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7 steps to successful multichannel commerce

By Melinda Krueger

Multichannel customers spend more. Walgreens customers who shop in-store and online spend 3.5 times more than customers who shop in-store only. Those who shop in-store, online and via mobile spend six times more.

Sephora customers who shop multichannel are four times more valuable than those who shop in-store only. Staples calculated the lifetime value of online shoppers at twice that of retail-only customers, and for multichannel customers, LTV is 5.5 times that of retail-only customers.

At Mobile Commerce Daily’s Mcommerce Summit: State of Mobile Commerce 2014 last week, trailblazers shared their journeys to deliver exemplary mobile experiences.

With a full 45 minutes for each speaker and enthusiastic audience participation, it was one of the best conferences I have attended on any topic. Within my many pages of notes, I found several common themes.

Those who get it right:

1. Listen to the Voice of the Customer. Julie Ask, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, advises ethnographic studies to uncover the aha! moments of customer need. I was reminded of the story of Swiffer products: the brand devoted hundreds of hours to watching people clean and noticed that after mopping, they used a paper towel to get up that last bit of debris. No matter how familiar the experience, focus and attention pay off.

Two other speakers cited their research inputs into mobile experiences. JetBlue staff goes to airports in blue T-shirts and talked to 15,000 customers. Walgreens conducted research and surveys prior to deciding which features to offer in its application.

2. Consider context. As Ms. Ask pointed out, mobile users are very task-oriented and only engaged for 30-60 seconds, so you need to serve up mobile moments based on context.

Location technology helps companies such as Best Buy recognize when customers are in-store and provide store-specific information, such as maps, specials and display model discounted product availability.

JetBlue changes its mobile experience as a customer’s departure date approaches, moving check-in and flight status front and center.

Geofences around Walgreens’ Duane Reade stores trigger the in-store mode, deprioritizing features such as the Steps wellness app and prescription refills, instead reminding customers of coupons that they have clipped, which is a de facto shopping list.

Smart marketers do not re-create scaled-down versions of the desktop site, but rather focus on the unique needs of the mobile customer, which vary with situation, time and location.

3. Reduce friction. Ryan Bartley, head of mobile at Staples, feels that eliminating friction is more important than engagement.

Walgreens reduced the time it takes to fulfill a prescription from two to three minutes by phone to a few seconds via a bar code scan. Forty percent of digital print orders come from mobile in 2014, up from 15 percent in 2013, attributed to reducing friction via its phone-to-print app.

Customers can clip coupons that are automatically added to their Rewards cards and redeemed when scanned.

Gilt found that speed is their number one correlation to conversion, hence a focus on download time and credit card retention to make checkout more convenient.

Consider basics such as log-in and password recovery, and make them as simple as possible. Whatever a customer wants to do, they must be able to do it quickly and with a minimum of text entry.

4. Make it fun. Admit it: the first time you presented your boarding pass on your phone, you felt cooler than those old school passengers with paper documents.

Functions with a fun factor keep consumers coming back. One Walgreens customer said of her prescription refill scanner: “That was so much fun I wish I had more prescriptions to refill.”

Target’s Pinwheel app (in beta) rewards good shoppers with badges. Sephora Shares delivers a summer playlist of 18 free iTunes songs as well as apps and ebooks. As Gilt says, “Gamification is expected. Make it fun. Keep it new!”

5. Understand that shopping is social. On the Beauty Board, Sephora customers display their makeup artistry with selfies, then link to products used to achieve the look. An extension of Pinterest behavior, it allows customers to link to several products rather than just one. Sephora calls it “shopable UGC.”

Target’s Pinwheel app shows what Facebook friends have purchased and how much they have saved. My husband is bemused when women get a compliment on an item of clothing and share the price they paid, but as I tell him: We love a good bargain as much as we love a good look. Seeing a friends’ superior Pinwheel savings roused my competitive spirit as well.

6. Make a good first impression. While “fail fast” is frequent advice for mobile marketers, it does not mean we should not aim for excellence every time. When Sephora rolled out add-to-Passbook functionality for its loyalty cards, it also updated all stores’ scanners in record time to be ready for the holiday season.

Sephora wanted to ensure that no Beauty Insider had a poor experience with a Passbook card, which does not work with red laser scanners. With more than 1 million cards added to Passbook so far, that positive first impression is an investment that has paid off.

7. Restructure. Multichannel experiences touch virtually every aspect of the organization. Organizational silos, which we have been battling forever, are a greater threat to excellence than ever before.

Staples opened the Velocity Lab in Cambridge, MA, focused on advancing the multichannel retail experience. Walgreens broke down the barriers with a newly created digital and marketing division, which is an integrated digital enterprise-wide marketing and customer loyalty and insights group.

FORRESTER PRINCIPAL analyst James McQuivey opines, “When companies adopt technology, they do old things in new ways; when companies internalize technology, they find new things to do.”

Mobile brings us not only new technology but entirely new ways to delight our customers. Follow the seven steps to get your share of those highly desirable, high-value multichannel customers.

Melinda Krueger is Milwaukee, WI-based senior marketing consultant at ExactTarget. Reach her at [email protected].