Mobile Commerce: Delivering Return on Investment

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This whitepaper discusses the technical evolution of mobile technology, how mobile can be used to leverage customers' cross-channel interactions and how retailers can monetise consumer engagement with mobile platforms and ultimately how return on investment may be measured.

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1 - Mobile technical evolution

Offering customers better service, no matter which channel they choose to use, is the key to success in the multichannel commerce environment.

M-commerce should provide customers with an effective shopping experience through the mobile device, by incorporating services, such as:

  • Mobile device optimised shopping experience
  • Store location and stock level information
  • Click & collect or reserve & collect
  • Supporting information, e.g. store facilities, promotions, etc.
  • Recognise that the customer may already be inside the store

Ultimately the effective use of mobile in-store is dependent on a willingness to move to a pure multichannel business model. In 2012 customers might not necessarily purchase using their phone but they are increasingly using their phone to make better choices while shopping.

The disruption of existing payment methods may be one trend to look carefully. We believe that the consumer will gradually start using mobile payments as an alternative to small-denomination cash.

These are the mobile payment options to consider when developing a mobile project:

  • Standard credit/debit card checkout
  • Paypal
  • Click -to-call
  • Charging in the mobile users bill
  • NFC

Submitting payment details through checkout on a mobile device should not mean typing credit card details into a form. Form filling must be kept to a minimum, so you need to plan for a mobile-friendly checkout when developing a mobile app or website.

Tips for mobile checkouts:

  • Simple registration process
  • Guest checkout
  • Provide a progress indicator so that users can easily see how many steps they need to take to complete the process
  • Be PCI DSS compliant
  • Anticipate user errors and provide clear messaging
  • Never ask for more information than necessary. Keep the process as simple as possible

Across the EUS (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and UK), network quality of mobile service provider is the most important factor influencing smartphone purchasing decisions [Source: comScore, January 2012]. Therefore, the network itself is probably one major area of technical improvement that we should expect in the next twelve months. 4G/L TE rollouts will bring broadband speed enabling smartphones to drive more commerce traffic to mobile and bringing with it more benefits in performance and reliability.

What are the essential elements of an effective mobile commerce solution?

Customers tend to carry their mobile phones with them at all times and so cross-channel calls to action, such as OR codes can be used to engage with customers within store environments or through display advertising. One key difference between the mobile and large screen commerce experiences is the richness of content that can be displayed. Screen size and also download times should be taken into account when designing user experience for mobile devices.

- Nigel Atkinson, Director at neoworks

The key elements of an effective mcommerce solution are, unsurprisingly, great search, supporting & inspirational content and easy checkout. The differences in best practice come from a re-imagining of the customer experience so less intrusive cross/ up sell (there's just less space on the screen) and streamlined checkout (the consumer has less time) are key.

- Paul Ramshaw - Product strategist at Hybris

Apple (smartphones and tablets combined) represents 30% of operating system market share in the EUS.

A solid, transactional base on as many key platforms as possible, a tablet-friendly website or app (the conversion rate on tablets is incredible), and joining up as many of your other channels (online, in-store, customer service, delivery, marketing, events) with mobile as possible.

- Alex Sbardella, Head of mobile at Red Ant/p>

A M-Commerce solution can only trump other channels through immediacy. The designer of such a solution must consider how they can deliver what will at any given moment be the most instantaneously useful piece of information or functional feature. Mobile devices offer a combination of software and hardware opportunities that is unique to the platform: geolocation, environmental sensors, QR code readers as well as API-driven apps and OS features. The enduring mobile solution is designed by someone who understands the appropriate ways of realising these opportunities.

- Matt Clark, Principal consultant at Amaze

Mobile storefronts need to be as accessible and as user friendly to the consumer as a traditional ecommerce storefront. The key essential element of an effective mobile commerce solution is consistency in products, payment types, delivery methods, etc. The consumer will expect the same type of experience. The key difference is the obvious one, the mobile phone is going to be smaller than the large screen. Ensuring your look and feel is consistent is key, but it's not always practical to do so; therefore work with experts that will help you with best practices.

- Kami Boyer, Director at ReD

Which technologies have the greatest impact on consumer behaviour and what can you do now to harness emerging payment technologies?

NFC promises to be a very convenient method of payment, moving mobile devices into the domain of payment cards. There are still some questions about security and consumer acceptance, but it will certainly be convenient and that is probably enough to make it successful. It is also interesting to see Square, which launched as a payment processor for small business, start to strike deals with larger merchants. For retailers the question is: Which payment options do you need to offer your customers to help them to purchase from you? This is a question of the merchandise and customer profile, as well as the cost of the payment technology.

- Nigel Atkinson, Director at neoworks

As with all these sorts of decisions, retailers need to make a call as to whether they want to be early adopters, or wait until there is a critical mass. And the critical mass level could be very different between different retailers, depending on their customer base.

- Mark Lewis, CTO at Practology

Mobile payments are a tricky area as we are living through a transitional period - we're at the tipping point between traditional wallets and a sci-fi future. It's extremely unlikely we'll be using physical wallets, with credit cards in 2112. Will we be using them fifty years from now in 2062? How about 1 0 years early in 2042? No one knows when we'll migrate fully but we know that point is coming; it's just a question of when

- Paul Ramshaw, Product strategist at hybris

Unfortunately I don't see mobile payments achieving mass market adoption much before 2014 (at the earliest) - until the standards are unified (and until we can be sure Apple won't create their own competing standard and further divide the market) it's too risky for retailers to really invest in it. I think in-store/online crossover and the possibilities consumer mobile hardware can bring to staff will drive sales in the short term. Things like EPOS and in-store IT haven't really moved on in 10 years whilst smartphones and tablet kiosks are racing away, and making multichannel retail much more accessible.

- Alex Sbardella, Head of mobile at Red Ant

Increasingly sophisticated and pervasive payment gateways will certainly have a huge impact on the public acceptance of M-Commerce solutions. Beyond that, organiser/aggregator services for those means of paying for your stuff will start to play a huge role. The imminent Passbook app in iOS 6 is the most high-profile example of this development. Apple have the heft to ensure that existing leaders in this trend, such as the Starbucks payment/loyalty app, will gravitate towards its singular gateway to the means of payment, loyalty and reward schemes and expense tracking

- Mark Clark, Principal consultant at Amaze

A few companies are doing really innovative things to help drive mobile payments, such as PayPal, however this is typically at the Point Of Sale in the physical world. The key thing for people to remember is that shopping in a browser on your mobile phone is the same as buying online; rather than using your device to pay. When using your mobile device to browse a website and make purchases, you will still have multiple payment options such as Visa, MC, AMEX, UCash, etc. Continue to allow the consumer to have as many options to pay as possible. Technology exists today to allow the mobile device to be a payment option for any channel, but it's still a minimum of 3 years before substantial traction is made and consumers can leave their cards and cash at home and just pay with their handset.

- Kami Boyer, Director at ReD

What is it going to be the most disruptive mobile technology development in the next 12 months?

Difficult question and one intrinsically linked to the one of hardware commoditisation. If we suggested that the smartphones we use today will evolve purely along Moore's law with incremental improvements in CPU cycles and camera pixel count then it's likely that mobile innovation will come from the services we consume through them. For the record, it's unlikely the phone hardware has become commoditised, the smartphone will evolve further but no significant hardware innovations are due to hit the market and capture a critical mass of users during the next twelve months.

- Paul Ramshaw, Product strategist at hybris

The growth of mobile-specific analysis and tracking solutions will help basic practitioners of m-commerce, whose solutions to date have focused purely on establishing a transactional presence, to evolve. Data, insight and really platform-specific tracking will give m-commerce operators the means to optimise their solutions effectively, to target and engage consumers with promotions, messaging and incentives and so deepen the ranks of the really effective m-commerce organisations.

- Mark Clark, Principal consultant at Amaze

Costumers using their phones to check prices or reviews of in-store products - particularly getting a feel for the product in store but buying it cheaper online. B&M retailers will have to accept and harness this behaviour or face becoming no more than expensive showrooms for Amazon. Smaller stores with more stock moved to centralised delivery and teaming up with a company like Shuttl to ensure the "instant gratification" may be one way of matching online prices whilst keeping customers happy. Plus, this model allows traditionally out-of-town or even pure-play eCom retailers to have a high street presence, too.

- Alex Sbardella,, Head of mobile at Red Ant

With any new payment type, comes risk and fraud. Fraudsters are constantly changing their strategies and mobile technology will be a hotbed for new types of fraud. Merchants need to be prepared with sophisticated and dynamic fraud prevention solutions and strategies. An effective fraud prevention solution should be capable of screening any payment type through any card-not-present channel and identifying the device on which the goods are being purchased such as mobile phone, iPad, etc.

- Kami Boyer, Director at ReD

4G networks are already rolling out elsewhere in the world, and they are likely to become available in the UK towards the end of 2013. 4G will see mobile download speeds begin to exceed fixed wire broadband connections and if the pricing is reasonable will probably be the final nail in the coffin of the fixed wire home connection.

- Nigel Atkinson, Director at neoworks

2 - Mobile cross-channel trends

The challenge with mobile commerce is in the diversity of devices, which brings with it the need to develop and test for an increasing number of different classes of device and within those for specific hardware and software combinations. It is crucial to understand what services and information are most important to your customer and to execute these very well across enough devices to service at least 90% of your visitors.

It is simplicity of the user experience that retailers should be aiming for in the m-commerce environment. It is not the purchasing journey that the customer should remember, it is the product and the brand. Marketing plays an important role when defining ways to encourage customers to interact with a brand using mobile. According to the Cross-Channel marketing report 2012, from E-consultancy in association with Responsys, where more than 650 companies and agencies answered a survey carried out in April and May 2012:

  • Companies are in the early stages of developing an integrated approach to marketing;
  • Lack of strategy, organisational structure and disparate technology platforms hold back companies from driving effective cross-channel campaigns;
  • Integrating display advertising with online channels positively impacts conversions;
  • Many companies are failing to integrate email with other channels;
  • Online advertising trends: it's early but smart TV will impact display;
  • Companies are undertaking only basic integration of mobile into wider campaigns.

There is plenty of room for improvement when it comes to integrating mobile in a cross-channel strategy. The offline channels and mobile are probably the most relevant cross-channel trend but a brand should consider advertising directly in the channel through: search marketing, push notifications, display advertising through banners, advertising on apps, location based targeting and video. Both retailers and the technology still have a long way to go in these areas.

According to comScore, there is a natural tendency for smartphone users to access social networking sites, which means that people want to interact with their friends through the device, and this is a clear opportunity for brands. In the EUS, more than 30% of smartphone subscribers access social networking sites or blogs every month.

Spend on internet advertising is greater than any other category of advertising, at 4.8bn in 2011, against 4.2bn for TV and 3.9bn for press. This graph shows mobile advertising in comparison to mobile internet and smartphone take-up [

Across Europe, the UK is the leading country for smartphone advertisement impressions.

Key considerations for retailers developing a mobile commerce strategy in 2013.

Do your homework and understand how your customers will interact with your website and what is the most used handset for the demographic customer. Work with an expert that will guide you through your options so you make informed decisions.

- Kami Boyer, Director at ReD

Don't build an app, build an HTML optimised site.

- Mark Lewis, CTO at Practology

Ensure your core, transactional journey for all mobile channels (apps, sites, tablets) is as joined up and smooth as possible (and indeed, exists!), before looking to create your differentiators. Aim to use platforms and technologies that have room to grow - open data standards, APis, multichannel commerce platforms, etc. - so in the future you'll have less legacy infrastructure holding you back.

- Alex Sbardella, Head of mobile at Red Ant

Understand your customer's needs and expectations from mobile. Mobile is moving out of beta and into the mainstream, it isn't good enough just to test on an iPhone and hope that it works for other devices and browsers any longer.

- Nigel Atkinson, Director at neoworks

The standard advice for all digital strategy and development: know the need, build only what you can prove is necessary, test and track everything. Be prepared to abandon things that don't work. Have a resource model that allows you to capitalise on things that do quickly and simply. Aim for iterative growth, not big bang impact. Base everything on standards and platforms with the necessary flexibility to evolve with you as your understanding of your performance in the mobile environment becomes ever more sophisticated.

- Matt Clark, Principal consultant at Amaze

The phone doesn't think it's a phone. And the user doesn't think of it as a phone.

- Paul Ramshaw, Product strategist at hybris

The best and/or worst mobile commerce experiences

Best, the first time I bought something via a mobile device. It was a book, on the Amazon app - it seemed so liberating. Worst, "M-Brand" apps that hang off otherwise perfectly worthwhile m-commerce presences. They are typified by one of two things: either some terrible Gamification cliche or hot new technology (a pale imitation of lnstagram, say) is jammed into the concept, or they push utterly banal content at the audience, entirely ignoring the motives of context and immediacy.

- Matt Clark, Principal consultant at Amaze

Apple is the master of consumer user experience, and the app store provides as efficient a mobile buying journey as any other that I have seen. I think that they could provide more search and navigation tools, but they have opted for simplicity.

- Nigel Atkinson, Director at neoworks

I recently saw a dress at John Lewis when walking by the store on my lunch break. I was able to buy the dress online via my mobile phone while I was walking back to the office and then choose the options 'Ship to Store'. I was able to pick-up the dress after work, paid for previously and was in and out of the shop in 5 minutes.

- Kami Boyer Director at ReD

Best (no surprise), two years ago, Amazon: Perfectly optimised mobile site with most of the desktop functionality. Worst, last, a year ago. Nonoptimised site, slow, buggy.

- Paul Ramshaw Product strategist at hybris

Ironically, I'm not sure I've ever had a truly great mobile commerce experience - there's always a limitation somewhere at the moment. I think Ocado continue to do well in mobile - they were one of the first into the platform and are reaping huge benefits in their turnover. Apple's App Store has the payment journey perfected, but needs to improve on search and discovery. The worst was probably a voucher app I used a while ago, who were offering 50% off food at a restaurant. In order to redeem the voucher, the app had to be connected to the internet - but I didn't have any signal in the restaurant. Assuming a permanent 3G connection is a mistake many developers make; this particular app might have fixed it by now, but I wouldn't know, since I deleted it straight after.

- Alex Sbardella, Head of mobile at Red Ant

3 - Return on investment

A truly multichannel strategy implies a seamless integration of all business areas within a given brand ecosystem. In a multichannel strategy your brand is present over several different touchpoints. When it comes to measuring multichannel efficiency, the most key KPI is the bottom line. If total sales are increasing even with some channels performing less effectively then one should focus on the overall positive outcome. If sales analysis is split by channel, one should note that although some channels may apparently be less sales effective, they may still be making a positive contribution to the bottom line since they are important to the customer journey.

Due to social networks like Facebook (and the Facebook connect functionality) it's now possible to track users across mobile apps, mobile sites and standard websites if, for instance, a social login is implemented.

Recommendations to measure ROI in a mobile commerce solution

Nigel Atkinson (Director at neoworks) says: "It is standard practice in a multichannel environment to track revenue by channel, and direct revenue from mobile-targeted channels can be measured in this way. It is more difficult to measure the value of cross-channel interactions, however there are ways to quantify mobile impact. Click & collect services can provide a good way to quantify some (but not all) instore revenue driven by mobile interactions. Analytics tracking information can be embedded in OR codes so that the source of traffic from mobile-targeted display advertising can be measured."

Paul Ramshaw (Product strategist at hybris) says: "I'm reminded of a two stories which illustrate this dynamic. Two companies, one large, one a medium sized business, both UK based, both operating in the leisure sector. The larger of the two, a market leader looked at their channels in isolation and realised that the high-street cost of sale, per order, was far higher than the web cost of sale and embarked on a programme of shop closures as their leases came up for renewal. The smaller of the two companies began opening shops in areas where they had no high-street presence. Why? Because this company looked at data from all channels and understood that while on-the-surface a new shop wasn't that profitable their web orders increased in that area. Simply put, conversion is not a single channel process. Once businesses reach multi-channel nirvana the next logical issue to address is one of understanding each step of the customer journey."

Alex Sbardella (Head of mobile at Red Ant) says: "I'm still surprised by how many mobile projects have very little consideration for analytics - every event your mobile customers do should be tracked (anonymously, of course) so that you can come back later and analyse it. The technology is a little behind (even Google's mobile analytics aren't great, and they own the largest mobile platform!) but it's better than nothing - and all the major sales tracking tools offer some way of getting the mobile data in to be analysed as part of the bigger mix. If you have brick and mortar stores, simple hooks like using geo-location to track when your app is opened in the vicinity of a store (and giving them a reason to do so, like mobile vouchers or check-in rewards) is another simple metric of seeing how your customers are crossing over, and how mobile might be driving footfall."


Mobile is not going away, so retailers need to adapt to changing consumer behaviour, or face losing business. The growth of e-commerce along with the smartphone penetration is indisputable but as well as using the Internet can help to attract customers to the high street, businesses can also provide a better shopping experience for customers through technology

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