The major conflict in the world of retail was once between the fresh, agile online stores and the traditional, familiar high-street outlets. It may have taken time for consumers to become comfortable buying high value items online, and there are a number of stores that are seemingly immune (supermarkets, for example), but online has, unsurprisingly, taken over.
The response from traditional retailers has varied wildly. Electrical retailers and entertainment stores were like rabbits in the headlights in the face of companies like Amazon, but those that survived the digital overhaul of retail did so by upping their online offerings. The likes of Wal-Mart and Home Depot used their considerable weight to quickly build a working online iteration, but those that failed to recognize the threat from elsewhere and act to counter it have largely been left behind.
And the next big shift to threaten slow movers is the rise of mobile e-commerce and the growing need for a mobile experience that meets consumer demand. The mobile revolution has been such a hot topic that no retailer worth their salt will be unaware of its importance - in 2015, mobile made up 30% of all US e-commerce - but many are still struggling to adapt their mobile experience to follow trends in consumer behavior. A PointSource report, ‘The State of the Mobile Experience,’ found that some key retailers didn’t consider their company’s current mobile experience to be good enough, and just 37% rated their mobile experience as a nine out of 10 or above.
This is a problem. Eight in 10 companies have a mobile app, and nine in 10 have a mobile website, but only 15% of marketing and IT decision makers rate their organization’s mobile experience as ‘excellent,’ despite almost all of them understanding that a mobile presence is not enough in and of itself. The value gap between mobile usage and revenue from mobile will exist until companies identify where to improve their mobile offerings and invest funds accordingly. A majority (54%) put their shortcomings down to a difficulty keeping their mobile strategies in line with their overall marketing strategies. Unbelievably, only around a third of retailers are using mobile to track purchasing history.
Having said that, the overwhelming majority are ready, if belatedly, to invest. In PointSource’s report, 88% of respondents said their company plans to invest in mobile in 2016, with a quarter revealing they plan on spending upwards of $500,000. 61% will use mobile to expand current products and services, 59% are preparing for a mobile-first future (again, arguably a belated measure), and nearly three quarters included customers’ expressed desires in their top reasons for investment in the area.
‘A company’s ability to engage, convert and retain consumers on mobile will depend on their commitment to the user experience,’ said PointSource COO Stephanie Trunzo. ‘The user experience is increasingly the critical differentiator as the mobile landscape becomes overpopulated with options, giving consumers the power to easily shop multiple offerings, decreasing switching costs and reducing the stickiness of previous brand loyalty.’
Mobile’s rise as a prominent feature of e-commerce presents as many challenges as it does opportunities to retail brands. The apparent financial commitment is promising, but consumer demands can change rapidly and investment will need to be continual if those traditional retailers are to build a successful mobile experience. Some see the ‘mobile revolution’ as something of a misnomer; both the high street and other devices will prevail. Failing to capitalize on a currently under-exploited part of consumer behavior could be fatal, though, and retail companies need to ensure they catch up.