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How retailers’ mobile shipping options can diminish Amazon’s looming shadow

While Amazon’s Prime Now delivery service remains a top threat to retailers this holiday season, the key to maintaining sales stems from offering a multitude of shipping options on mobile applications and sites so that consumers can select the method best suited to their needs.

The proliferation of delivery services on mobile suggests that consumers’ desire for instant gratification is at an all-time high – one that could skyrocket even more as the holidays approach and shoppers stress over receiving purchases in time for family get-togethers. Amazon’s massive inventory and Prime Now service may overshadow some smaller retailers, but others may be able to fight off competition from the conglomerate by ensuring they are offering a slew of different shipping options, ranging from same-day delivery to buying online and picking up in-store.

“Same-day delivery gives some a clear advantage, especially if they are selling such items as food and diapers where time is more of the essence,” said Jeff Hasen, co-founder of Gotta Mobilize, Seattle. “But not everyone wants to pay for the convenience or a surcharge that could come, say, when a drone comes to your house.

“The wise retailers are providing choice, even rolling out same-day pickup and concierge service when someone pulls up to the brick and mortar,” he said. “Over 90 percent of sales still happen in-store.

“Making that bricks-and-mortar experience better is key to keeping that going.”

Catering to everyone
Mobile delivery will likely play an even larger role in holiday sales this year as opposed to last year. An increasing number of brands have cottoned on to the lucrative revenue potential that mobile offers, and have bolstered, if not perfected, their mcommerce apps and sites.

Bricks-and-mortar stores will still see plenty of customer traffic, as many individuals prefer to check out products in-person before engaging in showrooming to find the best price on digital channels. However, as specific holidays creep closer, time-strapped consumers will undoubtedly turn to brands with a plethora of delivery options on mobile.

“We’ve been able to transact via mobile for a long time but it’s finally beginning to resonate with consumers because of three driving forces: one) better experiences through bigger more powerful phone and better UI, two) emphasis by retailers on expedience – mobile Web is the ultimate ‘I want it now’ experience (way quicker than phone and thus combined with services like now that get product in your hand within minutes not days help reinforce this, and three) familiarity – we’ve finally gotten over our prejudice about shopping with a mobile and now we can’t get enough,” said Martin McNulty, CEO of Forward3D, London.

“Desktop feels, well, a drag.”

Amazon’s Prime Now service is one of the premier solutions to offer one-hour delivery in select cities if shoppers buy items via its mobile app or online site. Last year, Amazon’s fast shipping Prime service gained more than 10 million members worldwide while saw nearly 60 percent of its consumers shop for the holidays via mobile devices, cementing its status as the digital retailer to beat (see story).

The instant gratification that Amazon offers, along with the speediest shipping options, means that some retailers may lose out on impulse purchases made during the holiday season. Fewer shoppers may drop by a store and make an unscheduled transaction, due to the sheer amount of individuals who frequently browse gift ideas on their personal devices at their leisure.

The ability to follow through with that purchase on mobile and have the product in question waiting at a doorstep in less than an hour is certainly an attractive feature for some consumers.

Therefore, retailers must offer a variety of options to suit consumers’ needs and wallets. Not every shopper is able to afford rush or same-day shipping, leaving wide opportunity for marketers to leverage tactics such as buy on mobile, pick-up in-store.

If a brand does not combine bricks-and-mortar, mobile and online purchasing and shipping capabilities, it runs the risk of discriminating against a vast portion of customers.

Bricks-and-mortar solutions
To ensure that Amazon does not snatch a significant amount of holiday sales, retailers must offer in-store, online and mobile shopping components that are differentiable from others in the sector.

“The trick is to offer both options,” Mr. McNulty said. “Can’t make it in store?

“No problem…use our Web app and we’ll ‘Uber’ it to you by six. It’s about empathizing in that moment.

“It’s about having an alternative,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve hit tipping point yet for physical stores yet but it sends a clear differentiator to your clients if you can attempt to accommodate a model that works around them instead of them working around the store.”

Another trick is to offer plenty of “in-store only” offers that require customers to visit bricks-and-mortar locations to receive discounts not found on other online sites or apps. Beacons and geotargeted messaging may be able to help with this tactic and send offers to passersby in crowded areas.

“Recognizing mobile for what it offers – immediate gratification, location-aware marketing tools, and a pocketful of coupons, lists, and store locators – will make this a very mobile holiday season,” said Lewis Gersh, CEO of PebblePost, New York. “Retailers will pull out all the stops to make sure consumers remember to visit, from emails, to mobile push messages, to real mail in the home mailbox, to capitalize on what could be a promising retail season.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely, editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York