giving them an intuitive way to pick the item from the catalog and put it into their cart or shopping list. This approach could also eliminate the need for using promotional codes in the catalog since the mobile device could record information about the catalog the customer is browsing through. This allows retailers to gauge the effectiveness of their catalogs and break down sales by demographics. If the mobile app links to the retailer’s customer records or loyalty program, then such a process should yield a wealth of information relating to a customer and their buying habits.
  3. Inspire loyalty: Retail today is “fulfillment driven” rather than price driven, asserts Marketvine CEO Manish Mehta. That means online retailers must differentiate themselves through inspiration or storytelling, rather than price. For example, empower your store employees to share your brand’s story by letting them curate a product collection. Then they can share it on various blogs, social media or physical displays.

While the article assumes that most retailers are focused on fulfillment, that’s not the case for many mid-market or small retailers. Fulfilling an online order may not be an integrated process for them, but they likely use multiple systems, an area many retailers should focus on improving.

Source: Shop.org, May 2013