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Office Depot exec: Differentiating across apps, mobile Web drives sales

RANCHO MIRAGE, CA – An Office Depot executive at the Mobile Shopping Summit 2015 reported that the brand initially offered uniform features across its mobile application and site, only to find that differentiating the platforms led to higher sales, as shoppers use them for different purposes.

During the “Marketing Panel: Should Marketers Shift Offline Budgets To Mobile Marketing?” session, the executive highlighted how retailers must provide customers with a plethora of mobile shopping options, so that users may interact with different platforms in whichever way is best suited to them. He advised brands to ensure they maintain a specific budget for mobile marketing, as it is an industry trend that is growing larger and larger.

“We do have apps, and when I first started at Depot, our philosophy was whatever we have on mobile Web we will have on mobile app, and that wasn’t the right strategy for us,” said Richard Polly, senior director of ecommerce at Office Depot, Boca Raton, FL. “Now have to differentiate.”

Differentiating mobile features
As more companies and individuals purchase office supplies while on-the-go, it made sense for Office Depot to undergo a recent revamping for its mobile app.

The app was put through a major redesign for a better omnichannel experience, including advancements in personalization and the retailer’s rewards program as well as a tighter integration between the app and the in-store experience (see story).

Updates also included the ability for the brand to make product recommendations based on recent purchases, and making previous orders more visible for users who need to regularly replenish their supplies.

Office Depot now has store-mode for its app

Providing different commerce options is imperative for any retailer’s mobile site and app, especially as consumers typically do not download retail apps unless they have a long-standing relationship with the marketer.

“Of the top 20 apps that are out there, the only one that is a retailer is Amazon,” Mr. Polly said.

Therefore, retail apps should be designed in mind with the fact that most users are regular shoppers. The same rule applies to building commerce Web sites.

“The use case for the public Web site is very different than the use case for the B2B Web site,” Mr. Polly said.

Allocating budgets
Executives from Leslie’s Poolmart and Lenovo also spoke on the panel, which discussed how brands should decide the amount of resources to allocate for mobile marketing budgets. Each marketer will have a different amount in mind, but ultimately, a small portion of advertising budgets should be shifting toward mobile.

“As soon as you can prove any sort of value off of it, we found that the first few dollars that you spend in it are going to be the most efficient,” said Andrew Flicker, ecommerce business analysis and intelligence manager at Leslie’s Poolmart, Phoenix.

Meanwhile, Lenovo has not engaged in as much mobile-centered activity. It does not make sense for the brand to introduce standalone apps for its products, since consumers do not purchase high-cost laptops and tablets regularly.

The sheer customization available for hardware products also makes it difficult to complete a purchase via mobile.

Office Depot’s mobile site differs from the app’s interface

“For some companies, [mobile] should be more of an upper-funnel vehicle,” said Donna Bedford, global digital lead at Lenovo, Morrisville, NC.

Conversely, Office Depot will continue trudging through mobile as it aims to make the shopping experience more personalized, with the goal in mind of making everything contextual so that customers may indicate when and how they would prefer to be contacted by the brand.

“We use mobile to a large extent as our experimental playground,” Office Depot’s Mr. Polly said. “If there are new innovative features, that’s the place to test it out before we expose it to the mothership.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely, staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York