While mobile has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, it is still on a growth curve, and the myriad ways in which consumers employ mobile technology are still evolving.
As essential as it is for brands to keep pace with their customers’ attitudes and behaviors around mobile, it can also be challenging for a number of reasons, including:
- The growth in mobile is rapid and occurring in every geography.
- The definition of mobile is broadening to include not only smartphones, but tablets, mobile apps, and large on-property touch-screen displays.
- Most mobile users are actively engaged in the multichannel universe, using more than one device to complete key tasks
Given the continued evolution of mobile as an engagement channel, here are five key trends brands need to track.
1. The Mobile Revolution Continues
For many consumers, “mobile first” has become an instinctive response for a wide range of daily tasks. Tablets are fast emerging as the mobile commerce device of choice, accounting for $28.7 billion out of a total of more than $60 billion in 2013 mobile sales. (That’s a surge of more than five times the $5.1 billion in sales from tablet devices in 2012.) Furthermore, while PC shipments are declining, tablet ownership has doubled since 2012, which will fuel ongoing growth in tablet-based online purchases.
Interestingly, consumers are comfortable blending mobile devices in their online shopping activities. Multiple studies have shown that shoppers like to browse, get product information, take and share photos of products, and compare prices on their smartphones. But when it comes time to actually purchase, they often turn to tablets. This was shown throughout the 2013 holiday season, during which mobile shopping truly took off, according to Adobe Digital Index (ADI) research.
App usage is also on the rise, especially retailer-dedicated apps, with many shoppers saying they prefer to use mobile apps because they are convenient, efficient, and easy to use. Google recently reported that consumers are spending more than eight hours per week doing in-app research. A separate ADI study also found mobile app users are more loyal to brands.
2. Location Is The New Black
Consumers are constantly on the go, but smartphones enable them to be reachable anytime and anywhere. These consumers are looking for reasons to purchase specific products from specific brands–usually items they have purchased before or indicated interest in. Brands need to take advantage of location services not just to reach shoppers, but to reel them in.
There are a few different types of location services, including in-store Wi-Fi, apps with an “in-store” mode, GPS-enabled experiences, and microlocation technology, such as iBeacon. These services provide a level of customer service and interactivity that could only be equaled by a dedicated sales assistant assigned to each shopper. In fact, 96 percent of customers reported in an Acquity Group study that they prefer locations that offer free Wi-Fi and return to the store because of this.
Mobile payments also are growing in popularity, including apps that complete transactions and mobile wallets from companies such as PayPal, Google, and Square. As with the early days of mobile commerce, concerns about security and privacy are holding back broader adoption, but the convenience factor will likely help to foster acceptance.
3. Self-Help Is Becoming The New Norm
Social critics may bemoan the loss of person-to-person engagement, but, in reality, providing consumers with the tools to achieve tasks on their own will build customer loyalty.
Price-checking is the most frequently used self-help technology, with 60 percent of mobile users expecting to use them as they shop. Furthermore, one in three shoppers prefer to use their smartphones to get information than to ask for help from a sales associate. This probably is less about poorly trained or unfriendly sales associates than the sheer convenience and efficiency of mobile self-help.
By the end of 2013, mobile videos traffic accounted for 53% of total mobile traffic. Mobile video provides another means of self-help, with 74 percent of consumers reporting that watching videos of products in use would be either somewhat or very helpful in making a purchasing decision. It is clear that consumers accept and are eager to watch videos on mobile sites and in mobile apps.
4. The Rise Of The Visual Web
Isn’t the Web an inherently visual experience? Yes, but it’s not so much one person’s visual experience on a mobile site; instead, it’s the ability to share images and leverage the power of visual information that drives much of social media today. And much of that sharing happens via mobile.
Surveys conducted just before the 2013 holiday season revealed that 63% of online shoppers said they planned to use online catalogs, and 35 percent said they plan to refer to Pinterest–emerging as a clear leader in social commerce–when making purchase decisions. According to consulting firm Booz & Company, sales of physical goods through online social networks will grow by 93 percent per year in the U.S., reaching $14 billion by 2015.
5. Interactive Experiences Drive Sales
“Interactive” used to imply a purely digital experience conducted outside the realm of brick-and-mortar stores. Increasingly, however, online and in-store experiences are becoming integrated thanks to mobile, leading to increased sales and satisfaction. With microlocation services, such as iBeacon’sShopBeacon, stores become more than simply Wi-Fi hotspots–they become highly interactive and intensely personalized shop-spots.
Champagne producer Moët &Chandon developed a Tie-for-Two photo-sharing app that enables users to apply a rose-colored filter to their mobile photos and add graphics to make one-of-a-kind prints. This seemingly purely recreational app actually helps the brand build awareness of its spirits portfolio.
Similarly, Nike Mexico created a promotion with Facebook that allows users to accrue points for every kilometer they run. These points can be redeemed as bids on Nike-branded running gear in Facebook auctions. This app provides customers with extra incentive to keep fit while at the same time promoting their products.
Context Is King
These five trends illustrate the constant evolution of mobile. In all cases, while content can vary, context is king. Consumer expectations of how brands use social media and localization services to deliver highly personalized, in-the-moment experiences will only increase. Brands should be careful not to underestimate their customers’ desire to gain real value in every interaction, regardless of the channel.
Speaking of which, a brand’s mobile strategy must accommodate clear use cases for mobile, apps, tablet, and in-store experiences, with mobile as the hub of a seamlessly integrated omnichannel experience. It’s no longer phone vs. tablet vs. PC, and it’s no longer a case of online or offline–it’s everything together, all delivering a consistent and compelling user experience.
In many cases, consumers are already leading the way; it’s up to the brands to catch up and meet their demands with strategic action.