It’s no secret that omni-channel shopping has taken off in recent years due to the proliferation of devices. IDC expects total smartphone shipment volumes to reach 1.2 billion units in 2014, up almost 20% from 2013, and mobile commerce has this year overtaken desktops in e-commerce sales for the first time. This is spurring the growth in the number of "super-shoppers" - consumers who research and buy across multiple devices and digital touchpoints on a regular basis.
Inherent with the use of devices is the rise of social media for communication, sharing and rating. As such, social media increasingly influences mobile transactions, which makes it essential for retailers and brands to recognise how they must adapt their digital experiences and offerings to suit each platform.
Let’s explore some of the key differentiating features of m-commerce and how brands can utilise these digital marketing functions.
With the proliferation of smart devices, today’s consumers have short attention spans and effectively unlimited access to information and social media updates at their fingertips. This means that brands need to adopt a new level of reactiveness in their content in response to consumers’ interests and social media conversation topics in real time.
Savvy brands will be able to leverage the latest new developments, and insert themselves into the conversations taking place over social media, as well as tie that in with content they are putting onto their own websites. For example, what this might look like in practice for a fashion retailer could be an image of a celebrity going viral, wearing an item of clothing that they stock or a similar piece. The retailer that can immediately and seamlessly react to this with their content will be the one who gains a competitive edge.
Let images take centre stage:
For retail brands especially, the higher the quality of a product image, the easier it is for a customer to imagine what the product looks like in real life. Product images should stimulate, seduce and drive the imagination of the customer. Customers should be able to imagine holding, using and owning the product when they interact with digital product media. For example, a high quality image can show an amazing level of detail of fabrics, making the shopper feel like they are there in store.
The screens of smartphones and tablets may offer the highest pixel density of any screen, along with the best colour reproduction. In short, some phones offer comparable quality to glossy print - these screens can now faithfully represent a higher quality to give a superior level of media fidelity. For retailers and brands, this means that they can now offer deeply engaging brand-led experiences with stunning, interactive imagery and video across mobile and tablet devices. Furthermore, new screens are constantly coming into the market, with different sizes and different resolutions. While these images should complement and unlock the latent value across traditional channels, brands now need to ensuring that the customer has a consistent perception of the brand, irrespective of the channel they are using.
Engage the customer’s senses:
Part of what makes consumers enjoy the in-store experience is the ability to touch and feel the products they are hoping to purchase before making the buying decision. Replicating that experience online adds an aspect to interactions that make them more satisfying and ultimately worthy of more consumer attention. The availability of smart devices means brands can now utilise a range of sensory inputs alongside the visual – like touch and sound.
When an object moves or changes state, sounds can reinforce this as they do in the real world. This level of production and immersive experience is not yet commonplace on brands’ online presences. However, today’s smart devices have the technological capability to enable the replication of varous aspects of the in-store experience, which are slowly being adopted by brands, raising the bar for a retailer’s customer experience.
Create playful experiences:
Games are by far the largest market for mobile and tablet content. They are also the most engaging experiences on these platforms. eCommerce experiences on these devices can learn a lot from the interaction design, production values, focus on playfulness and satisfying experience of games. In digital marketing and ecommerce, some game-like interactions are already beginning to be used. For example, the processes of product discovery, reccomendations, combination or configuration can all be made into playful journeys that take the interaction with the customer to the next leve.
These experiences tend to use certain mechanics and patterns of interaction. Ecommerce digital marketers can learn from this approach to designing engaging digital experiences. Progressive engagement, playful interactions, a high level of production value and a sharp focus on the enjoyment of the user are all things that will further this aim, driving engagement and therefore sales.
Put customers at the centre of omni-channel:
Whether a customer interacts with a brand in store, online or on mobile they expect the brand and experience to be consistent across each channel. But in reality, today the experiences across each varies wildly, both in quality and function. This difference is jarring and can often push customers into choosing a channel that doesn’t suit their needs, or doesn’t benefit the brand or retailer.
A common example being a customer that would like to use the mobile commerce offering, but finds the experience too confusing to pursue, and just gives up on a purchase. The customer shouldn’t encounter boundaries at any channel – if they do, it will increasingly impede on customer satisfaction and ultimately sales. Customers don’t think in channels, and view any interaction with the brand across any device as one seamless interface. Brands – especially retailers – need to start thinking about delivering content fast and seamlessly across channels in order to cater to this mentality.
With retailers and brands having more opportunities to engage with customers and prospects than ever before, the winners will be those brands that have adapted to this new ‘omni-channel’ paradigm. Ultimately, this means being able to create the most engaging experiences that satisfy consumers and keep them returning for more, whichever channel they happen to select as their mode of interaction.
By Rory Dennis, Founder and GM of Amplience.
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