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Starbucks is 2015 Mobile Retailer of the Year

Starbucks’ leadership role in mobile retail is evident in stats such as that 20 percent of sales come from mobile but, the chain’s influence is greater than this. Perhaps no other retailer today better understands the crossover between customers’ love affair with their smartphones and when and where they want to engage with the brand than Starbucks does.

The coffeehouse chain started with a mobile loyalty application that has grown into a powerful platform integrating content, payments, ordering and delivery. Starbucks also consistently leverages mobile marketing in fun, creative ways that entertain on a screen where consumers are spending more of their time while keeping the brand top of mind.

Starbucks grasped early on the potential to drive sales and loyalty with in-store mobile services such as payments and is reaping the benefits. Starbucks’ success has positioned the retailer as a mobile technology leader, a fact the company now hopes to take advantage of via a series of partnerships with Spotify, New York Times and Lyft as well as possible future partnerships with retailers that would leverage the chain’s digital assets.

In 2015, Starbucks extended the success of its payments strategy to mobile ordering, leading the way for others to embrace on-demand ordering. But, while some have experienced operational issues with mobile ordering, Starbucks insists it has worked out the kinks in the system, resulting in each subsequent roll out of mobile ordering to new markets delivering higher incremental sales than the previous wave.

The chain is now extending the program into delivery.

Starbucks’ mobile prowess also includes bringing the latest technology to its app. Most recently, Starbucks introduced 3D Touch, enabling iOS users to touch the app icon on their home screen to pay, reload a card, order and find nearby stores.

A good example of Starbucks’ fun approach to marketing is a campaign from the summer that promoted new Frappuccino flavors with a mobile-optimized site and Twitter account for the line. Fans could easily read bios for each of the drinks, place a straw to indicate their top three favorites, view an interactive map showing top flavors by state and download GIFs and wallpapers to share across social media.

The chain also uses Snapchat and other millennial-focused platforms such as theSkimm to engage with younger consumers in a more organic manner, underscoring it forward-looking approach to mobile.

Mobile Retailer of the Year first runner’s-up: Walmart
Walmart was named the 2012 Retailer of the Year and first runner’s-up for 2014, reflecting its on-going commitment to mobile. From its test of an Apple Watch app to its use of location-based audience targeting to drive engagement, the retailer continues to drive mobile retail forward and is benefitting as a result, with mcommerce volume doubling over the holidays to account for nearly half of online orders.

In 2015, Walmart deserves recognition for putting its customers at the center of the development of new smartphone services such as its new mobile wallet, Walmart Pay. The retailer says it is responding to the needs of its customers – who skew heavily towards moms, a group that also tends to be big mobile users – to bring out a solution that will simplify the checkout experience in a way that current mobile payments solutions cannot. Walmart Pay is available across devices and uses QR codes, a technology that is familiar and available at all checkouts.

Mobile Retailer of the Year second runner’s-up: The Home Depot
The Home Depot has significantly upped its game on mobile this year with a focus on reducing the complexity of shopping its aisles and making the transaction as frictionless as possible. Key enhancements include visual search, 360-degree product views, more product videos and a streamlined one-page checkout, enabling shoppers to complete a purchase in as few as two clicks.

One way Home Depot helps shoppers find items is with immersive 3D maps on its iOS apps. The retailer is also seeing success for omnichannel services Buy-Online-Pickup-In-Store and Ship–to-Store order fulfillment, with half of its mobile shoppers choosing them.

The Home Depot is enabling app users searching on Google to open a result in the retailer’s app and use in-app features such as augmented reality and text or voice activated search. The new Project Color app leverages augmented reality to present a realistic view of what a specific shade would look like in a home.

The retailer’s second generation of First Phones lets associates access the consumer facing app, look up products, speed up checkout as well as conduct inventory management and business analytics tasks.

Mobile Bank of the Year: Chase
Chase was already a big player in mobile before this year, an important advantage as consumers increasingly embrace the convenience of banking from their smartphones. In 2015, Chase doubled down with the introduction of a mobile wallet, Chase Pay, that will quickly be available across devices and retail locations when it rolls out early next year. Given the bank’s large customer base, Chase Pay is one to watch here.

Chase continues to bring mobile innovation to its portfolio of financial services. The Chase Freedom credit card allows cardholders to instantly redeem points at major retailers such as Target and Starbucks through a new mobile application.

In 2015, Chase also optimized the home page of its Web site for tablets, updated its small business app with real-time messaging and brought Touch ID login to its main app to streamline the user experience.

Mobile Merchandiser of the Year: Sephora
For anyone who loves beauty products and smartphones, Sephora’s fast, personalized digital experiences cannot be beat when it comes to shopping during a few minutes of free time. The retailer also clearly recognizes mobile’s potential to drive engagement across channels through unique experiences that bridge online and offline.

This year, shoppers got the chance to use the retailer’s app to find customers with similar facial features and what products they are using as well as receive tailored step-by-step makeup application instructions by uploading a selfie to Pocket Contour Class. The retailer jumped into the subscription box trend with Play! By Sephora, which is currently being tested in several markets to drive trial while integrating mobile offers.

Mobile plays an important role in Sephora’s newest retail concept, a bricks-and-mortar connected boutique that creates a disruptive shopping experience via interactive in-store tablets, phone-charging stations and a selfie mirror, the first of which was opened in Paris.

Mobile Commerce Researcher of the Year: Boston Retail Partners
Boston Retail Partners understands the critical role that mobile will play in retail going forward and consistently puts forth original research that helps retailers understand where the opportunities and pitfalls are, what is and is not working and where they should invest. Through a variety of benchmarking surveys, blog posts from analysts and special reports, the research company analyzes the key players and developments in the mobile space with key insights for retailers.

Mobile CRM Program of the Years: Walgreens Balance Rewards
Mobile opens the door wide to expanding the concept of loyalty programs beyond simply earning points for making a purchase, and Walgreens is one of the few retailers really pushing the boundaries of where mobile can take loyalty while innovating digital health at the same time.

Walgreens was the first retailer this year to intertwine Apple Pay with its loyalty program, enabling Walgreens to use Apple Wallet as a marketing platform to further drive in-store foot traffic, increase basket size and improve loyalty with its members.

Via an app update this year, a widget displays when loyalty members are in a store that shows their points total on the home screen as well as a bar code that can be scanned to redeem rewards and earn points.

In another update, devices running on iOS 8.1 or higher can now link Balance Rewards to HealthKit, Apple’s health and fitness data-sharing tool, enabling Walgreens app users to automatically share fitness data and earn Balance Rewards points for walking and running.

At the beginning of the year, Walgreens partnered with WebMD to integrated the Walgreens loyalty program into the latter’s mobile app. Users of the WebMD app can now purchase or refill prescriptions at a Walgreens using the app.  The two also rolled out a virtual wellness-coaching platform

Mobile Commerce Program of the Year: Domino’s AnyWare ordering, Starbucks Mobile Order & Pay and Marriott’s on-premise services

In a reflection of the growing number of mobile programs that address customers’ needs and drive new revenue opportunities, there is a three-way tie this year for Mobile Commerce Program of the Year.

In 2015, it seemed like there was no customer touch point that Domino’s could not turn into a mobile ordering gateway. The pizza chain’s AnyWare program, already enabling consumers to place orders using Ford Sync in a car, was extended this year to smart watches, smart televisions, to Twitter via a pizza emoji and text.

In September, Starbucks said it would accelerate the rollout of Mobile Order & Pay in response to strong results, increasing its investment in the program to get it into all stores before the holidays. Given thebservice’s ability to drive incremental sales, Starbucks appears to have overcome any operational hindrances and is now testing mobile-enabled delivery.

Building on its successful mobile check-in service, Marriott Hotels redefined the hotel visit with mobile at the center, enabling members of its loyalty program to engage in real-time conversations with staff before, during and after a visit through the brand’s application, in the first-ever two-way chat feature launched by a global hotel brand. By the fall, the company was ready to roll out the service to several other subsidiaries and to enable guests to use their smartphones as room keys.

Mobile Commerce Web Site of the Year: American Eagle Outfitters
The young shoppers who are American Eagle Outfitters’ main audience use their phones constantly, and the retailer truly gets that its site needs to be super fast on mobile while still being exciting and providing must-have functionalities that make discovery and purchasing easy. Key features include a seamless Live Chat service and impactful visuals.

Mobile Commerce Application of the Year: Amazon
Amazon’s mobile app reigns supreme, with 76 percent of digital shoppers having made room for it, according to Millward Brown. The online retailer makes sure the app offers convenience, easy navigation and cross-interface functionality as customers take advantage of its growing array of services, including digital content and on-demand delivery.

With one-click purchasing and fast delivery options, the Amazon mobile app is a must-have tool for on-the-go consumers looking to fit in a few minutes of shopping during their busy days. The consistency of the Amazon experience across apps and the Web only help enhance the customer experience.

Mobile Commerce Technology of the Year: Apple Pay
While the mobile payments space seems to be getting more crowded by the day, Apple Pay gets kudos for a few reasons. First of all, it almost single-handedly drove a resurgence in Near Field Communications technology this year.

A significant number of retailers also quickly embraced Apple Pay and while the impact on in-store sales is still unclear, the solution’s ease of use on mobile sites and in apps is being felt thanks to how it streamlines purchasing. These factors taken together with Apple’s strong consumer recognition helped spur adoption of mobile payments this year. As more NFC-enabled phones get into consumers hands and updated EMVs make their way into retail stores, Apple Pay is positioned to be a dominant player going forward.

Mobile Commerce Evangelist of the Year: Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks
Starbucks’ chief executive understands firsthand the power of mobile, with both Starbucks Rewards and Order & Pay driving newfound glory for the brand. That Mr. Schultz recognizes the significance of mobile for retailers as well as the significance of what Starbucks has built is clear – he broadcasts it at every opportunity, including on calls with analysts, at a wide variety of events and in interviews with the press. His belief that merchants can also be consumer technology leaders has clearly had an impact, with a slew of food chains and retailers following in Starbucks’ footsteps and investing in mobile technology with an eye toward disruption.

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