Today’s headlines are bursting with promises of 5G — and now, even 6G is becoming part of the conversation. But the fact is, globally, 4G is still the name of the game and will be for quite some time, with 72 percent of networks expected to run on the fourth-generation cellular network technology through 2022.
With that, retail brands need to be thinking critically about how they can leverage the technologies and data they have today to offer optimal mobile shopping experiences to customers across a wide breadth of connection speeds, especially when you consider that mobile is outpacing desktop for the first time when it comes to online orders.
Here are some trends and strategies brands should keep in mind when it comes to optimizing mobile at the edge for a 4G reality, with a focus on convenience, user experience (UX) and security.
BOPIS on the Rise
The “buy online, pick up in-store” (BOPIS) model has grown exponentially in recent years, given the convenience it provides to customers and brick-and-mortar shops alike. For example, parents can easily leverage Target’s Drive Up service while running errands with their kids. They can place an order for diapers, milk and laundry detergent while running one errand, and head straight to the nearest Target store to pick up the purchase — all completely on the go.
Brands that don’t offer (or customers that opt out of) curbside pickup can benefit massively from “checkout line” purchases, with 37 percent of online shoppers saying they have made an additional unplanned purchase when they picked up their items in-store. The BOPIS model also offers significant time and cost savings. Gone are the five-to-eight business days of waiting for a package to arrive via snail mail, along with added fees for expedited shipping, returns or if you don’t hit the minimum purchase requirement for free shipping. This, in turn, allows retailers to cut down packaging costs and reduce their carbon footprint.
We can expect the BOPIS model to continue to grow, with 86 percent of retailers saying the model will soon become the “default delivery method” and 93 percent expecting to adopt some version of it within the next few years.
App-to-Consumer Direct Marketing
Brands recognize the benefits of being able to connect directly with customers, and apps are quickly becoming the common watering hole. This is important for brands to understand when you consider that global time spent in shopping apps grew to 18 billion hours in 2018, up 45 percent from 2016. Furthermore, 57 percent of consumers of all ages are using mobile apps to enhance their in-store experience.
Brands can further establish relationships with their customers via mobile apps by providing personalized experiences using location data and artificial intelligence (AI). As a result, “showrooming” (i.e., taking pictures of barcodes in-store to find a cheaper deal online) has gone from taboo to mainstream.
Best Buy is a prime example of a brand that's using showrooming to its advantage. By embracing its competitors such as Amazon.com, Apple and Samsung, and allowing them to open boutique mini showrooms in its stores, Best Buy has enabled consumers to see, use and test products in-store before making a final purchase decision online or in-store. This “try in-store” model yields similar benefits to BOPIS in that it encourages in-store browsers to try out and potentially purchase other products they didn’t intend on buying. What’s more, Best Buy has the opportunity to upsell shoppers on products that integrate with Amazon’s Fire TV (for which it is Amazon’s exclusive retailer) and Alexa.
Converting Browsers to Buyers With Video
Today’s consumers rely on high-quality images and video to inform their purchasing decisions. In fact, shoppers expect an average of about six images and three videos (especially for product reviews) when looking at an item on Amazon or another retailer's site.
This is critical information for brands as they begin adding video and enhanced images to their sites to improve e-commerce conversion, especially when it comes to properly formatting video content for mobile. Shoppers are more likely to bounce if video exhibits high latency or low quality. Brands can further mitigate lag times by reducing the amount of third-party content included on their web pages. A recent survey found that 69 percent of site content is JSON and XML, while only 17 percent is HTML. This demonstrates that the majority of content on web pages is comprised of third-party content, which inadvertently slows pages down. This is something brands must manage and control with third parties if they want to ensure quick load times and offer the video content consumers demand.
Securing the Experience
Mobile carriers are increasingly adding security features like facial recognition, retina scans and fingerprint swipes to keep data stored on phones safe from threats. This is important as recent reports show a whopping 10 billion credential stuffing attempts in the retail channel alone between May 1, 2018 and Dec. 31, 2018.
However, brands still need to do their part when it comes to protecting customer data, whether they're on mobile, desktop or in-store. Brands can offer even more secure experiences by adopting advanced machine learning technology and behavior anomaly analysis to more accurately detect and prevent botnets and other threat actors, as well as customer identity and access management to secure the customer's personally identifiable information once it's under their stewardship, to avoid data breaches and comply with strict regulations (such as GDPR and PCI).
When it comes to optimizing mobile CX, performance and security must go hand in hand, especially for “slower” 4G networks, as these will be used by the majority of global users for many years to come. Brands that take the time to understand how to effectively secure customers and to ensure their mobile experiences are positive will go a long way in maintaining relevancy and long-term loyalty.
Chris Wraight is director of industry marketing at Akamai Technologies, a globally distributed intelligent edge platform.