Retailers face a mobile strategy dilemma

Now, more than ever before, consumers are using their smartphones not only as a communication tool, but also as their number one shopping and retail browsing precinct.

This shift in consumer behaviour when it comes to mobile browsing has created what I term the Mobile Strategy Dilemma: should retailers develop a mobile application, or invest heavily in a highly responsive website?

Having both a native app strategy and an e-commerce website is a waste of money and grossly unrealistic for retailers, so a choice absolutely needs to be made. But what is the best choice? And which will work best for any given retailer?

Let’s look at the numbers. According to recent data from ComScore, smartphone apps now constitute 50 per cent of all digital media time, up a huge 44 per cent from a year ago. Mobile is now a whopping 68 per cent overall with desktop claiming just 32 per cent of digital attention.girl-iphone-stock-810x360

As a society, and with advancements in technology and payment methods, we are transitioning from a ‘point and click’ world to a ‘swipe and tap’ way of life, steering away from the world of desktops to multi-channel usage. Retailers that aren’t reacting to these changes in mobile usage won’t see any online sales conversion, which is where the money lies.

This is where the Mobile Strategy Dilemma comes in. Retailers are asking: “If I invest in a native app strategy not enough people will download and use it, but if I don’t have a native mobile app I am doomed”.

You’re damned if you do, and doomed if you don’t.

Benefits of apps vs. mobile websites

Apps offer benefits that other channels simply can’t, activating location services to coincide with in-store beacons and enhance the shopping experience with the ability to communicate special offers, discounts and personalise customer service and human interaction. The unprecedented accessibility and convenience of shopping from an app doesn’t even compete with that of a desktop, with many laptop users converting to the use of iPad Pro or smartphone to conduct their online shopping activity.

While most retailers have mobile-optimised sites, shoppers are clearly converting across multiple channels. The gap between share of traffic and share of sales represents a huge opportunity for retailers who don’t see over 40 per cent of their mobile traffic converting digitally. Mobile-optimised site browsing isn’t as seamless for the online shopper, which begs for retailers to offer a richer and more convenient customer experience which can be provided in app-form.

With Facebook usage on mobile at approximately 80 per cent and Instagram at almost 100 per cent, it makes sense this is where shoppers are browsing and sharing. So why is it the lions-share of marketing spend on fixed web technology? The skills needed from retailers in order to deliver on mobile are immensely different than web, requiring development, integrations and design (UX/UI).

Today’s marketing funnel is broken into short, intent-driven moments, and marketing’s role throughout the funnel routinely extends all the way through to purchase. As customers enter mid-funnel, skip stages altogether, or move through this new funnel out of order, the business costs to retailers continue to mount and the cost of acquiring and retaining new customers grows more expensive. In addition, managing the host of technologies that retailers have adopted to meet these challenges has significantly slowed down their ability to respond with speed to changing customer expectations and software advances.

Most retailers turn to mobile vendors due to lack of sufficient in-house mobile resources and expertise to meet their strategic goals. Forrester recently reported that 56 per cent of retailers work with several partners, including agencies, specialty vendors, and platform providers, to support integrated mobile initiatives. The issue lies in integrating and managing multiple point solutions as there are high costs associated, and they hamper the retailer’s agility in responding to changing customer expectations.

So what is the solution to this modern retail dilemma?

Retailers need to partner with specialist tech organisations in order to combat the trend. It’s about working with those that not only have the know-how, but also the connections to produce a universal shopping experience via a native app where all retailers are reachable together.

Mobile first or even mobile-only solutions will start to surface to satisfy this need, where the shopper is chaperoned all the way from discovery to purchase in-store or online. The new measure will be a pay per action model where retailers will pay for an actual sale conversion.

While the future of mobile is bright, it’s vital for retailers to move their strategy to more than optimisation allowing a seamless experience for consumers and further driving sales and traffic via their hefty investment in app technology. This will ensure greater sales, but also higher in-store conversion. A channel consumers will never be able to completely step away from.

How to win back consumers

Many people talk about the “good old days” of retail. When you walked into a store and the shopkeeper not only knew your name and your personal story, but also your shopping preferences. You were instantly offered options when it came to colour, size and fit, the likes of which most Gen Y and Millennial’s will never have experienced today.

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While this old-school deep personal interaction and customer experience is considered golden, it’s also something that many bricks and mortar retailers today think they can never replicate.

My opinion, however, is that there is no better time to get personal with your customers. The reason? Today the shopper controls the retailer; they decide when they purchase, where they purchase and what they want. With 90% of purchases made in store, there is a huge opportunity for retailers globally to take back some of the power and change the face of the shopping experience for consumers.

To explain why, we need to take a look at the background of online retail. In the late 1990’s when ecommerce came to fruition, the promise of being able to sit in your underwear and shop online, all while sitting at home in front of your set up of a 17″ 50 pound screen and large desktop PC was amazing. The ability to order anything you wanted saw people flocking to buying online in droves, however the reality of the experience was nowhere near as easy as the promise.

Fast forward to today where we are living in an online world, those large cumbersome PC’s have been replaced with devices that fit in the palm of the shopper’s hand (and are much more powerful). The challenge? Hardly any stores are connected in a fully integrated way, and the retailer’s strategies are still aimed at people sitting at home, browsing for bargains whilst in their underwear.

A large volume of retailers have developed and implemented strategies solely based on a fixed web approach with a responsive mobile experience and search, with social media feeding it. Time and time again, we are seeing retailers that are struggling with the value of apps, knowing that consumers won’t readily download a large number of retail based apps on their device, that in reality is just an extension of their website and offers nothing new to the user. As it stands, ecommerce only accounts for a total of 10% of all retail sales and has a five year global growth rate of just 2.9%.

Add to this, the fact that shopping cart abandonment rates are sitting at 75%-85% and there is a global total of $4.5 trillion of seemingly unwanted goods that are never purchased ($50B in Australia alone).

As it is, 90% of people say they are likely to browse online and make a purchase in store, showing the need for retail storefronts. While the shopper’s journey hasn’t changed that much from the original ‘Discover, Desire, Consider & Purchase’ pathway, that journey now takes place starting in the online world and moving to offline (O2O) AKA people are now browsing online and buying in store.

It makes sense that retailers will harness this behavior and in store shopping habits. Just like the shopkeepers that knew what you came into the store for, there is the opportunity for retailers to give the same experience to their consumers. The technology platform that will enable this and allow an unprecedented shopper experience for customers is mobile.

By the time most people enter the store, as a result of online browsing habits, they will know more about the product than ever before. They have discovered, desired and considered the purchase, then it’s the role of the shop assistant and retailer to offer the “last mile” experience. The consumer will have advance knowledge of price points, reviews and in some cases stock availability, so it is becoming increasingly challenging for the shop assistant to add value.

It’s indisputable that as a result of this browsing behavior, an ecommerce site is vital for any retailer and allows maximum opportunity for consumers to browse and understand a product. However, for stimulating desire, once the shopper leaves the site the retailer has no idea where they went.

Did they visit a store? Did they make a purchase? Where?

The main reason online shopping carts are abandoned at such a high rate is there is no way of saving items for later consideration. As a shopper you might have items in online shopping carts from many retailers and inevitably many browser tabs open on your Smartphone, however the experience is hopeless and incohesive.

The challenge for retailers is step up the plate and take control back from the shopper. If over 90% of retail sales are happening in stores, there is an untapped opportunity for retailers to look at innovation. It’s about using technology to close the sales at the point when it’s both contextual and relevant, while also building real relationships with shoppers and helping influence the sale and experience.

This will, in time allow retailers to regain control from the shopper and shift the future to ensure they once again hold the balance of power and can increase loyalty and measure data in the process.

Read more at http://www.ragtrader.com.au/advisors/how-to-win-back-consumers#OUSrc65s8ZFfXwXU.99aaeaaqaaaaaaaaizaaaajgyymzcyy2rhlwi5mmetngnjzs1imdmyltk4zti2zgiyyzuxma

Concept to Cannes in 9 Months – The RainCheck Startup Journey

It seems like yesterday when I met with my lead developer to discuss the viability of an idea for what is now a thriving startup called RainCheck. aaeaaqaaaaaaaaouaaaajgmxyti5ngziltm0zjytngm4ny05nzq5ltjhyje5mwywywfjma

Now here we are only 9 months on and off to Cannes as the only Australian startup for the Lions International Festival of Creativity, invited by Unilever as part of their Foundry50 program – a global search for the top 50 marketing technology startups.

Ever since I can remember, software and platform design has always been about IFTTT (If This Then That), and designing RainCheck was no different.

Certain other things had to happen before other things could happen. For example, BLE v.4.0 (Bluetooth) needed to “wake” an App on a Smartphone before anyone could realise a benefit.

I gathered a world-class team with over 65 years’ combined experience to originally solve the problem of online shopping cart abandonment, which is around 75% in retailand worth over $4Trillion globally.

During our research we uncovered some interesting insights;

  • Firstly, eCommerce isn’t exactly taking off in retail, like we have been led to believe
  • Secondly, everyone now has their computer in the palm of their hand while shopping

In 2010, the eCommerce contribution to retail figures in Australia sat at 4.4%. At the time, Gerry Harvey, founder of Harvey Norman (one of Australia’s largest retailers), stated “why would I be worried about eCommerce at that rate”. Everyone including myself thought the guy was mad, buying online will take off and be huge!

Fast forward to 2015 and that figure is 6.7%, so in 5 years it has only grown 2.3%, hardly booming is it?

With new marketing jargon arriving such as “omni-channel” and “connected store”, and brands and agencies trying to understand shopper behaviour, we saw an opportunity.

If so many people are in fact shopping online, yet 93% are still buying in-store, the market needed an online to offline solution, and RainCheck was born.

Our vision is to be the world’s leading Online-to-Offline (O2O) shopping enabler.

We are dedicated to bridging the gap between online and offline for retailers – feat no company has achieved globally, yet.

By combining the most innovative technologies onto one platform we offer a seamless journey from online to offline for both retailers and shoppers.

  • For retailers, RainCheck is the world’s first mobile-only O2O Commerce platform that helps close the data loop from online to in-store via the Cloud, Beacons and Proximity technology
  • For shoppers, RainCheck is a virtual shopping wishlist that notifies them of items they like online when they enter physical stores

We’re on a mission to capture the $50Billion of abandoned items online each year in Australia, and convert them in-store where the value of multi-channel shoppers is much higher.

We are launching in our local Australian market first as it’s ripe with very high Smartphone use on top of a savvy shopping community.

We see Asia as our progression path next year once we prove the platform, as they are a “mobile-only’ region where O2O Commerce is already huge.

We’re excited by the prospects ahead and hope you’ll join us on this journey. I will be sharing more on LinkedIn as we go so please check-in regularly for updates.

Feel free to email me directly at cameron@getraincheck.com and visit our website for more information – http://www.getraincheck.com/

The Fight for Screen Time & The API Economy

In today’s screen driven world it seems everyone is competing for those precious minutes, even seconds we devote to our smartphones, tablets, laptops and TV’s each day.

Downloads don’t mean a pinch anymore with Apps, it’s all about engagement, measured as MAU (Monthly Active Users). Network TV fight the same fight with content that compels the viewer onto their channel, while web sites and platforms like Facebook, Netflix and YouTube take up the slack.

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The latest figures show that Mobile is eating everyone’s slice of pie, mainly because the device is powerful, able to process almost anything and is with us anywhere. So far in early 2014 in the US, people spend 24% of time on Mobile and it’s growing fast, compared to 18% online, 36% TV and Radio at 11% and Print at 3.5%. Amazingly marketing budgets are in reverse to those figures.

It doesn’t matter what TV show, web property or app you are pushing out, there is only so much “screen time” allocated to so many people at any given time. Screen time equates to “eyeballs” and eyeballs attract advertising revenue. As most Digital eyeballs are on Mobile screens today the competition is fierce with Facebook and Google fighting for the lions share having 7 of the top 10 apps on mobile, in fact if another app comes close they are acquired like Instagram, WhatsApp and the attempted Snapchat acquisition. Both Google and Facebook are protecting business models based on advertising so the fight is fierce.
What about the other 1 million apps in App stores? If they are lucky they may attract a very thin sliver of screen time pie while they compete in the ever growing “long tail”. Apps are becoming very much like music with sudden hits and a Billboard like top 40, the 80/20 rule is alive and well in this ecosystem as far as engagement and generating revenue is concerned.

You may have noticed lately that there seems to be App updates for all your mainstream Apps even though there is no new features, simply saying “minor bug fixes”, this is a ploy to drive MUA’s as an App download counts as an active user engagement.

So how can you drive a successful venture these days? It’s all about data and aggregating different streams of data for other Apps to consume. The way this is achieved is by developing an API (Application Programming Interface), which allows any developer to take your data and do something else with it.

Google Maps is a great example of one service offering its data to other Apps. Uber has just last week released an API for their service and in fact they also released their own Deeplinking service, allowing other Apps interoperability with Uber, like an Airline for example. The App Economy is quickly giving way to the API Economy which is as vast as the sum of all data.

As we exit 2014 and charge into 2015 expect to see an explosion of API activity and data aggregation and services spring up everywhere and Apps start communicating with each other.

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The Rebirthing of the Mobile App

Mobile now commands 45% of consumer attention in the US, yet currently accounts for only about 5% of marketing budgets. Similarly TV commanded a share of around 35% of media consumption yet around 42% of budgets are allocated to it. What is going on here and why the divide?

To explain this we first need to look at the progression of the digital media channel. Traditionally, software was developed individually for specific platforms, such as Windows, Linux, or Mac OS. Today, developers build Web-based applications that are completely independent of the user’s actual computer operating system. We have got used to creating things once instead of per platform.

With the proliferation of Mobile devices across individual platforms (iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry etc.), a trade-off has opened up whereby if one wants to create a more specialised experience that utilise the native functions of the device (i.e. an App), they have to do so individually for each device platform. An expensive and high-effort endeavour that feels like the antithesis of how the industry has been progressing.

In just about all enterprises their technology stack – and skillsets – are based on web-based architectures. This has led to a default strategy of ticking the “Mobile box” where possible. A consequence of this has been a “Responsive” approach where the same Web based developers could enable a single build to work across all mobile device screens. The result, while easy to implement, is a watered down experience for the end user.

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To remedy this an “Adaptive” approach, which offers a better user experience that is more tailored to the device type, has become more popular. However, this still results in a sub-optimal experience and is a far cry from the native experience that users have enjoyed within an App.

Overall, the fact is that most enterprises – and indeed digital agencies – are still Web first or even Web only. This is simply not good enough. Each platform has thousands of very slick API’s which are built to offer the user the best experience but can only be utilised within a native App. It’s no wonder that over 85% of Mobile use is via Apps. Customers deserve a better experience.

The good news is that things are changing. Last year in 2013, three out of the four behemoths, Google, Facebook & Amazon all invested heavily in Mobile (Apple was already there). Facebook now has 60% of revenue coming from Mobile tripling their profit at the same time. A large part of their future growth will be focussed around “Deeplinking” – often called mobile deep linking – which effectively allows anyone to create hyperlinks direct into content within an App. Quite a simple thing on the internet but something that has been hard to replicate within the closed environment of an App. Suddenly Facebook advertising will be open to a whole new landscape of app-based content.

Google are utilising this functionality a slightly different way, calling it “App Indexing”. They are utilising it to be able to rank App content within their SERPs. Effectively it will create a whole new SEO focus for Apps.

The implication of this for everyone is quite huge. Now, users will be able to link from App to App or Web direct to App, which is a game changing experience on Mobile and massive new revenue stream for the platform. It paves the way for any kind of contextual based messaging to be passed from App to App for example having a flight cancelled and being able to single tap from airline App to hotel App and having all relevant data transfer e.g. name, length of stay, room type, loyalty program etc.

The value of each App increases substantially when we are able to drive traffic to it via advertising, EDMs, Web pages, Social media or even other apps. Suddenly we are able to monetise it better and demonstrate ROI.

With these new use cases, functionality and – most importantly – revenue streams available the business case to be creating greater mobile experiences via native Apps will become easier to justify. This is great news for the industry and the first step to a movement towards a “mobile-first” approach that has substance (rather than be used as a buzzword).

Cross platform App-frameworks are getting better also. Development platforms such as Xamarin are a hybrid approach where Web technologies can coexist with native attributes on the device. This is not a silver bullet and isn’t appropriate for all apps but it does further demonstrate that App development is becoming more accessible again.

All in all, the future of mobile is going to be within App development. It offers the richest, quickest and most seamless experience and is what the majority of people are using their device for now. As the App development landscape becomes smarter, richer and more jam-packed with features it will become the default approach again. The sooner the better.

“Image courtesy of https://www.deeplink.me/”

How Restricted Media is changing everything.

clockAs the Digital Revolution charges ahead and seemingly transforms everything in its path, it forces people to ingest content at an ever increasing pace. Early on the fixed Web was a relaxed environment where you could mull around on facebook, your favourite Portal and Tweetdeck maybe fire off an email here and there, but now we are all Mobile and the engagement window is massively reduced. This has spawned a barrage of platforms that’s take up is simply phenomenal and it’s all about Restricted Media.
Restricted Media is a term given to platform based products and services that encourage user generated content however with pre-set constraints such as Twitter’s 140 characters as a popular example. Others that have also arrived are Instagram’s single shot post and 15sec video, Vine’s 6sec video post, Snapchat’s 3sec photo view or GIFbomb’s short animated GIF clips.

Why are restricted media platforms and their services starting to rule the digital world? There are many reasons however the main reason is Mobile. As the Internet spreads into Asia and the developed world along with a much younger demographic in the western world, all those screens are Mobile. An enormous amount of users in the Asia are enjoying digital interaction via a Mobile screen, and that is the first screen many have ever had.

Most young people are interacting on Mobile screens also. Summarizing its recent BI Intelligence report on teen’s mobile-first usage, the publication wrote, ” we may be witnessing is the unravelling of a unitary, centralized social media landscape, dominated by Facebook, into a set of multipolar nodes. Facebook warded off the Instagram threat by buying the company, but it won’t always be possible for the company to neutralize threats with acquisitions.”

Restricted media apps make it easy to create frictionless content. Anyone can type in 140 characters, take a photo, or hit a button to compose 6 second of looping video. In contrast Blog’s, formatted Web sites and delivery networks require careful time consuming preparation and publishing.

More interesting is how these restrictions impact the simplicity of the product interface. These media restrictions mean that the product can support a smaller number of use cases, making it more personable, and easy to use. Often, you can power the entire interaction with one button, like Snapchat or Vine. Just tap a button to create content, and once you hit the limit, it’s a done deal and in the cloud, there are no issues with editing and rearranging the content.
Both the simplicity of the content, as well as the device UI, makes the whole experience much more directed and higher conversion.

In addition to simple content creation, there is the transition to context to communication, rather than publishing, which encourages a higher level of participation. The “90/9/1 Rule” is being smashed apart, (which refers to out of 100 people, 1% will create the content, 9% will curate the content and the other 90% will consume it). The content creation participation by restricted media is much higher, SMS is over 90% and so is IM, email, Skype etc. The point of communication is that all parties involved create content that’s directed at other people, and everyone participates.

Twitter has @mentions, Dribbble has rebounds, and Snapchat is all about communication. This invites people to participate, because the media can be directed at other people, and there’s a built-in context to communicate to one another. This leads to email notifications based on healthy user-to-user engagement. This drives frequency, virility, and all sorts of other interaction.

Creating content from scratch is hard. Similarly, being the first to communicate can be difficult also, anyone who’s introduced themselves to a stranger knows the feeling. However, replying is easy. If someone takes a picture of themselves making a funny face on Snapchat, then a natural response is to make a funny face back. Even more if you know that the picture was sent specifically to you, and then you feel like you owe a response. In fact most people try and respond within this virtual window of opportunity where the “hang time” in between responses can diminish the quality of the response and of course the moment.

Traditional media platforms tend to bring out the flamboyance in everybody and create show-offs, this in turn leaves people who tend not to participate because they don’t want to compete with those who are more skilled or who have more time.
Instead, restricted content creation reduces the variance in output between the low-skilled and high-skilled users, which makes it so that everyone can interact and have fun. Take Instagram and its very user friendly image filters which can propel anyone into the spotlight with a great time piece of photo brilliance, with instant feedback from many-to-one. In contrast updating a blog or a personal site would not reap the same connections.

All of the above translates to more frequent, more inclusive content creation. This fuels traction. More frequency of use means there’s more opportunities to take users through viral loops, as well as firing organic user-to-user notifications that power retention. It becomes easy, for instance (in Snapchat’s case), to ask the user to include a couple extra recipients of a photo after you’ve replied. Or after you’ve created a 6 second video, it’s easy to ask the user to share it onto a couple different social networks.

Restricted content creation needs to be seamless and with very limited user interface interaction and must be bound to a communication protocol. All these factors are inherent on the Mobile platform and the next billion users will interact for their first time on the Internet on a Mobile device.