Russell Berry, MD of AppCreatives.co.uk the UK producer of mobile applications, argues why retailers need to act now to take advantage of increasing trends in mobile shopping or risk being left behind all together.
Millions of users are now engaging with retailers via mobile devices, and doing so more frequently eBay has seen more than 30 million downloads of their mobile app worldwide, and retailers such as John Lewis, ASOS, JD Sports, M&S, Next and Tesco, all experienced an average increase in traffic of 300% to their mobile sites during the Christmas weekend, just going further to prove the time is ripe for developing retail mobile apps.
"Retailers without mobile commerce capabilities are missing out on sales! Any retailer not making huge strides in developing user-centric mobile shopping apps is missing a huge opportunity," says AppCreatives.co.uk founder Russell Berry.
Most consumers integrated their mobiles into their Christmas shopping by using them to find deals, research products, source reviews and opinions from friends and family, and of course, buy products.
It's not hard to imagine the benefits of the entire web at your fingertips when you are standing in a crowded store. As well as being able to check whether the item you are about to buy is cheaper in the store next door.
But retailers developing mobile apps should be thinking of them as a mechanism to drive customers into stores. There are many ways that retailers can use mobile apps to still reach and incentivise consumers shopping in bricks and mortar stores. It should be all about improving the in-store experience for your customers.
Mainstream mobile app retail features should include as a minimum; store finders, full online catalogue, ecommerce capability and stock status checks. Simply developing a mobile app that is a version of your website or catalogue with no shopping capability and poor search functionality will be heavily criticized.
Your app could also make use of a smartphone's location-based features and camera, enabling customers to scan barcodes on items they're interested in to receive product information, rewards and promotions. Or even help to up sell customers whilst they are in store. Perhaps your app can act as a personal shopper, for example, that coat you were just looking at would look great with this bag.
It might also be worth looking at integrating with location-based Foursquare, known for letting users 'check in" at their locations. Some retailers who offered promotions to Foursquare users in the US during the Christmas period saw increased engagement with their brands and measurable sales.
Finally, if you are looking at addressing your mobility strategy this year, one emerging technology to keep in mind is m-commerce, or the ability to pay for everyday items using your mobile phone. Devices are being readied for on-the-go payment so making sure your mobile platform can facilitate shopping on the move is vital!
"Portability is completely changing the way consumers are purchasing products and engaging with brands. This is the year that all retailers should be investing in their mobile programmes and reaping the awards from this exciting medium," concludes Berry.