And our appetite for bold proclamations shows no sign of decline. 2015, indeed, will prove to be the year of the ecommerce app and tablet shopping. But in reality, the breakout year for both mobile and tablet devices has come and gone.
A decade ago, mobile shopping was a novel possibility. This year, 27 percent of Black Friday purchases were made with a mobile device. There are now more than 166 million smartphone users in the United States—representing two-thirds of consumers. Clearly, this represents a shift in shopping and purchase behavior among consumers—and it has changed the way customers interact with brands. Marketers have invested significant effort and resources into targeting mobile channels and measuring their performance.
Though they’ve increased in prominence, mobile channels haven’t replaced desktop or in-store experiences. Nearly 85 percent of U.S. households own at least one desktop or laptop computer. And while ecommerce in general is projected to exceed $294 billion in sales in 2014, retail in total is expected to exceed $3 trillion.
The new environment hasn’t relegated in-store and desktop channels to curious artifacts of a different age. It’s not a case of buggy whip makers suddenly obsolete in an age of cars, but of wheel makers forced to adapt and improve to the demands of new customers. In 2015, the best digital marketers will change their organizations to address this reality. They will begin building competencies that allow them to connect multiple touch points. Instead of chasing mobile trends, they will get ahead of them.
Here are six ways to make this transition today:
1. Stop running for the smoke: When a new technology, marketing channel, social network, or device emerges, it’s tempting to mistake the smoke surrounding early buzz as a fire of potential value. This causes a rush among marketers hoping to capture some early position and advantage for their brands. While it is of course prudent to secure and protect brand names wherever possible, it’s unwise to invest resources and budgets on every new social site of the week.
In 2015, smart marketers will implement a more rigid ROI benchmark that demands new initiatives are justified and aggressively evaluates the potential for positive contribution to revenue and other KPIs.
2. Invest in responsive site designs: If you don’t already have a responsive Web site, chances are you’re in the process of creating one. The appeal of a responsive site is clear: Creating a single platform that responds to device characteristics creates a more cohesive experience. It also helps marketers think about their sites within a spectrum that extends from very small resolutions to very large ones—instead of in discrete classes.
In 2015, the best marketers will move beyond engineering solutions to mobile use. Instead, they will begin to understand the unique context of each device and how it impacts the mentality and needs of the audience.
3. Organize teams by segments, not channels: As mobile emerged as an important marketing channel, businesses raced to find specific expertise. Dedicated mobile product and marketing teams emerged, and yet another silo was created. But mobile experts need to build on the experience of marketers in other channels—and businesses must integrate their efforts across all channels.
It is no longer reasonable to think a customer will only engage with a brand using a single device. In 2015, omnichannel marketing departments will cross-train teams, increasing the breadth of each person’s knowledge and ability. They will start thinking about the psychology of specific segments and will organize teams around clusters of customer preferences and behaviors.
4. Starting thinking in terms of "and," not “or:” Traditionally, marketers have thought about their efforts in terms of campaigns. They may have had a desktop campaign to increase inbound search traffic, a print media campaign to increase store visits, and a targeted email campaign to increase mobile visitors.
Measurement has always been an important part of successful marketing, but reporting was constrained to the channel of focus. This obviously leads to an unfortunate division of resources, but it also makes accurate attribution almost impossible. In 2015, marketers will start thinking about the relationship between multiple channels first, then they will think about building a campaign strategy.
5. Focus on the order of engagement: Simply tracking the number of times a consumer engages with a brand can be deceiving. Likewise, attributing success to the last recorded touch point obscures the totality and importance of the brand-customer relationship.
More than a raw number or last point, it’s the order in which consumers engage with a brand that is most important. Visits to a PDP, checkout flow, customer care site, live chat session, and an email may help individual owners of those channels. But without understanding the order of these engagements, it is difficult or impossible to learn about the customer. In 2015, it is time to focus on the order of engagement—marketers will develop analytics frameworks to measure it, and campaigns will focus on directing and improving it.
6. Accurately attribute offline sales with digital initiatives: New technologies like beacons and geo-fenced push notifications provide an opportunity to link offline behavior to digital channels. This allows marketers to push UX teams to integrate their designs with offline merchandising—and this will align digital and in-store marketing and product owners.
Desktop, mobile, tablet, phablet, watches, televisions, glasses, and an ever-expanding number of connected devices are being used in a wide variety of often-unpredictable ways. Clearly, understanding users in terms of screen size alone is no longer realistic.
More significantly, understanding the entire consumer decision journey through the last point—or device—of contact leads to a skewed sense of the purchase process. In 2015, more than anything else, marketers will take a wider view of their customers and the path from initial consideration to eventual purchase. The result will be a much more insightful, intimate understanding of consumer needs—and a more positive, enjoyable experience for everyone.