Mobile apps are undoubtedly cool, and executives at leading online retailers have been mandating a presence of their brand in the Apple and Android app stores, but eBusiness professionals must focus on building a cohesive mobile strategy that clearly identifies the case and role for apps within their organizations. Apps are great ways to engage with your customers, but will they deliver incremental revenue above and beyond what the mobile Web is already doing? In her recent mobile commerce forecast, Sucharita Mulpuru explains that mobile commerce is set to transform retail, despite only accounting for 2% of online web sales today. In my new report The State Of Mobile Commerce Apps, I peel back the covers on the hype and take a serious look at why, when, and how eBusiness professionals should approach their mobile app strategy. Some of the issues I explore include:
The mobile web versus app debate. The debate is irrelevant, consumers are using both in equal measures; however, developing an app for apps' sake is missing the point and will only disappoint your customers. eBusiness professionals must develop unique app experiences that deliver multichannel innovations and raise the engagement of the consumer with your brand.
Keeping up with the explosion of consumer touchpoints. Having an iPhone app was the priority back in 2010, but in 2011 many eBusinesses are adding Android, iPad, and Windows Phone 7 apps. The opportunity for apps also extends beyond the consumer. Retailers are investing in apps for store associates empowered with mobile devices, in-store kiosks, and interactive TV.
After social commerce, mobile commerce is the most heavily debated topic-du-jour among retailers these days. One thing that both social and mobile commerce have in common is that they are both small. Teeny in fact. Forrester’s Mobile Commerce Forecast, 2011 To 2016, which launched today, shows that retailers can expect 2% of their online web sales (yes, I said web sales which means a minuscule percent of overall retail) to be transacted through mobile devices in 2011. While we also expect mobile commerce sales to grow 40% each year for the next five years, we’re still talking small numbers overall (7% of web sales penetration by 2016). Why so small you may ask. After all, aren’t smartphones changing the way we consume web content? Some things to consider:
Tablets. We don’t include tablet shopping in our definition of mobile shopping, but the creation (and subsequent explosion in sales) of this device is probably the single biggest inhibitor to the growth of “mobile commerce.” Data that we gathered with Bizrate Insights (to be released separately and soon) indicates that most tablet owners also own smartphones, and many of those people naturally prefer to shop on the device that has the larger screen when given the choice.
Shopping never leads web behavior. In any list of activities that people do on the Internet, shopping nearly always ranks below things like “reading news” or “using social networks.” Even those activities are not universal among the smartphone set, so it would be premature to expect that shopping would rank high on the list (which it, of course, doesn’t).
Google’s product strategists just announced the launch of Google Wallet — an NFC-based mobile payment solution. As my colleague Charlie Golvin pointed out, this is another early salvo in what will be a long and hard-fought battle to change consumers’ payment behavior and, as a potential result, the makeup of the payments landscape.
We have covered this issue in more detail in a new Forrester report “Google Wallet Is Not About Mobile Payments.” Clients can access the report here.
Given its core search business and ad-based revenue model, why would the company make that investment? Because Google’s product strategists’ focus is not on the payment itself; it’s on all of the other elements that comprise a commerce experience and the data that characterizes those elements.
Indeed, appending real-world purchase information to its treasure trove of online behavioral data will vastly increase the value of customers’ profiles and increase the rates Google can charge its advertisers. It will be a way for Google to increase its local presence. NFC is too often equated simply with payments, but Google understands that NFC tags have broad application (working like Quick Response [QR] and other 2D barcodes do today). Google can help retailers use NFC tags for in-store promotions and check-ins, augmenting the understanding of customer behavior for ad targeting.
In 2006, Forrester found that organizational structure, internal enterprise goal systems, and most urgent business requirements were key obstacles on many firms’ journey toward broad multichannel solutions with rich cross-channel capabilities. At that time, a few advanced firms tried to establish a multichannel organization, an organizational layer to coordinate multichannel requirements and solutions between the different business groups and the IT organization. Has this changed over the past five years?
Since the dawn of mobile commerce, retailers have dreamed of leveraging mobile phones to deliver an immersive multichannel experience for in-store shoppers. And finally the time seems right. With the uptake of smartphones, it has become much easier for both consumers and retailers to add mobile phones to the purchase process. Retailers have been busy developing mobile web versions of their online stores as well as dedicated mobile shopping applications for iPhone and Android phones.
But how many consumers are using their mobile phones for shopping-related activities? Our Technographics® research shows that about 6% of cell phone owners have used a shopping application. Dedicated shopping applications that allow consumers to research and purchase products directly from their phones, like the ones from Amazon.com or Domino's Pizza, drive uptake and usage.
It is tempting for retailers to use this technology solely for marketing purposes; however, organizations should focus on services that enhance the customer's multichannel experience. Balancing informative notifications with marketing offers will build trust with customers and lead to better acceptance, as well as higher uptake.
Apple has been storing our location. (See article) Sounds bad, but really, is it? My colleague Joe Stanhope forwarded the article to me with the line, “kinda scary.” Is it? Our credit cards track where we are and what we spend. The carriers know where we are all the time — they aren’t storing the information as far as we know, but they could be. Our cars can be tracked. We buy plane tickets and make flight reservations online. What’s a bit different is that many different entities have our information, but not necessarily one.
Your phone will know everything about you going forward. My phone already knows where I go (ok, and Apple is recording), who I call, what sports teams I follow, what games I play, where I bank, how often I visit Starbucks, where I shop, what books I’m reading (Kindle), what music I listen to . . . and the list goes on. What else is my phone going to know about me? It’s going to know:
What I eat because I want help tracking calories
How often I run because I track my workouts
What I watch on TV because my phone is my remote control
Who I fly . . . because I use mobile boarding passes
How healthy I am b/c it will track my cholesterol
Who my friends are from phone, texting, and Facebook
Where I’m eating b/c it tracks my Yelp searches and OpenTable bookings
Whether I’m traveling on foot or by car b/c it tracks my speed
The consumer appetite for smartphones shows no signs of slowing in 2011 and neither does the growth of the mobile channel at leading retailers. eBusiness leaders, who have been focused on replicating the online store experience on mobile are now turning their attention to new mobile innovations that will not only drive revenue growth for the mobile channel but create an immersive multichannel consumer experience that bridges the gap between online and in-store shopping.
Location-based commerce is one such innovation that is gaining interest among eBusiness leaders responsible for mobile strategy. Some retailers have experimented with third-party location-based services including foursquare and Shopkick to roll out location-aware mobile coupons. A few retailers have innovated further and are developing location services into their own mobile shopping apps beyond the basic "store finder" feature to create new ways to interact with shoppers via their smartphones. With my latest research, Location-Based Commerce: An Evolution In Mobile Shopping, we look at how consumers' mobile shopping habits, location technology available in newer generation smartphones, and mobile push notifications have matured sufficiently to empower a new set of location aware multichannel experiences. Retailers are using geo-fences defined in the vicinity of their brick-and-mortar stores to attract nearby consumers by sending relevant, timely, and location-aware messages to customers' phones.
I booked my first hotel night via a mobile device a year ago.
I didn’t even think about the fact that it would be considered an “mCommerce” transaction, as I simply booked it directly on the hotel group’s Web site via the browser of my mobile phone. The site wasn’t actually optimized for mobile devices, but it was possible to enter my credit card details via a secure Web transaction. That’s not ideal, so I wonder how many mobile transactions that firm has missed simply because it doesn’t provide a compelling user experience.
European mobile commerce is still at an early stage. Digital content is still the primary product purchased via mobile devices, but European consumers show growing interest in using their mobile phones for all sorts of shopping activities. I have recently contributed to a new report on the state of mobile commerce in Europe, written by my colleagues serving eBusiness Channel and Strategy Professionals. The report reveals that:
Smartphones have changed consumer' shopping behavior significantly. Our Technographics data shows that almost one-third of consumers are using their phones to locate a store nearby to find a specific product, and once they’re in the store, they’re using their phones to look up product information (21%) and to compare prices (14%). The retail industry should cater to this need and develop a mobile presence that guides consumers in their decision-making process and makes the information consumers seek easily accessible to seamlessly move them to the cashier.
Retailers can only benefit at this point because the “hard” part is already done: The consumer already wants the product. But without delivering on this last step toward the purchase decision, retailers aren't capitalizing on their previous marketing efforts that got the consumer interested in their product or their store in the first place-- it’s like running a race and stopping 5 feet before the finish line.
Rather than relying on a third-party app that could easily get the consumer walking next door for the lower price he just found, retailers should develop a mobile Website (and if relevant for their target audience, a mobile app) that will support and enhance consumers’ in-store experience when they’re looking up information and also build up loyalty and improve the cross-channel shopping experience.
Among the biggest strategic questions facing eBusiness & Channel Strategy executives are how to make use of the growing potential of the mobile channel, how to integrate mobile phones into their company's multi-channel strategy, and how to meet customers' rising expectations for mobile services.
We have argued that, for most companies, mobile's time has come. Every company needs to have a mobile strategy in place, even if that strategy is to wait until specific things happen before making serious investments.
Most of the eBusiness & Channel Strategy executives that we work with are either directly responsible for, or closely involved in, their company's mobile strategy. So we would like your perspective -- and we'd like to help you benchmark your mobile strategy against that of your peers.
We invite you to take part in a short survey about your company's mobile strategy, your objectives, the metrics you use and the challenges that you face. You can take part in the survey here.
The survey takes less than 15 minutes to complete.
Individual responses will be kept strictly confidential and results only published in aggregate.
In return, we will give you a free executive summary of the survey results.
We're keen to get as wide a sample of industries and geographies as we can, so please feel free to forward this survey through your networks. If you are not familiar with your company’s mobile strategy, but know who is, please forward this survey to them.
I look forward to your perspectives. Thank you in advance for your time.