Retailer Media talks to Mitesh Agarwal, Vice President, Sales Consulting & CTO, Oracle India on the challenges faced at the time of adoption to the mobile channel and the solutions available to transition.
According to a recent study by Oracle, mobile is the fastest growing method of shopping globally, with 67 per cent customers stating that they are using smartphones to enhance their shopping experiences. The study revealed that 84 per cent of connected audience in India is using their smart-phones for shopping.
With those kinds of numbers, the retailers are forever looking to increase their presence in the mobile space and work on efficiency, customer experience to tap sales and profitability. Retailer Media talks to Mitesh Agarwal, Vice President, Sales Consulting & CTO, Oracle India on the challenges faced at the time of adoption to the mobile channel and the solutions available to transition.
What is your take on the only-mobile strategy adopted by some leading e-commerce players?
With the growing number of smartphones and increase in mobile internet penetration it makes perfect sense for e-commerce players to switch to a mobile-only platform to reach a large customer base at a faster rate. It also helps them glean more accurate customer insights and offer customised offers that have a higher rate of converting into a purchase. For consumers, mobile app offer the convenience of anytime anywhere shopping.
However the flip side is - one in four mobile apps, once downloaded, is never used again. That suggests a high percentage of apps fall short of expectations. Companies and people want and even demand immediate benefit from the mobile experience. If there is a lag or delay in processing a request, a customer is less likely to go ahead with the transaction. If mobile app developers can't innovate or deploy quickly, users will simply delete the apps or stop using them. In fact a recent study by Oracle found that a poor mobile app experience will make millennials less likely to use a company's products or services.
It also found that while they are happy to receive support in the form of value-added communications, they are turned off by unsolicited communications in the form of push-notifications that aren't relevant to their individual needs. Security and privacy of data are other concerns that will discourage a user from undertaking a mobile transaction. In this light a company with an app-only platform has to a tread a fine line between being intrusive and relevant.
So although mobile has the capability to change the face of retail in India, it all depends on how the retailers will provide a seamless app use experience?
Mobile commerce is predicted to reach $626 billion globally by 2018, with tablets playing an increasing role in mCommerce growth, as more people use these devices to shop from home or on-the-go. The mobile revolution has changed almost every aspect of the retail business, from the way we think about customer relationships to the way that we manage inventory and complete transactions. Today shoppers can use their phones to locate stores, scan barcodes to get extended product information, and in countries like U.S even pay for goods at the checkout.
How can a mobile help a retailer increase efficiency, customer experience, sales, and profitability?
As mobile becomes all pervasive and the smartphone penetration deepens, more and more consumers are using their phone to make a purchase or search for a product. By creating a mobile version of their website or more importantly an app, a retailer can take the business right into the hands of the customers anywhere, anytime. Apps can be used to send targeted push notifications to anyone who has installed the app.
These messages cannot be missed, since they remain on the display of the phone until the user clicks it away. Using geo-fencing, marketers can also send location/ store specific offers when the customer is in the vicinity of an outlet to drive them to check into the store. These kind of direct access to customers was not possible earlier.
By offering Mobile Point of Sale (PoS) solutions, retailers can also improve in-store efficiency and customer experience. Using a mobile phone or a tablet, a sales associate can inform customers about the best discount, availability of stock, comparison with completion products, etc. It's about increasing basket size because the associate is connecting with the customer during the most critical part of the decision-making process - on the floor. POS mobility solutions currently available are also significantly lower cost than the traditional POS. It also helps improve the customer's experience by delivering a simpler and faster checkout.
What are the steps to a successful mobile strategy?
What sets retailers apart in a global marketplace is giving shoppers better information where and when they need it. 70 percent of global respondents say that the best way retailers can add value to their shopping experience is to provide easy access to information about products and services online and in stores. Consumers' demand for transparency and access transcends formats and borders. More than two-thirds of global consumers say that they are using smartphones to browse or buy products, and 56 percent have purchased direct from offshore international retailers. In this context, retailers should have defined goals and a phased strategy for moving into the mobile space. They should focus on the following:
"For retail, mobile commerce cannot be governed by marketing, e-commerce, or store operations. It needs to be bigger than all three, and CEO leadership will help to prevent a siloed approach.
"Mobile is the omni-channel for customers. For consumers, mobile phones bridge the in-store and online experience. Retailers must merchandise and serve consumers with a unified, or omni-channel, strategy rather than continuing to operate a multi-channel business.
"Mobile applications must offer consumers something beyond just a shopping assistant. They need to enhance the consumers' lifestyle with features not found elsewhere -- a tall order, indeed.
Can a mobile strategy help retailers beat competition from e-commerce?
That's a tough question to answer because the speed with which mobile has changed the commerce landscape has caught many retailers un-prepared. Many businesses have taken a panicked approach to building a mobile presence. Instead of plotting out a strategy, these organisations have reacted to imperatives such as "We need an app" or "Our competitors are mobile; we need to be too." As a result their apps offer limited features and have not met customer expectations. We do not see these apps driving traffic to stores. In fact very few brick and mortar stores in India offer a mobile solutions in-store unlike in developed countries like the U.S, where retailers are using tablets and mobile phones to reach customers and take a slice of the pie from an online seller by doing a price -match.
What challenge do retailers face while adopting mobile technology?
Customers equate the experience they get via a mobile or tablet app with the quality of the brand behind it. The design, functionality, performance, and security of apps today have become the new weapons in the battle to attract and retain customers, and retailers that do not arm themselves appropriately have little chance of coming out on top.
Poor app performance and speed are clearly deal-breakers for a company when it comes to their apps. While some retailers may say that this does not lie in their hands they do not control the strength of data networks - it's important to develop apps that fulfill customers' requirements for functionality without being so clunky as to always require above average network connectivity to work. This may extend to providing users with some offline functionality or background synchronization options in instances when network performance is lacking.
At the back-end retailers have to ensure mobile integration with their existing enterprise It architecture. Ideally mobile integration should be an extension of the service oriented architecture (SOA) that is already in place in an enterprise. This will help bring down cost and provide greater agility to business application. And then there's the cloud; by abstracting back-end functions in the cloud, retailers can free up their resources to simultaneously focus on front-end development and develop strong mobile business models.
Another major challenge revolves around ensuring data security. With people accessing information and sharing personal details rather indiscriminately today via smartphones, tablets, and their personal computers, companies will need to take proactive measures to protect their data. No longer will simple encryption, firewalls, and network security controls alone do the trick. Retailers will need to invest in mobile security solutions that control access from the inside out and at every layer of their IT, from the database that processes data to the mobile devices tied to the system.
What are Oracle's offerings in the space?
Oracle offers a number of solutions to retailers' transition to a mobile platform. These solutions help improve in-store experience for the customer and also help retailers make the best of their marketing spend. They include the below:
"Oracle Retail Mobile Point of Service is a light weight, cross platform solution designed to enhance the customer check out experience in store. It increases the customer service offering, improves the customer's experience by delivering a simpler and faster checkout, and allows the retailer to influence purchases while they are in progress.
"Oracle Responsys Mobile SMS is part of Oracle's Cross-Channel Marketing solution. It enables marketers to create rich SMS campaigns and orchestrate them as part of a larger cross-channel marketing program, helping drive new revenue, improve loyalty, and build stronger customer relationships. Mobile marketing engages customers and prospects when they're online away from the traditional home/office desktop environment.
" Oracle's Push Cloud Service extends cross-channel marketing strategies to the world of apps. Delivered standalone or integrated as part of Oracle Cross-Channel Marketing, it helps retailers deliver relevant push notifications that stimulate engagement and drive users back to their applications.
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