1) Customer service
Studies by organisation such as Accenture have highlighted that businesses within Australia primarily view mobility as a take to market or revenue driven initiative. Alternately in countries such as the US and UK there is the additional focus on where customer service is enhanced by the mobile experience. For example in Australia the airlines have bridged the gap by providing boarding via mobile. Getting one step closer by automating a process, appearing modern, driving an environmental message and increasing customer loyalty with limited technical impact. Taking this a step further within shopping centres in the USA, centre management help drive business profitability (and customer service) by mapping customer traffic flow to provide customers and retailers with enhanced sales opportunities. They might attempt to decrease overpopulated areas and increase less popular ones by direct mobile notifications with incentives which drive the customers on where and how to respond. I have a brother that works for Disney and he claims that they have already launched an application for visitors of their theme parks which assists in moving the heavier crowds around the park to provide a ‘more efficient and beneficial’ experience.
2) Digital payments
There is now plenty of buzz around digital payments specifically in relation to NFC or Near Field Communications. Often referred to as the ‘Mobile Wallet’ the theory is that customers can tap their phones on a receiving device at the sales counter or mobile POS to conclude their payment. Saving time, minimising overheads and providing convenience have been the attributes used to describe mobile payments. To explain this further, in a retail environment there is typically a transmitter (NFC chip) in the phone and a receiver (Contactless Payment Device) at the point of payment or POS. It should be noted that there are alternate methods such as PayPal which bypass the physical device. Also that there is still much happening to get the contactless payment infrastructure in place. This is slowly becoming a reality with vendors quoting 25% rollout of payment receivers with a projected twofold increase this year. This is driven by a number of factors but the most compelling one being that certain Merchant Category Codes (MCC) have been mandated by the banks to have contactless readers in place by 2014. The takeaway from this is that contactless payments are on the rise and that it is important to be aware of the evolution in the mobile platforms as it should have an impact. Also customers tend to adopt technology if it’s simple, trendy and doesn’t cost much and this is potentially one of those platforms. You can read more on the future of NFC in a separate blog here.
3) Mobile platforms
At some stage a digital strategy will turn into a technical discussion, but it’s important to not let that divert from the basics such as look, feel and user experience. Whether or not to look at HTML 5, native IOS(Apple)/Android/Windows or even hybrid, it can be a complicated minefield. The main goal should always be “Does the customer experience reflect a simplistic, solid workflow?” If it doesn’t than users may not adopt the application or find it limited. For example many will say that Apple has opened the smartphone mobility door by providing a simplistic platform for all level of user. Not so long ago iPhone sales were so high that they were the major player and it looked as if everyone would eventually have one. I would tend to agree on the user interface but would also comment that the landscape has started to change, including Android sales now eclipsing Apple. Also users are no longer impressed by the basics and are now looking for enhanced, yet still simple workflows. For example Android are masters at providing sub menus with additional functions and alternate workflow. Additionally as users are purchasing more than one platform, for example an iPad and Windows phone which integrates with their business, so they become less interested in closed systems. This is in no way a negative IOS(Apple) comment, but as a retailer I would want to provide users with the most enhanced experience, while being conscious that I don’t want to support too many operating systems. As an alternative there are applications such as Phone Gap (used by companies such as the BBC) that wrapper up code to provide cross platform management. With the evolution of mobility there appears to be no perfect platform but the one that attracts your clientele.
Thank you for your time. Please share your experiences and thoughts on mobility. There appears to be more discussion to come that will impact retailers in the future.