Mobile commerce is growing faster than ever. Analysts claim that worldwide it will be bigger than regular e-commerce within the year, accounting for over $2 trillion in sales during 2017. Customers everywhere turn to their mobile devices first, and they expect to be able to browse, share product information, make purchases, track deliveries, and get support without ever touching a computer.
So what do today's customers expect from a mobile shopping experience? And more to the point, what do retailers need to do to satisfy their mobile customers and retain their loyalty?
It's no longer enough to provide them with a basic service that would have been state of the art a year ago. Corporate giants like Amazon are highly innovative in terms of both technology and customer service and are constantly setting new standards for the retail industry. They are experts at seducing your customers away from you, and if you don't keep up, you'll get left behind.
So let's look at some of the most important things you should be doing to keep your customers coming back.
Customers want personal service. They don't even want the same level of service they get in-store - they want the level of service they would get from a small local shop where they've been a regular for years. It's not practical to do this with human sales staff. Instead, you need to turn to AI so that you can tune the shopping experience to the expectations nd needs of each individual customer. This can take many forms: you can tailor offers and incentives based on prior purchasing or browsing history. You can adjust search results to prioritize products they're more likely to buy. You can suggest related products based on the purchases of other customers. There needs to be a constant flow of relevant communication between you and your customer. Chatbots can provide them with in-depth product information or advice. Other bots can track their progress through the purchase process, helping them through the onboarding, sending them reminders or discounts if they abandon their cart, then following up with shipping or delivery info.
The new generation of m-commerce apps aren't dumb digital catalogs with a "buy now" option. They're a dialog, filled with interaction and designed to make each customer feel special.
Customers just love the idea of Augmented Reality apps. They offer a way of shopping that they can't get any other way. Whether you're selling clothes, furniture, home decor, or beauty products, it's just amazingly cool for for your customer to be able to see what they're buying. What would that chair look like over there? Does that dress suit me? Should I buy the big rug or the medium size rug? It's fun, and it combines the convenience of online shopping with the feeling of seeing an actual product in-store.
*Whether AR ever becomes mainstream is very much open to question. It may just be a short-term gimmick. But if you need a quick way to differentiate yourself from your competitors, it could be well worth looking at AR.*
3. Easier payments
Customers hate typing on mobile devices. As soon as you ask them to enter credit card details or create a profile, over half of them abandon their cart. Smart m-commerce apps get around this barrier by offering alternatives such as Android Pay, Apple Pay, or PayPal. One click, and they're done.
If you're still requiring a credit card, you may want to think again.
4. Voice shopping
I'll say it again. Customers *hate* typing on mobile devices. They're also getting used to voice-based technology like Alexa or Siri, so they know they shouldn't have to type any more. Providing your customers with a simple voice interface makes routine shopping super easy, especially for repeat purchases such as household items or groceries.
Right now, voice shopping may feel like an unnecessary feature, but if you want to compete with Amazon, you need to offer a similar level of convenience.
5. In-store browsing
Most retailers assume that m-commerce only happens when people are out and about and want to buy something but can't get to a store or to their computer. However, the reality is that most mobile commerce takes place in the home, in the office, or, surprisingly, actually in the store. Over 80% of customers use m-commerce apps while they're actually shopping. They're checking inventory, comparing prices, looking at reviews, sending product info to their partners, checking out different options. In effect, the app is taking the place of the sales staff, helping them make a decision and closing the sale. And then, when they've decided to buy, they may opt to skip the checkout, pay via the app, and have their purchases shipped direct to their home when it's more convenient.
When you design your mobile app, don't assume that your customer is sitting on a park bench browsing through your store. Assume that they may be right in your store, and ask yourself what you can do to help them.
6. More delivery options
Making the sale isn't the end of the process. You're not done until the customer actually gets their goods. If you make them wait, or, worse, if their stuff never arrives or gets stolen from their porch, they'll go elsewhere and they won't come back. Customers expect same-day shipping. They may even expect same-day delivery. And be creative about where you'll send their stuff. Give them the option to pick up in-store. (And let them pay at pickup if you're insisting on a credit card.) Offer to deliver to their office if you need a signature. Amazon and Walmart are currently exploring options that allow them to deliver to the trunk of a customer's car, or even leave goods right inside their home.
Simply putting your customer's goods in the mail isn't enough any more. Mobile customers are all about the impulse purchase. They want instant gratification. To satisfy them, you have to focus on fulfilment.
7. UX: fun as well as function
Successful m-commerce is all about giving the user a good time. Once you have your app on their device, you have a uniquely privileged position in their life. You're always just a tap away. To retain that, you have to work continuously to keep them loyal. Great deals, a large inventory, and first-class customer service are essential, yes, but to keep them coming back, you have to make them feel good every time they use your app.
Too many m-commerce apps try to deliver as much functionality as they can, jamming in everything the Web site can do, and then adding some extra "mobile sauce" on top. The result is an app that's over-powered, hard to navigate, and no fun to use. Instead, focus on giving your mobile customers what they really want: instant access to the information they need right now. If they can find what they need within 5 seconds, then leave, that's great. Unlike your Web site, you're not trying to maximize the time they spend in your app. And make it fun - give your customers neat features and tools that they can't get on the Web site.
The best m-commerce apps don't try to do everything. They leave the heavy lifting to the Web site and do a few things extremely well.
Andreas is Founder and CEO of Ombori. He is a serial entrepreneur who has founded several companies, starting in his teens. He has a background in cybersecurity, and has worked for companies such as H&M and Nordnet Bank. Andreas is a passionate believer in digital transformation, and is constantly seeking ways in which technology can change the way we work, shop, and live our lives.