Consumer Engagement

peter-mclachlan-sqMobify helps retailers engage connected consumers to increase revenue online and in-store. Ahead of April’s Mobile Marketing Retail Summit, we speak to the company’s chief product officer, Peter McLachlan.

MM: Mobify is a leader in the Mobile Customer Commerce and Engagement Platform category. What do retailers need to know about this technology?

PM: We know nearly 80 per cent of adults own smartphones, and 90 per cent use them to research items, find stores, compare prices and look for promotions – often while standing in or near the store. Marketers see how mobile influences $1 trillion (£689m) in retail sales, which is why its being called the new “front door to the store.”

But smartphone conversion rates are still a fraction of desktop. Mobile technology is becoming more complex, with a gap between in-store and online marketing. Meanwhile, shoppers are expecting an AirBnB- or Uber-quality mobile experience. Email is 35 years old and cant exploit interactive opportunities the same way as chat commerce, apps, messaging and social networking.

Retailers have stopped saying “Smartphone business is not good for our business” and started thinking “How can we get out in front of these technologies to improve the experiences of the mobile customer?”

Mobile customer commerce and engagement provides the infrastructure required to solve the engagement challenge in a mobile- first way. It focuses on communications and engagement, rather than transactions, and replaces homegrown approaches to facilitate, in one place, all of retailers real-time interactions with mobile customers.

MM: How is this changing shopping and the job ahead of mobile marketers?

PM: Shoppers use desktop and mobile devices to locate stores, check prices, research before they buy, and read or post reviews. They expect seamless channel integration, and rarely make buying decisions without weighing ample content from their social contacts, retailers and other authoritative sources.

Retailers who understand the value of conversational, or “chat” commerce are going to win big. The marketers job is no longer about assembling technologies for spray and pray marketing. The mobile platform is handling the heavy lifting so marketers can focus on content that makes shopping more compelling across physical, online and mobile.

MM: What technologies are you most enthusiastic about in mobile commerce and engagement?

PM: Web push notifications offer a brand new communication channel that allows marketers to send messages directly to customers via their browser on both smartphones and desktops through push messages that go into the notification centre without needing a browser to be open. The beauty of web push is that customers don’t need to download an app or provide their email address to subscribe.

New location technologies go way beyond store locators, so marketers can quickly create local landing pages, change the content based on the shoppers history or in-store behaviour, use beacons to direct to featured products and much more. Having location technology as part of the mobile commerce and engagement platform means you can use it in combination with web push messaging. So you can deliver content right to the browser, for example, a homepage promotion specifically for a nearby store, where a customer can try and buy.

Machine learning is creating more automation and intelligence at scale. This is exciting because we can track an increasingly intelligent stream of content involving user behaviour and location, together with retailer catalogues and inventory, and “universal” data like weather and time. So marketers can optimize not just for the device but the shopper, anywhere in the buying lifecycle.

Its exciting to hear marketers ask, “I’ve got a mountain of data streams and touch points with my customers. How can I create a single campaign that uses all my data to influence and optimize the customer experience across all these channels?”

MM: What is an example of a retailer using web push notifications?

PM: I think of use cases as promotional and non-promotional. Carnival Cruises uses web push notifications as part of a campaign for “Courtesy Holds” where they allow customers to book a cruise without payment and hold their booking for 24 hours.

A promotional use case is retailers that rely on flash sales, exclusive offers and time-sensitive marketing programs. Beyond the Rack is a leading online retailer running sales events for its 14 million members worldwide. Typically, they send emails, but with sales events which might last just 48 hours, they cant rely on members to check their mail.

With web push messaging, they reach customers with gentle, opt-in reminders at the front of a shoppers mobile phone. Theyre seeing a 20 per cent clickthrough rate and a 26 per cent average increase in spend by shoppers via web push. Any retailer interested in skipping overcrowded email inboxes with timely, targeted and relevant messages for shoppers should think about using web push notifications.

MM: What about location marketing?

PM: A leading UK fashion and homeware retailer is using location marketing to help increase and convert foot traffic in stores by delivering contextualized, location-enriched marketing to shoppers across email, social, search, and landing pages. A third of UK retailers have an app, but only 19 per cent have a transactional app and few have an app that can join together at home and in-store purchases to deliver a more powerful pool of data around which to develop smart content tailored to the shopper based on location.

For instance, they can deliver more relevant offers based on shopper location through banners shown at home or more targeted, store-specific offers when a customer is close to or inside the store either on the web or in the app. They can use the local floor plan to find items and activate vouchers.

MM: Should we be worried web push notifications and location-enabled messaging will annoy or frighten customers?

PM: You need to start with a “double opt-in” approach. So, for example, you might send a message, “We can send you notifications when our auction goes live.” Thats the first opt-in opportunity and customers can say yes or no.

Shoppers tend to like it because they need not download an app or give personal info. It’s crucial to over-communicate to consumers when you’re collecting data, what you’re collecting and how they’ll benefit, and give people a chance to say “no” if that’s not what they want.

MM: What do retailers tell you they want from their mobile commerce and engagement partner?

PM: Retailers want partners to manage complexity so they can leverage new channels to be a powerful leader in mobile retail. Its been so exciting to see UK retailers like Matalan jump ahead with a truly modern mobile shopper experience.

Like many retailers, they dont want to own the burden of developing and maintaining mobile tech, apps, mobile sites etc. across all devices. They need someone to integrate the pieces and own time-to-market, cost and implementation. The future of mobile marketing lies with the new campaigns technology can enable. The goal should be to put the power in the hands of retail marketers, not technologists.

This article first appeared in the February 2016 print edition of Mobile Marketing. You can read the whole issue here.