October 22nd, 2008 | 7 MIN READ

Webinar Recap: Holiday Wish List for Mobile Commerce

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

This post is a recap of today's webinar: Holiday Wish List for Mobile eCommerce. The on-demand version is now available, along with a download-able mp4 file. First, a little about our guest speaker: Bill Mirabito has over a decade's experience managing e-business activities as both a marketer and technologist for brands across the world as a senior retail analyst with Forrester Research. Bill also held the reins at BJ's Wholesale Club's online division and presently runs his own retail specialty shop. B2C Partnersis Bill's consultancy which helps enterprise retailers with ecommerce vendor evaluation and product selection. The webinar covers 3 areas:

  • Recent examples of mobile commerce in retail
  • Why Adoption has been slow
  • Moving mobile commerce from novelty to strategy

Recent examples of mobile commerce in retail

ChanelChanel created an iPhone application, which can be downloaded from the App Store. You can use the application to view the current catalog, read Chanel news or find a local store.

Godiva Godiva partnered with mobile web solutions provider Digbyto create a Blackberry-specific version of the Godiva site that allows customers to complete transactions, view rich product descriptions and full-color images, and find retail locations using GPS. However, it's hard to access from non-Blackberry devices:

Urban OutfittersUrban Outfitters developed a text messaging promotions system which you can sign up for online. They also promote in-store sign-ups. The sign up form states the service is compatible with AT&T products, I'm not sure if that means others are or are not supported - this should have clarification.

After sign up, customer receives a welcome message: UO TXT: Thanks! You'll be hearing from us soon. Std msg rates apply. Reply STOP 2 unsub at any time. Barnes and NobleBN.com has a mobile version that functions like the regular website - you can search, view product details, add to cart and checkout with credit card.

Polo Ralph Lauren has also developed a mobile version of its site at m.ralphlauren.com Amazon Amazon Text Buy Itlets customers send text commands to the service which sends an automated call back to the user's device, pulling previously saved customer information including credit card and shipping information (requires an existing Amazon account).

Why mobile commerce adoption has been slow

1. No standard mobile web interface. Broadband touch-screens are gaining traction, but unlike the desktop-world with mainly 2 major operating systems, there no uniform OS or browser for mobile devices. Controlling the user experience is much more difficult. (You may also be interested in our recent post Should You Have a Mobile Version of Your Retail Website?) 2. Mobile merchandising is impractical. Even the best small screen devices can never match the desktop experience - monitors get larger, websites get more depth of content - and zoom/alternate views on a small screen / page becomes more problematic to effectively merchandise products and push to checkout. 3. Payments much more difficult to secure. Cell phones were designed to be used in public. Would you key in a credit card number in an airport? The greater inclination is to dial toll free number or defer the transaction to later time. 41% of data users who don't use mobile commerce say security is their biggest concern according to research by Nielsen Mobile. PayPal Mobile or Amazon.com's stored credit card information are great options for loyal users who are already registered with these services. As the market expands, there may come a point where users are more inclined to pay through these methods but still few and far between. Some carriers are exploring bill-to-phone options but this requires a proprietary interface and other complexities that makes the audience still quite small. You may not want to market just to a sub-set of carrier users like Verizon or AT&T only. Statistics

Broadband at 25.5% and smart phones only 6.4%. Retailers like Chanel who build specifically for smart phones find only a small market.

SMS has now reached critical mass - average calls less than text messages per month. Now a viable way to engage consumers (market to them) wherever they are.

Moving Mobile Commerce from Novelty to Strategy

Think about using mobile commerce, not necessarily to close transaction or replicate the website. Mobile phones can be an effective "kiosk on the hip." Use mobile ecommerce websites and text message marketing to engage, inform, assist and enhance the in-store experience. Leverage your web assets to assist in-store tasks, with the mobile channel as the essential bridge to:

  • Register for sweepstakes and promos
  • provide store locators with hours and directions
  • Deliver detailed product info / ratings / reviews
  • Pull inventory data from this and other local stores - save sales
  • Create gift registries/wish lists as you walk through stores for later access, perhaps online purchase
  • Use tell-a-friend from the store aisle

Sample Use-Cases, In-Store Personas

ENGAGE: Ed the Enthusiast

  • Merge in-store activities with on-site so you can better market to Ed
  • REGISTER [email] for enhanced shopping and/or savings
  • MENU for list of shopping utilities like item details, availability, wish list, tell a friend, special offers
  • HELP for a URL to the mobile web site
  • Send welcome SMS with link and how to unsubscribe

Idea: put SMS callout on in-store signage, sporting events, TV, billboard, sales receipts, flyers, business cards etc. INFORM: Rita Research

  • Leverage product information and rating/review assets to assist research
  • In-store associates may not have enough information, reviews tell her what actual customers think
  • ITEM [sku] for product details

ASSIST: Hal the Hunter

  • ZIP [zip] codes for local store address, phone, hours, directions
  • AVAIL [sku] for local availability, e.g. AVAIL 567893 ZIP 02111

ASSIST: Tina Teenage

  • Shopper with no credit card but she has a cell phone, can influence others' purchases
  • ADD [sku] to build a wish-list
  • SHARE [sku] [email] to tell a friend e.g. SHARE 567893 to mom@home.com

ENHANCE: Barb the Bargain Hunter

  • Savings and suggestions: OFFERS for discounts and recommended items
  • Locative GPS messaging (provided it's opt-in) can target offers to subscribers within X miles of the store
  • Great for cross-selling and upselling while customer is in the store - an on-demand sales associate

Putting it All Together

The more you contacts and touch points you have with the same consumer across channels, the more value you are to them and they are to you. You know more about them and can deliver better, targeted information directly to them - aligning your Ecommerce, ERP and CRM systems. It's not as simple as plugging something into a website. You want aggregators that pool data and send it to appropriate service providers. Your app provider builds an interface on top of your systems for you (example, Motricity), while connection aggregators (such as Air2Web) put together a program to deliver content from your platform to the wireless carrier.


  • Don't focus just on mobile transactions
  • Leverage existing assets to enhance in-store experience
  • Gather more insight from in-store behavior tied to real users
  • Engage users in the aisle and keep them from your competition
  • Reward users for loyalty with convenience, not just cash

Questions and Answers

How do you prevent customers from researching, handling products in your store only to buy through Amazon Text Buy? The reality is this already takes place, whether through mobile or web channels (if not another retail competitor). If you don't provide them with ratings and reviews and they have a web-enabled phone, they can do that anyway. Are any retailers putting reviews in a specific mobile format? No, most retailers aren't thinking about the connection between the WAP page (web access protocol, or mobile web page) and the text message format. A good practice is to engage the customer in the text message with a link to a WAP page with product review. Is there potential for geo-locative content? GPS enabled mobile devices can receive messages when they are within a certain range of a store. If you can engineer this into your mobile content system, all the better. Even in those cases, you need permission in each and every case. If someone hasn't approached mobile yet, what is the lowest-barrier-to-entry strategy? Give people more access to product information than is in the aisle - there's already much more on the web than you can fit in a shelf tag. If that information is available online, the customer is much more likely to buy armed with this additional information. What kind of investment do you need to get going with mobile commerce?It's hard because it's so brand new, depends on complexity of your situation.

Contact Bill Mirabito

Bill Mirabito, Founder & Principal Analyst B2C Partners web: http://www.b2cpartners.com bmirabito at b2cpartners dot com Twitter: @bmirabito

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