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Macy’s is 2014 Mobile Retailer of the Year

Macy’s has been named 2014 Mobile Retailer of the Year, the highest accolade in mobile commerce and retail. The honor tops the Mobile Commerce Awards handed out each year for outstanding work that moved the mobile commerce needle for retailers, financial services firms and marketers. Here is the list of all the 2014 honorees.

Macy’s is clearly a leader in combining fashion with mobile technology to grab attention and wallet share from the growing number of young consumers for whom mobile plays an integral role throughout their entire day. With bricks-and-mortar retail continuing to experience declining foot traffic, Macy’s fought back in 2014 by embracing image recognition, beacons, mobile payments and event-driven mobile commerce, bringing added convenience and excitement to the shopping experience in a way few other retailers can match.

“Macy’s is what every retailer should aspire to be: a risk-taker that’s willing to embrace best-of-breed mobile commerce to deliver a seamless shopping experience for consumers across channels, with mobile as the linchpin,” said Mickey Alam Khan, editor in chief of Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer, New York.

“The department store chain dedicates talent, technology, marketing depth and, most importantly, budget to meet the consumer along the shopping and buying journey,” he said. “Macy’s is also quick to pivot to emerging consumer trends and evolving behavior while holding true to the business’ creed: retail is detail. This award could not have found a better recipient in 2014.”

The Mobile Retailer of the Year is the most prestigious honor for smart, strategic and creative use of the mobile medium by a retailer. EBay won in 2009, Sears took top prize in 2011, Walmart received the honor in 2012 and Target came out on top in 2010 and 2013.

The 2014 Mobile Retailer of the Year first runner’s-up is Walmart. Walgreens is the second runner’s-up.

Driving brand value
With mobile traffic and sales growing significantly during the recent holiday season at the same time that mobile’s influence on in-store sales has never been greater, Macy’s efforts over the past year show that it has a firm grasp on how shopping is evolving and has a strategy in place to address this.

Macy’s mobile strategy reflects the retailer’s understanding that mobile is a must-have for meeting consumers’ growing desire for seamless experiences that integrate physical and digital shopping while bringing added value and convenience wherever they are.

The retailer’s efforts in mobile are paying off, with Macy’s brand value increasing 383 percent between the spring of 2013 and 2014, according to Interbrand’s 2014 Best Retail Brands Report. The brand consultancy pointed to Macy’s quick response to shoppers’ new digital behavior as one reason for the ascension.

Embracing beacons
Macy’s came out of the gate strong in early 2014 as one of the first retailers to embrace iBeacons through its partnership with shopkick.

With the ability to engage in-store shoppers on their smartphones, iBeacons were one of the biggest mobile successes in 2014 and Macy’s gained valuable early-mover advantage by jumping in quickly.

The retailer’s initial limited iBeacon pilot program was rolled out to all stores this past fall, in a sign that the strategy has been successful and that Macy’s is committed to infusing mobile throughout the organization.

A new tablet-optimized digital spring catalog from Macy’s pushed in-store events, highlighting how Macy’s is focused on the omnichannel experience. The tablet experience emphasized video and links to commerce-enabled pages that were easier to navigate than either the smartphone or desktop experiences.

Fashion and music
Mobile alone will not win over millennial shoppers, something Macy’s recognizes. Instead it is the combination of mobile technology with other things that young shoppers love, such as fashion, celebrities and music, that delivers retail synergy.

In 2014, Macy’s launched the mobile-heavy All Access program, leveraging music and celebrities such as singer and actress Lucy Hale to connect with millennials and support the retailer’s American Rag private label with messaging on Instagram, Hang w/ and in Macy’s Ragged magazine.

Macy’s strategy of combining music and mobile was kicked up a notch in August, when the retailer announced a partnership with Fashion Rocks  that saw mobile playing a key role by enabling live shopping during the event for the first time.

The retailer was the official fashion partner for Fashion Rocks, which took place on Sept. 9. During the event, viewers were able to shop for the fashions presented on the runway from their mobile phones either through the Shazam application or by going directly to the site

Mobile payments
Macy’s has also been a leader when it comes to embracing mobile payments. As mobile Web traffic continues to grow simultaneously with the use of mobile inside stores, these efforts will help Macy’s streamline making a purchase for mobile shoppers.

In September, the retailer rolled out a browser-based digital wallet solution called My Wallet, available to in-store, online and mobile shoppers, that places users’ credit cards and Macy’s digital coupons and promotions in one place.

The department store chain was also one of the first adopters of Apple Pay.

In November, Macy’s became the first United States retailer to use visual search technology from Cortexica, promising to reduce the number of clicks between inspiration and purchase to make it easy for young fashionistas to shop from their phones via the Macy’s app.

Macy’s use of Cortexica’s findSimilar image recognition technology could help the retailer attract a younger, up-and-coming generation of consumers that thrives on the use of imagery.

The retailer also recognizes mobile’s potential to drive in-store engagement and excitement, which was evident from a Black Friday promotion enabling users of its mobile application to scan QR codes in-store to receive digital gift codes and prizes as part of an instant win experience.

Mobile Retailer of the Year first runner’s-up: Walmart
Walmart is taking the bull by the horns and is investing more in its digital strategy compared to building new stores. This strong digital focus was evident in 2014 in such mobile wins as 70 percent of Thanksgiving traffic coming from mobile and the success of the new Savings Catcher feature on its app. Other advances include the mass merchant’s launch of a mobile-enabled click-and-collect grocery service and a mobile-first banking account.

Mobile Retailer of the Year second runner’s-up: Walgreens
An early adopter of mobile to drive added convenience for pharmacy customers, Walgreens extended its leadership role in mobile in 2014 as one of the first retailers to pilot iBeacons and Google’s virtual indoor mapping technology that delivers personalized and discoverable rewards to shoppers using augmented reality for a bricks-and-clicks experience. Walgreens also built on its mobile pharmacy strength through a new partnership with WebMD and by giving some customers access to doctors via its app.

Here are the winners of the nine other Mobile Commerce Awards:

Mobile Bank of the Year: Citi
In 2014, Citi gave proof to its commitment to mobile with the launch a new type of banking account designed specifically for online and mobile bankers as well as by eliminating mobile banking log-in for easy access on the go.

Mobile Merchandizer of the Year: Target
One of the biggest challenges in mobile is showcasing product, giving the small screen size. Target has mastered this skill by thinking beyond traditional desktop strategies to leverage mobile’s unique capabilities. A few of the ways it accomplished this in 2014 include launching an image recognition feature on its app, making images on Instagram shoppable, enhancing its Cartwheel application with social features and providing a second-screen mobile site for purchasing products featured on the television show “Cougar Town” in real-time.

Mobile Commerce Researcher of the Year: Forrester Research
As mobile’s importance grows, there is no shortage of research looking at its role for shoppers and retailers. However, Forrester Research consistently sets itself apart with a comprehensive, in-depth look at mobile that never fails to underscore its disruptive power or critical importance.

Mobile Commerce CRM Program of the Year: Walgreens
Mobile is clearly rewriting the rules for customer relationship management and no retailer exemplified this more in 2014 than Walgreens, which let customers earn loyalty points by connecting eligible health or fitness applications or devices to its Balance Rewards app program and awarding cash prizes to developers who find ways to integrate other programs with the app. The move builds on the earlier integration of Walgreens’ loyalty program with Apple’s Passbook, pointing to the importance the retailer gives mobile for strengthening customer relationships.

Mobile Commerce Program of the Year: Starbucks mobile ordering
Quick-serve restaurants are excited about mobile ordering’s potential to further streamline what is supposed to already be a fast transaction. But it was not until Starbucks’ launch of mobile ordering later in the year that mobile ordering hit its stride. Building on Starbucks’ already significant strength in mobile payments and mobile loyalty, ordering will be an easy next step for the millions of customers already using these services.

Mobile Commerce Web Site of the Year: Amazon
With seeing nearly 60 percent of its customers shop for the holidays via mobile devices, the ecommerce giant is clearly doing something right. By focusing on providing a streamlined, easy-to-use experience with features such as one-click checkout, Amazon is giving mobile shoppers what they want and they are responding.

Mobile Commerce Application of the Year: Macy’s
Macy’s fired back at Amazon with the launch of image recognition capabilities in its own mobile app, thereby making it easy for users to search for items on its ecommerce site by submitting a photo of an item from daily life. The strategy takes impulse buying to new heights while meeting the needs of millennial shoppers who frequently take pictures of items of interest using their smarpthones.

Mobile Commerce Technology of the Year: Beacons
Beacons that leverage Bluetooth BLE technology such as Apple’s iBeacon were quickly embraced by retailers such as Walgreens, Macy’s and Lord & Taylor, third-part apps and brand marketers in 2014 as a relatively inexpensive way to engage with in-store shoppers. Because of their ability to deliver content that is contextually relevant based on a mobile user’s location in a store, these marketers were quick to recognize the potential of beacons to deliver on mobile’s promise of enabling personalized engagements in real-time. With both Macy’s and Lord & Taylor expanding their programs to all stores in the fall and more retailers jumping onboard throughout the year, beacons were on the year’s big success stories in mobile.

Mobile Commerce Evangelist of the Year: Howard Schultz, chairman/CEO, Starbucks
Starbucks has built itself into a mobile powerhouse over the past few years, turning CEO Howard Schultz into a highly visible and influential mobile payment booster along the way. The coffee house chain’s top executive is not shy about broadcasting the company’s significant successes so far in mobile payments or its future plans to leverage these to become a major player in the mobile payment industry.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York