This article first appeared in the December 2011/January 2012 issue of Marketing magazine.

 

Could you imagine a high profile retail brand that targets woman aged 18 to 30 not having an online presence? Definitely not – maybe in the late 90s, but not in 2011. The same can now be said for a mobile presence. Recently, however, I met a marketing director of such a brand that questioned the value of mobile to his target market. Has he been living under a rock? Or does he own shares in a TVC production company or printer?

It’s been at least a year or two since I’ve had to pitch ‘why mobile’. Most of my work is now exploring the vast array of execution options and trying to plan how it’s integrated with web, messaging, print and other existing channels of brand promotion. Having to explain mobile as a medium is somewhat strange.

In the mobile world, it’s never been better for marketers. The new iOS 5 for the iPhone has some killer features, including the new iMessaging and enhanced location-based objects. The range of ways to now utilise mobile and drive awareness and feet in the door is vast and exciting. And, best of all, mobile is relatively low cost and has an amazing ROI for well-executed strategies. ‘Why mobile?’ – bah humbug!

Mobile in speciality retail has a tonne of opportunities, especially in-store, combining the thrill of the shopper discovery experience wandering around new products and releases, with a mobile for the ordering and settlement process. This is nothing new and is in use overseas in numerous places. Retail solutions company Sniip here in Australia has such a solution, as do a number of other players.

Imagine a poster in a closed retail store or on a bus shelter that you can point your phone to and order the product, pay and arrange delivery. Without doubt, this is something we will start to see much more of in coming times. So, instead of using a ‘text in to register interest’ type call to action, you can now go even further and engage the consumer right through to product purchase.

Recently, speciality retailer Gap in the US came out with some numbers that surprised many. At its annual investor meeting, Gap attributed the significant increase in online sales conversion to its mobile commerce platform, highlighting that mobile has played a significant role in its recent promotions and ties back to other mediums like TV and print.

Gap claims that it expects to achieve $1.5 billion in online sales this year, 30 percent of total sales by 2013. The mobile deployment is seen as a key factor to the growth of online sales. Additionally, Gap is using its mobile web execution to drive people in-store and now sees mobile as an integrated model with physical stores in a way never considered with desktop online. The store locator option now looks at specials and how far from the store you are, providing instant consumer benefits like, ‘Hey, you are only 100 metres from our store, so come in within the next hour and try the new widget for an instant 10 percent off’.

Here in Australia, Jeanswest has done a brilliant job of the mobilisation of its online store. It’s a cross-platform web deployment especially for mobile and delivers in the same way Gap is reporting. There is no app to download, it works on all devices, includes commerce, is optimised for efficient mobile browsing and is linked directly to the desktop website, maintaining a single point of management. But, more importantly, it has opened up a wealth of new promotional opportunities to drive traffic and conversion from email marketing through to more immersive store locator executions.

It’s not unrealistic to see a store with only white stock of each size and style and then a colour swatch. Consumers place their order via a kiosk or on their mobile and have the products directly shipped to their house. Imagine the savings in having to manage inventory!

The mobilisation impact is far more interesting as you dig deeper into some stats and figures. On all smartphones, browsing a desktop website is frustrating and sometimes confusing, but certainly can be done relatively easily. A consumer on a retail online site should be able to go through the navigation on their mobile and complete a purchase. So why is a customised mobile execution seemingly having such a significant impact?

The most consumer-impacting issues are speed and efficiency of the interaction. Recently, I saw some test analysis of a mobile subscriber going through a series of 15 interactions, finally concluding in a purchase on a desktop website. The same 15 interactions and purchase were then done on a mobilised version of the site and the difference was staggering. The desktop site consumed 6.5 megabytes of data. The mobile version used a tiny 580 kilobytes. That’s over 10 times less traffic.

Such significant data reduction has some huge consumer experience benefits. The main product page, for example, loaded in 2.5 seconds on the mobile version and took 27 seconds on the desktop site. Would I normally have waited 27 seconds? Probably not. The fact that the mobile version is heavily optimised and content adapted for mobile means faster surfing, significantly decreased delays and a better experience more in line with the experience using the home PC and broadband.

Consider this from the telco’s viewpoint. Mobile data speeds are constrained by available spectrum and data compression technologies and will never compete with broadband levels. So having sites utilise 10 percent of the bandwidth should have telcos subsidising the mobilisation of popular online sites… I’m dreaming!

I believe that these issues of proper mobile compression, content adaptation and simplified menu interfaces are the cause of a number of other interesting findings. Look at the site analysis and, specifically, bounce rates (leaving site from main page), average time on-site, page views and conversion rates to a sale. Good campaigns, desirable products, incredible discounts and other promotional tools can manipulate many of these statistics. When the results are averaged through normal periods, however, the difference between a mobile site and a desktop site is very telling.

I believe high bounce rates are representative of email campaigns driving click-throughs to the website and consumers being presented with slow loading complex websites on their mobile. It’s important to understand here that, depending upon the research firm or analyst you want to believe, between 70 and 90 percent of all personal emails are now read on mobile devices. So a click-through campaign will no doubt have consumers reading the site on their mobile.

Without an instant recognition of an offer, deal or a fast loading main page with high impact visuals, consumers will leave the site, driving high ‘bounce off’ rates. But with a mobile site as a destination, recent statistics show this decreased by more than half. I believe there are two main reasons. First, the page loads significantly faster and, second, the content is instantly readable without zoom or scrolling.

Just as interesting is the average page views and the time on-site, both of which reflect nearly three times the value on mobile. Consumers are clicking more pages and looking through more products and spending more time browsing on their mobile on a mobilised site than a desktop site. Again, I firmly believe all these statistics are peripheral benefits to a fast loading mobile optimised site.

I often get asked about things like jquery and HTML 5 and all these technologies that are emerging in mainstream websites, and how they should mitigate the need to embark upon specialist mobilisation efforts. But, in reality, these add to the size of web pages and many of the ‘new’ technologies simply further bloat sites. Yes, they may render or display more ‘mobile friendly’, but the cornerstone issues of speed, compression and content adaptation aren’t addressed and consumers simply won’t wait for bloated pages to download. Size is everything!

Mobile consumers are incredibly forgiving. They’ll battle through crashing apps, incomplete websites, long URLs, complex forms entry and all kinds of barriers -except having to wait. Boredom and frustration set in incredibly quickly. Their mentality is: ‘Give me the content in the next few seconds or I’m out of here’. This doesn’t mean redevelop the site, hand code mobile special pages or even manually create new content to suit the mobile. It means use the right tools and platforms to manage it for you.

Combine all these recent findings and research, and the path is clear:

  • 70 to 90 percent of personal emails are read on mobile
  • a mobilised website engages with the consumer for upwards of three times longer and they view three times more pages
  • a mobilised website loads and performs up to 10 times faster, and
  • a mobilised website has higher conversion rates to sales.

 

Now consider all the emerging technologies and options on mobile:

  • iMessage for iPhone
  • SMS loyalty messages with direct click-through
  • MMS for more engaging messages
  • inbound image recognition like Mobot from Mocom
  • direct point and pay from posters and adverts like Sniip
  • on-device applications integrated with web content
  • location-based extensions to store locator service
  • RFID (radio frequency identification) technologies to track and interact with true locality offers, and
  • NFC (near field communication) for mobile payments (still a few years for reality).

 

I can’t understand how anyone would still ask ‘why mobile’ or why anyone would not be moving mobilisation initiatives to the top of their priorities and marketing budgets. The evolution of mobile and the depth and diversity of mobile campaign execution options is so exciting and offers the creative, innovative mind so many things, that all campaigns should start with mobile and then consider how to support the initiative with maybe print, radio or TV.

 

Joe Barber
BY Joe Barber ON 21 December 2011
Joe Barber is a 25 year veteran of technology companies with the last five years focussed on mobile and retail. He is currently CEO and founder of Edge80.com with other notable start-ups under his belt being Third Screen Media, Sniip and Planet Internet. Joe has lived and worked in the US, Malaysia and parts of Europe and talks at numerous trade events worldwide.