There was a time, if you can believe it, when people were reluctant to shop online. Fear of fraud abounded. After all, you were just typing your credit card information into some website. Who’s to say that they won’t steal your information? What if some hacker intercepts the transaction?
It took just a few years for those fears to subside. People now shop online as freely as they do in malls. The new consumer fear involves shopping on a smartphone. Yet it appears that fear is already abating. Mobile shopping skyrocketed in 2012, and will likely continue trending upwards for years to come. This development offers many opportunities to retailers.
Perhaps the most efficient way to drive mobile spending is through apps. Mobile web browsers still have many weaknesses that make them less than ideal for a mobile shopping experience. But mobile apps offer merchants a unique opportunity to drive sales on a fast-growing platform.
So what makes a good mobile commerce app?
1. Ease of discovery
The greater the friction, the lesser the chance of converting a sale. When it comes to mobile commerce apps, this means allowing customers to find the products that they want in the easiest manner possible. The more steps they have to take, the greater the friction. Making products easily discoverable will lead to more sales.
The Home Depot does this well. We’re heading into spring season, so they feature plenty of spring products on the mobile app’s main page. They also make it easy to find products with descriptions. If you want to find a chipper you can just type in that term, and you’ll see something very similar to the linked page — that is, something similar to their normal website. That familiarity adds to the effect.
No matter how it’s done, merchants must make their products easily discoverable. The more steps a consumer has to take, the lesser the chance for a sale.
2. In-store navigation
Few people shop from their smartphones at home. Why would they? It’s much easier to shop on a computer, and at home our computers are right there. While it might sound strange at first, it makes sense once you think about it: most mobile shopping occurs inside an actual store. Retailers, then, must ensure that customers are using their smartphones to buy their own products, rather than a competitor’s.
It’s easy to install the Amazon Price Check app on any phone and use it to price compare within stores. Retailers can combat this with their own apps that make it easier for consumers to find products in the store — and products that the store might not carry. Walmart does a superb job of this. With their mobile app you can not only navigate through their increasingly packed stores, but also find products offered online that aren’t in stock at the moment.
Mobile shopping is more about holding on to in-store customers, rather than marketing to the at-home crowd. Keeping them in the store, both physically and on their phones, is a key to success.
3. Pick up in store
Oftentimes people lump all their shopping errands into a single day. They’ll go from one store to another filling up carts until they have everything they need for the next few months. Merchants can take advantage of this. Those customers will surely have their mobile phones with them. Why not make the shopping experience that much easier.
In-store pickup is a crucial feature in this regard. Allowing customers to shop on their smartphones, pay for their purchase, and then pick them up when they enter the store is an extreme convenience for any shopper. Imagine standing in line at Walmart, behind five people, and doing all your shopping for Macy’s right on your phone. That way when you get to Macy’s you don’t have to wait. You can just pick up your stuff and go.
Mobile shopping is supposed to be convenient. What greater convenience is there than shopping while you’re waiting in line — and then not having to wait on line again?
Mobile commerce will take even further steps in 2013, as more and more people adopt smartphones. Next generation LTE networks will also aid this cause. Smart retailers will stay on top of this trend, crafting their mobile apps to meet the specific needs and behaviors of mobile shoppers. Those that don’t will lose significant opportunities at not only additional sales, but customer loyalty.