The Frontier of Mobile Commerce and How You Can Use Google to Start Settling Down
The horse is already dead, so I won’t beat it much longer. Unless you’ve been living under a large rock for the last couple of months, then you know by now that you need a mobile strategy to survive in the retail industry in 2013 and the years ahead. We no longer live in the metaphorical “Stone Age” of ecommerce, where online shoppers are sedentary beings tied down by their inert desktops and laptops. This last Q4 was a record holiday shopping season in terms of online sales.
No, we have a more nomadic target on our hands. Look around: people are ridiculed for having “dumb” phones, an influx of tablets have flooded the market (Apple’s iPad is only on the 3rd of probably 52 generations), and smartphone screens are beginning to outgrow our meagerly-sized human hands. On top of it all, big retail players like Wal-Mart and Target already have rather refined mobile stores, meaning their superior resources allow them to monopolize the mobile industry.
Everyone talks about mobile, but it’s still immature
All signs point to a mobile-centric future, but I won’t jump the gun here. No doubt, we are in a transformative phase for both technology and shopping, but it’s admittedly getting a little awkward. Despite having the stage set with an exponentially growing mobile market, it remains a relatively undeveloped frontier.
For starters, the big players in the market remain unseen. The mobile wallet real estate is currently a battlefield. We could (and will) talk about Google and the efforts they’ve made towards enhancing the mobile consumer experience. We could also talk about the rivaling mobile payment solution from Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), spearheaded by retail giants like Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, and CVS. And we can’t mention Google and MCX without referencing the wildcard Isis and its mobile wallet. Regardless of whoever wins this war, the point is that right now, this is ground zero for the major players in the mobile shopping world. There must be something groundbreaking going on here.
Another point to ponder is that we still have a discrepancy between desktop/laptop purchases and mobile purchases. Even within the “mobile purchases” category do we see notable variations in tablet purchases vs. those done on smartphones. Shoppers usually purchase large AOV products, such as furniture or TVs, on traditional computers while smartphone purchases more commonly include smaller AOV products, like books or electronics accessories. Perhaps this is due to the differences in screen size or maybe it’s because of the context in which we use these different devices, but one thing is for sure: this gap is inevitably going to get smaller.
So what we learn is that despite the relatively infantile stage of the mobile market and the different purchasing trends that arise when comparing mobile and “immobile” online shopping, formulating a mobile strategy is still relevant and indeed necessary. Many questions still remain for mobile commerce. Questions like: Which mobile platform is best for your mobile store? Which mobile wallet should I use? Which aspects of my online store should I omit from mobile? Which aspects should I add? What are the pain points for producing conversions on a mobile store?
Time will reveal the answer for most of these questions. What you probably know to focus on by now is the need for a super-fast mobile store, a simplistic and clean design, an expedited checkout process, and navigation so basic that a 7 year old wouldn’t complain. Mobile commerce is a wave that will ultimately engulf us all, so you may as well start paddling out now. So how do you do it?
For the sake of relevancy to the standard online retailer, I’ll use Google as launching point for optimizing your mobile strategy.
First and foremost, you have to get your mobile store off the ground. Magento and Yahoo! Store offer pricey solutions, while it seems that Volusion has a mobile store built into their solution. Feel free to vent below if you have any criticisms or praises for either mobile store.
Using Google to Optimize Your Mobile Store
Assuming your store is all set up and designed to your liking, your next step has to be optimizing the checkout process. This is arguably the most crucial pain point for mobile shoppers. Imagine trying to enter a 16-digit credit card number into a smartphone. It’s not fun nor efficient, and it’s probably the single biggest knock on mobile commerce from the perspective of the shopper. You can go two routes to fix this. One, you could develop a mobile-only checkout page, complete with huge buttons and drop-down lists. Ideally you would want checkout to be achievable on one page.
Two, you could go with a mobile wallet solution. Let’s talk Google Wallet. After its initial launch in 2011, Wallet was off to a slow start but it has recently gained more traction with increased usage accessibility. As the merchant, setting up Google Wallet for your site will remove the hassle that shoppers unfortunately experience when trying to enter all relevant payment information on a mobile device. Those shoppers, however, must have a Wallet account.
So it may seem that Wallet, and really all other mobile payment solutions, isn’t all that much of a game changer since it would only apply to such a small niche of customers (those with Wallet accounts). Well, let me restore your confidence with the introduction of Zavers, indeed another Google tool to facilitate and optimize the checkout process.
Zavers is a digital coupon promotion program that Google has very recently whipped up, and it is no doubt an effort to provide a carrot for customers at checkout, facilitate coupon distribution for retailers, and revitalize the long term future for Wallet. Most importantly for retailers, Zavers runs on a Cost per Redemption model, meaning you won’t have to pay for the service until customers actually start receiving then using your coupons. When in conjunction with Wallet (which is required for shoppers to use Zavers), retailers have a nifty combination that benefits both their store as well as the shopper experience.
In case you aren’t already doing so, you can make your Adwords Ads mobile too. This makes it easier for mobile users to find/access your site. Here are the instructions straight from Google:
When the single largest internet technologies company in the world has such few ecommerce solutions for business owners, it becomes clear that mobile commerce, though a hot topic in ecommerce forums, still has a lot of growing up to do.
The “finished” product will most likely feature a mobile payment solution that fits nicely in the larger mobile ecosystem by having an inherent reward system for customers that use mobile payments and uses GPS technology to offer specialized, localized promotions and coupons.
As for now, you just need to start. Retailers must have mobile stores to retain relevancy and avoid missing out on potential sales, especially if the business is small AOV product-oriented.
About the Author
Jon Gregoire is a Content Specialist at CPC Strategy. Jon specializes in content marketing on ecommerce trends and comparison shopping management. Feel free to reach out to him at email@example.com.