Get on the Mobile Commerce Train

Before it leaves the station… and leaves you behind

There’s never been a better time to get on the mobile commerce (also known as ‘mCommerce’) train. It’s an emerging field, with emerging technology and incredible opportunity for retailers. First things first—what the heck is mobile commerce, anyway? Mobile commerce is the buying and selling of goods on a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. Why should you care? Internet Retailer estimates mobile sales will increase to $17.5 billion by the end of 2012 from $10.7 billion in 2011. There are many ways to incorporate mobile marketing and mobile commerce into your marketing mix, thereby increasing your sales and profits.

Typically, when we talk about Internet marketing, our goal is to drive traffic to your website. Then your prospective customers are so blown away by your fabulous site that they drop whatever they are doing and run to your store! And, if you sell something on your website, they will be excited enough to buy your items, right? With mobile marketing, we encourage you to take a similar approach, with a twist. Make sure your mobile website, or even better, your own mobile app, is set up with mCommerce so your customers and prospective customers can buy from you right then, on the go.

Some of the big retailers have had to learn this lesson the hard way. Pier 1 Imports spent a lot of money on mobile advertising this spring, driving traffic to their website. What they forgot to do is optimize their website for the mobile platform and add mCommerce, so customers could buy the items right from their phones or tablets. They squandered a major opportunity to convert lookers to buyers. In fact, Google recently stated that 80 percent of their largest advertisers do not even have a mobile-enabled website! When we look at the remaining 20 percent who have mobile-friendly sites, most of them don’t have a brand strategy that engages the mobile user to make a purchasing decision.

This does not need to be you. You can divert some of your marketing dollars to the mobile marketplace. If you need any more convincing, Facebook has added “want” and “purchased” buttons to their developer code. They won’t confirm or deny yet that they are planning to bring these to the Facebook user. My advice: set yourself up right now with a mobile strategy to capitalize on these inevitable changes. Aren’t you just jumping out of your chair with excitement about the possibilities for your business?! I am!

There are two ways to engage your customer: wherever your customer is and in your store. Let’s address the opportunity in your store to incorporate mobile commerce first. You can equip your salespeople with iPads. They can easily and quickly provide customers with additional information about products right on the sales floor. They can also check inventory, pricing, place special orders and if you set it up, process purchases from the iPads. There are very sophisticated point-of-sale systems available that are extremely secure and give those of you with multiple locations bandwidth. The best part is there is access for everyone. If a sophisticated system isn’t in your budget, use Square ( It has all the functionality you will need to get started, and it’s free! Z Gallerie is successfully using iPads in all of their 55 stores. They are having such success that they plan to incorporate point-of-sale transactions next.

Other ways you can use iPads in a store would be to do on-the-spot gift registry, registration for customer loyalty programs and events, and suggestions/recommendations for return shoppers. I know you’re going to love this next use. The biggest complaint that I hear from retailers and designers who sell product is customers Internet shopping for the lowest price. Use the in-store iPad to compare prices and then have a live person there to tell the customer why they should buy from you!

Now that you have tons of ideas on how to use mobile commerce in the store, here are a number of ways to entice and engage your customers and prospective customers from wherever they happen to be. Advertise on the mobile platform. Then make sure your website is optimized for mobile use. This step is critically important because you want to make it easy for your customer to engage and buy from you. As we talked about last month, the best way to encourage interaction and loyalty to your brand is to create a mobile app. Either way, create a landing page specifically for a set of items that you want to promote. Make sure you include a store locator with GPS. Also, enabling a mobile shopping cart adds value to the consumer. You can also create a way for them to reserve an item, pay for it and pick it up at the store. Want to give the customer even more value? Use coupons as a part of the ad. When they click on it, they see the offer and then come to the store to redeem it.

You also want to encourage your clients to interact with your brand and your merchandise. One way to do this is to make sure your social media share buttons are prominent. I highly recommend Pinterest because it focuses on visual and lifestyle, making it perfectly suited to your marketing purposes.

The last word here is to remind you that marketing works best if it’s targeted. Mobile sites and apps tailored to a specific demographic will yield the best results. In other words, you need to know who your customer is. Be patient too—as any marketing campaign will need time to gain momentum.

The opportunity here is huge. When you act now, you can capitalize on a growing market while it’s new, exciting and growing like wildfire. If you need help, there are a bunch of us out there who can help you succeed and make your marketing dollars work for you. Have fun on the gravy train!

Kim Miller-Hershon is founder & chief empowerment officer of DesignINSIDE, where she is a Business Development Coach and creates mobile marketing apps. You can reach her at:

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