It is not an exaggeration to state that in recent years our interaction with stores, brands and companies as consumers has changed quite drastically. The cause for this change?
Smartphones and tablets.
Smartphones, with their downloadable apps, and tablets have revolutionised our everyday consumer lives.
Holiday shopping was once a struggle. Pushing your way to Oxford Street, fighting once inside the store to make sure the item you have your eye on isn’t snatched away at the last minute by an aggressive shopper. Getting said gifts home in one piece without anyone in your family seeing you wrapping presents in a hidden spot of the house, has now been simplified.
You can sit in the comfort of your home, grab your smartphone or tablet, click a few buttons and voila! Your holiday shopping is completed and on its way without having to break a sweat.
Online holiday shopping is easy. Customers don’t feel the need to impulse buy and they can compare prices, so they receive the best deals. The huge increase in popularity of Black Friday and then also Cyber Monday means mobile commerce (m-commerce) has grown significantly over the past couple of years.
So it has to be asked, is the time of brick and mortar shops over? As a direct result of online shopping, 2013 saw the largest decline in bricks and mortar revenue in recent history. If that isn’t an indication that traditional stores need to update the way they engage with customers, 79% of smartphone owners are smartphone shoppers.
However, some shops are embracing smartphones rather than be worried about them. Shoppers will frequently use their phone in-store to price compare, read user reviews and so on. Some retailers even provide free wifi for consumers for this very reason. To quote John Lewis:
We understand how important it is to research products, compare details, and check ratings and reviews before making a purchase. To make this even easier to do, we’ve introduced free Wi-Fi access throughout our stores. We’re the first UK department store retailer to offer this service, and it means you’ll have access to all this information as you walk around our shops.
Optimise your website for mobile commerce
Brands, now more than in the past, need to have mobile and tablet optimised websites. Consumer friendly content should include headings and sub-categories, with opening times and locations of physical stores easily distinguishable, so that copy can be effortlessly scanned.
In addition, last year’s launch of Google ‘Hummingbird’, which is aimed specifically at the increase in conversational search queries and as such places usability at its heart. Mobile and tablet optimised websites will become the norm (Google is now also a mobile-first company). Being mobile optimised is so important now that Google even highlights a mobile-friendly search result in mobile searches.
Companies should also begin thinking about social shopping.
Earlier this year, Facebook and Twitter began beta-testing ‘buy’ buttons, which appear alongside certain posts and allow users to make purchases with just a click of a button. And customers don’t even have to exit the social network to make the purchase.
In addition to ‘buy’ buttons, Amazon has begun using the smartphone messaging app, Snapchat, to send discount codes to social followers. Only live for a few seconds, the image is only sent to those who follow Amazon on the social platform.
For every customer who has a smartphone or tablet with social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, there is a chance for brands to connect with followers, while concretely increasing their revenue.
The multi-device shopping experience
Finally, stores need to focus on making the act of physically buying an experience. The unique selling point of a bricks and mortar store is the experience it can provide. When a shopper walks into a store during the holidays, the decorations, holiday music and festive vibe felt from other buyers can make shopping enjoyable.
However, increasingly consumers are looking for a seamless user experience. Whether you are browsing an online shop or venturing inside a retail location, if the user experience is disjointed then it can have severely negative effects on your conversion rates. Likewise, a desktop website that is significantly different from the mobile experience may just as negatively impact your conversion rate.
People are multi-device using different devices for different parts of the buying cycle.