Retail conversion rates on mobile rise says UK survey

live engagementAnyone seeking evidence that mobile users are no longer simply browsing and researching on their smartphones but also pulling the trigger on purchases need look no further than a new UK survey by CapGemini and the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG).

According to the study, mobile conversion rates rose to 2.03% in June 2013 from 1.27% a year earlier and while the figures are focused on the UK, I’d be very surprised to learn if the trend wasn’t reflected just about anywhere in the world where smartphones are ubiquitous and tablet sales on the rise.

As mobile phone screens have improved in quality and (in many cases) grown in size, they have come to play an ever more important role in the customer journey and they offer huge opportunities but also challenges to marketers.

Let’s take a couple of examples. Once upon a time internet and offline shopping were not only distinct, they were separate. Yes a customer might do a huge amount of research online but once out in the high street or shopping mall he or she was firmly in the world of the physical store where goods could be experienced first-hand but not easily compared to those offered by rival retailers. Now the smartphone goes everywhere and if a customer sees a bargain sitting in a shopfront window, the smartphone will quickly reveal if an even better deal can be had elsewhere.

The opportunity – any internet retailer can reel in a customer, even when they are in a rival’s store.

The challenge. Viewed from the other end of the telescope. As a retailer you do all the hard work associated with displaying the products to their best advantage but the sale might go to someone else.

And later, as your customer settles down to watch TV, the smartphone or tablet are there too. That’s potentially great news if you’re an advertiser as you can encourage the customer to look at products online. On the other hand, the customer may simply ignore the TV ads entirely in favour of posting on a social network or sending an e-mail. Again, opportunities and challenges.

And a rising conversion rate ups the ante yet again. Let’s go back to that customer who is out in a physical store running a price comparison on a new TV. As mobile conversion rates rise, so does the likelihood that the customer will buy online, there and then, using their smartphone. A sale lost for the bricks and mortar retailer. Another win for the online seller with a smartphone optimised site.

There will always be winners and losers but if you step back from these very specific scenarios, the real lesson to be drawn is that all merchants – online, offline and omni channel – must take the mobile channel seriously.

At one level that means accepting the necessity of ensuring sites are properly optimised for mobile and perhaps also providing apps to make the mobile experience easier. Equally important is to realise that mobile devices have to enable merchants of all kinds to establish deeper and mutually beneficial relationships with their customers.

One way to achieve this is to use mobile chat – delivered through the web or an app – to offer additional service, advice and help to potential customers.

And with rising conversion rates indicating an increasing willingness to complete transactions on mobile devices, merchants who provide information and help via smartphones and tablets can expect their efforts to be rewarded with by an improved sales performance.

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