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Ten mobile commerce best-practice tips for the holidays

While many companies are still formulating their mobile strategy, it is key to incorporate either a mobile site, application or SMS into a multichanel holiday initiative. Consumers expectations are already high and they expect to turn to their favorite retailers or brands this holiday season in any medium — store, catalog, phone, online or on mobile. Here are some practical tips for holiday mobile commerce:

1. Have a transaction–enabled mobile store. Half-measures will not work. In a year’s time, when one out of two subscribers nationwide will have Web-enabled smartphones, they will expect the same experience on mobile as they do on traditional sites and in-store. Come holiday season, expect consumers to shop on mobile with the same expectations of shopping experience as generated online.

2. Start with a mobile Web site, graduate to an application. Consumers naturally gravitate to the Web, so make sure that a mobile site is a top priority. Take learnings from that experience and build an application on the Apple and Google Android platforms that is geared to the brand’s best customers. Contrary to what industry folks say, consumers still overwhelmingly prefer the Web, whether on the desktop or mobile. So a mobile site that is in tune with the holiday shopper’s needs will win plaudits.

3. Get a common short code to build a mobile CRM program. Link the mobile effort to the overall database marketing initiatives. Promote the short code in-store and online for registrations to send out alerts, store and product updates and links to mobile destinations. Also, send out alerts to opted-in consumers to sign up for the brand’s emails. Holidays are the best time to recruit new shoppers to mobile. Promote the short code in other mediums and channels. Building a database of holiday mobile shoppers will be gold for driving traffic to stores or mobile Web.

4. Make the mobile store user-friendly. In other words, ensure intuitive navigation, effective merchandising, close-up pictures and fewer click-throughs. Place the search bar on every page. The “Back” button should be on the top right-hand-side of each page. Place a holiday specials tab on every page of the mobile store.

5. An efficient on-site search engine is key. Consumers do not have as much time or comfort to browse on mobile as they do on computers. On-site search is critical in this scenario. Searching for merchandise availability on mobile devices is expected to increase exponentially, especially for in-store, online and mobile inventory.

6. Make the privacy policy link visible on every page. Avoid any future headaches or lawsuits. Make it clear what is being tracked and what data is being collected – in clear and simple terms. Take the holiday season to reassure consumers that shopping on mobile is safe and that their data is secure and privacy will not be violated.

7. Link the mobile store’s back-end to the ecommerce and store order-taking, fulfillment and returns infrastructure. The mobile operations should be tied in to the overall retail operations, allowing for eventual in-store pick-up of mobile orders. Prepare for the crush of holiday orders over mobile phones and tablets. Make sure that the mobile back-end is strongly tied to the store and online commerce engines.

8. Ensure that the mobile commerce and mobile advertising and marketing efforts have the same branding elements as the other retail and marketing channels. Consumers do not shop channels, they shop brands. Incorporate on mobile the same holiday elements that appear on store, online and other marketing collateral. Recognition is key during the holidays when the competition for shopping dollars is intense.

9. Dedicate personnel to the mobile operations. At least one to two executives should be tasked to handle the mobile efforts at launch and then adjust manpower accordingly. Either ramp that number during the holidays, or better still, infuse mobile through all departments within the organization. In other words, there need not be one mobile manager, but mobile elements across departments.

10. Promote the mobile store in other channels and drive traffic to other channels. Build awareness among consumers of this new shopping option. Use the mobile store and mobile marketing efforts to encourage visits to retail locations and also to register for email alerts. Build awareness of the holiday mobile store at the same time as all holiday promotions begin. In fact, announce holiday mobile initiatives ahead of the normal schedule to give the retailer or marketer a jump on the competition.