Content and the Mobile Shopping Journey
There’s little question that a mobile-first strategy is essential for any retailer that sells online. However, many retailers today are challenged to develop an exceptional mobile shopping experience. Small screens, hundreds of popular devices, many vendors and competing standards mean that mobile shopping is often a lowest common denominator approach, but it doesn’t need to be this way. Technology can greatly simplify building responsive, shoppable, mobile-optimized sites that use the capabilities of popular mobile platforms and provide a rich and engaging experience for users.
Mobile commerce currently accounts for one-third of e-commerce sales, with projections for mobile-generated revenue to increase 177 percent to $109.44 billion from 2015 to 2016. Add to that the proliferation of cheaper smartphones and 5G network bandwidth that's just around the corner, and it's clear the retail sector must adapt to accommodate the mobile transition.
However, there’s a fault line in these figures. They're a last-click analysis that only paints a picture of the user who completes a purchase on their mobile device. While this is a measure of sales and reason enough for every retailer to develop a mobile presence, it tells us little about the consumer path to purchase.
Recent research by GfK indicates that up to 40 percent of consumers start their retail journey on one device and complete it on another — and up to as many as three others. Mobile has produced a situation where consumers are, in effect, much more spontaneous. They snack on content, browse and shop, and research and check inventory levels to meet a need that's felt in the moment.
As a consequence, grabbing consumers’ attention and immersing them in your products right at the moment that they land on your site by being bold and engaging with rich content is absolutely vital. Your content also needs to be immediately shoppable so that with a single click or touch, the user is already into a retail journey.
The Millennial Factor
As digital natives, millennials are at the forefront of technology adoption. Today, 85 percent of young adults own a smartphone, compared with 64 percent of all American adults. Mobile-only internet usage is becoming the norm. In fact, 21 percent of millennials no longer use desktop computers to go online. Moreover, their expectation of a mobile shopping experience is one that's free from complex navigation and brings a simple user journey into play.
Understanding how millennials use mobile and attracting them as customers helps to cement long-term relationships and protect future revenues. For example, this market segment of 79 million people represents a staggering $170 billion in purchasing power.
When asked what makes their generation unique, millennials ranked “technology use” No. 1 (24 percent). More than a third of them shop on mobile devices at least once a month, and half use mobile for shopping outside the store. Surprisingly, 52 percent say that a brand’s use of technology is more important than the brand name itself. With leadership from millennials, mobile is clearly the future.
The Challenge of Development
While Android and iOS have become the dominant platforms, multiple operating systems, browser options, hardware vendors and technology standards make channel-agnostic development difficult. Add to that the complexities of any given path to purchase, and the shift to mobile is challenging.
Smartphones and tablets present a different canvas to work with in designing shopping experiences from traditional desktop. The top complaint in Bizrate's survey of more than 100,000 mobile shoppers was too much pinching and zooming, a hangover of trying to replicate the detail of a regular website experience on mobile.
Consumers don’t want to read product information at length; rather, they want a visual, touchable experience that inspires them and provides an easy route to checkout in that moment or at some time later on a different device. Retailers have addressed this with responsive web design, allowing publishers to tailor experiences for different devices. While they take more time to develop, responsive sites achieve 11 percent more conversions than nonresponsive sites, according to Aberdeen Group.
On one hand, there are more opportunities to engage, yet getting the retail experience right across different devices is an increasingly complex proposition. Add to that the need to update sites with any level of frequency and the complexities quickly multiply. In the fashion and apparel industry, for example, presenting the latest or seasonal trends in a timely manner is essential.
However, coding a responsive design with experiences optimized for various screen sizes often means it takes longer to get new looks online. Put that together with planning a collection, organizing expensive content assets like photography, design and iterating on that, and publishing becomes a matter of planning months and months in advance.
Embracing the mobile transition and appealing to the tech-savvy millennial market means creating a consistent brand experience regardless of device, location, operating system and screen size, and publishing content faster and more frequently.
Satisfying these needs means using technology that allows in-house teams (with no coding experience) to storyboard and build experiences visually — using drag-and-drop tools and a design canvas that's intuitive and simple to operate.
Bringing these tools into play empowers the user to easily publish content like lookbooks, video and seasonal trend guides, and makes the content elements shoppable by adding multiple links to different elements in an image, connecting the shopper directly to a product splash page or a “Buy Now” button that links to checkout.
Deploying shoppable content right at the start of the user journey boosts engagement and sales. Neiman Marcus, for example, has seen a significant increase in customer engagement after deploying shoppable experiences, including conversion rates skyrocketing to 10 percent (where the industry average is 2.5 percent to 3 percent). Importantly, the cycle from creative design to publishing can take just days or even hours rather than weeks and months.
By focusing on how consumers use their devices and providing a simple yet immersive shopping experience, it's possible to grab attention straightaway, compelling the user to dwell and making them more likely to purchase in that moment or later on another device.
Is mobile worth the fuss? Absolutely, says New York & Company, which sees 67 percent of its weekly site traffic coming from mobile devices. By empowering its team to design engaging, mobile-first experiences without any need for code, New York & Company has increased its creative output four times and reduced time to market from three months to mere hours. How long will it take for the rest of the retail industry to question how they can do the same?
Brian Rigney is the CEO of Zmags, a shoppable content company that empowers e-commerce professionals to create engaging digital experiences.
Related story: How New York & Company is Optimizing the User Experience
Brian Rigney, CEO of Zmags, has over twenty years’ experience leading high performing, entrepreneurial teams in launching new businesses and bringing innovative new products to market. For more information on Zmags, please visit their website and follow the company on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.