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Five steps to succeeding in mobile commerce

By Carsten Thoma

Mobile is not just another customer communications channel – it is rapidly evolving into an effective commerce channel.

Strengthening the link between existing channels such as bricks-and-mortar and online stores, mobile now enables customers to start shopping using their mobile devices and finish the process online, via a call center, in the physical store, or even on the mobile device itself.

But customers are not just using their phones to buy. They are looking for information across the entire buying cycle, including searching for products, locating stores, checking order status or product availability, getting product overviews and photos, reading customer reviews and product specifications, and arranging for in-store pick-up.

Mobile devices enable customers to get information whenever and wherever they want.

To meet these needs and drive mobile commerce initiatives, retailers and consumer goods manufacturers need to communicate bi-directionally with customers and prospects effectively via mobile.

Here are five key steps for effective mobile commerce:

Develop mobile-friendly Web sites and customize mobile applications for any device. Consumers are not using just high-end phone browsers such as those delivered on the iPhone and Android. They are using a wide range of phones to browse the Web.

When developing mobile sites and applications, businesses should focus on design, usability and context in light of technical restrictions.

For example, small displays create usability challenges, and cumbersome processes can cause customers to abandon their purchases.

Also, there is technology available that enables retailers to automatically deliver a mobile Internet experience that supports all mobile devices.

Employ advanced search and navigation functionality. A mobile-optimized site should be easy to use.

For example, avoid creating sites that require the consumer to scroll excessively to get to the information he or she is seeking.

Retailers have to deliver succinct, informational content to make it easy for individuals to find what they want, and then give them the option to choose whether they want to dive deeper and view product images or videos, for example.

Personalize consumer experiences with your business. Consumers want to use their mobile devices to perform time-critical tasks while on the go and turn dead time into productive and enjoyable time.

At the same time, consumers expect to have access to the same services across different mediums.

In addition to delivering an easy-to-consume experience via the mobile device, businesses should also provide customers with the same experience as they would have if they were sitting in front of their PC – recognizing their past interactions with the business and delivering contextually-relevant information based on their previous searches, purchases, likes and dislikes.

By delivering this personalized information, the user benefits from fast access and a streamlined interaction.

Leverage location-based services. GPS data is increasingly used in the mobile environment to determine the nearest store location.

Once in a store, the customer can use the handheld device to access a store guide for general information about the store and even to get information specifically tailored to the customer in that store.

While the customer purchase may happen in-store, it is the mobile device that helps to enable this.

Generate and enable mobile bar codes. Consumers can use some of today’s smartphones to instantly scan bar codes of products to determine pricing.

Also, consumers can also use this functionality to create wish-lists of products that they want to buy at a later date, either while in-store, online or via their mobile device.

With mobile bar code functionality, consumers can also check product and customer reviews, helping to guide their purchasing decisions. Enabling this functionality can help not only mobile but also cross-channel commerce initiatives.

Incorporating the steps above into your mobile commerce initiatives will help to provide the best possible experiences for both your customers and your business.

Carsten Thoma is New York-based president of hybris U.S. and chief operating officer of hybris Group, a multichannel commerce software provider. Reach him at [email protected].