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Staples exec applauds location-based coupons for driving mcommerce, attribution

PHILADELPHIA – A Staples executive at eTail East said that location-based, in-application coupons not only help the retailer hit higher levels of mobile commerce, but are also one of the few ways that the company can track the in-store to online sales impact.

The “Enhancing and Developing an Optimal Mobile Strategy that Drives Commerce” panel included executives from Staples, JetBlue, Sears, Viacom and Genesys Cloud. One of the main issues presented from the executives with a bricks-and-mortar presence is that location-based offers and coupons are growing in importance for retailers because it is one of the only ways that they can track mobile’s role in the path to purchase.

“What we are seeing is that the adoption is pretty good,” said Prat Vemana, director of the velocity lab and global mobile strategy at Staples, Framingham MA.

“In fact, the commerce on our coupons is much better than any of the people who are hitting the checkout button, so it goes back to that idea of in a multichannel world, you have to constantly be thinking about both the [in-store and online] opportunities.”

Mobile comes in-store
Staples launched an in-store mode within its mobile app a year and a half ago. If a consumer is within a geofenced area around a Staples, they can get a coupon.

The goal was to incentivize users into a more valuable app experience. Once the consumer receives the coupon, the app switches into a different mode that includes shopping lists.

When it comes to mobile metrics that Staples is looking at, mobile Web metrics are more about acquisition and app metrics are focused on engagement.

Additionally, Mr. Vemana said that bounce rate is important to see how sticky mobile users are.

For tablets specifically, conversions are more important since the devices typically churn out larger incremental sales, and time spent is an area that is important within a smartphone app.

Despite mobile’s growing role for retailers, there is still hesitation from consumers around mobile commerce with security, per Mr. Vermana.

However, Jonathan Stephen, head of mobile and emerging technologies at JetBlue, New York believes that the mobile users who are uncomfortable buying via mobile are likely the same consumers that are hesitant to shop from a desktop, too.

“As long as you put a really good experience together, coupled with customers that have that trust in your brand, then I don’t think it really matters what medium in this day and age [that consumers will shop from],” Mr. Stephens said.

Multichannel approach
For Sears, using mobile is only part of a multichannel integrated approach, according to Andy Chu, divisional vice president and general manager at Sears Holdings Corporation, Hoffman Estates, IL.

Similar to Staples, Sears has also tested geo-fenced coupons to drive in-store traffic and has an app feature that lets consumers pick up online orders in-store.

Mr. Chu said that 50 percent of Sears’ online orders are for buy online and pick-up in-store. This does not drive an in-store sale since it’s a post-purchase behavior, but it is an engagement tactic.

“Those are the things that we’re looking at,” Mr. Chu said. “It’s very important to balance between conversion and experience, but the experience part is very key.”

“At the end of the day, it is about driving engagement, and once you have more engagement the money will follow,” he said.

Personalizing mobile shopping
Jason John, vice president of online, mobile and social marketing at Gilt Groupe, New York, gave some examples about why the online retailer is increasingly taking on a mobile-first approach.

Similar to other online flash sales sites, Gilt Groupe is not only seeing 40 percent of revenue coming from mobile, but is also pushing more personalized experiences that give consumers perks for picking to shop from their mobile devices.

On Gilt’s tablet application, the company plays up content heavier than via a smartphone to tap into a more immersive shopping experience when consumers have more time to spend while in front of devices.

Gilt also recently rolled out mobile-exclusive sales so that top-selling brands can push out offers the night before something goes on sale via the Web site. This gives consumers a reason to continually use an app.

Gilt is also getting smarter about how it uses push notifications by testing how to build in its personalization engine with notifications.

“Right now, there are limited characters, so we can’t tell you about all of the 150 sales going on, so we’ve moved from ‘sales start now,’ which is a generic alert, towards ‘here are the top three sales today that we think are right for you,’” Mr. John said.

Final Take