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Retail to e-Tail…. Should marketers be rethinking their mCommerce strategies?

Mobile technology more than anything has evolved to benefit us, making our life more convenient, providing consumers with choice and increasing productivity at work.

When thinking about breakthrough mobile technologies, mobile phones and their many capabilities are often top of mind. Because of cutting-edge developer software, enhanced browser capabilities and other mobile technologies, mobile commerce has evolved into a larger than life concept, similar to that of e-banking only a few short years ago.

When given a broader span of choices, consumers become more active and in charge – an experience every retailer is trying to tap into. Advancements in mCommerce empower consumers and give them the freedom to make buying decisions without being confined to a departmental store.

New technologies such as QR codes, NFC and social banking are taking mCommerce to another level. These tools are now capable of streamlining numerous aspects of consumers’ everyday lives and are giving retailers the opportunity to make the buying experience as personal and easy as possible. The common element, however still remains the consumer.

To put the significance of mobile commerce into perspective, online giant Ebay recorded that consumers purchased $5 billion worth of merchandise through mobile alone in 2011.

According to a Computerworld article, 60 per cent of brands have already implemented some type of mobile initiative. Enforcing this is the fact that Australia is ranked among the top 5 mobile markets for smartphones, with the latest ones being released with NFC. In Southeast Asia, research company GfK reports that Singapore and Malaysia are markets with deepest smartphone penetration, reaching a high of 88 per cent, translating to almost nine out of every 10 in the general population being a smartphone user. Of all the countries in the region, Indonesia is touted as showing the most growth potential. While it may be in the shade of markets like China, Japan and Korea, Southeast Asia accounts for one tenth of the world’s population, with Indonesia’s population alone some 240 million.

Widespread adoption of mobile platforms is what’s changing the consumers’ approach to commerce. Subsequently, the distinction between shopping on a handheld device and in a physical store is disappearing. Instead, the two channels are converging and individual purchases are becoming simpler than ever before.

This is not a passing fad either – mCommerce looks to continue its exponential growth for years to come. Estimates from Forrester Research stated that 53 per cent of mobile customers increased their mobile spending budgets in 2011. Based on sales and projections the world over, many analysts and other industry professionals agree that mCommerce is here to stay and will continue to thrive.

For retailers to capaitalise on the ongoing mCommerce boom, they need to stop relying only on in-store sales and take point-of-sale activity to mobile handheld devices. One recent example of a retail giant already making waves with this paradigm shift in mCommerce is Australian supermarket, Woolworths – or “Woolies”, as the locals call it.

What may appear to be a big gamble in the retail space is being thoroughly tested with a heavy analytic-based retail experience by Woolies. Moving outside the four walls of its physical stores, Woolies like many other retail giants have already introduced the next buzzword…e-tail! Woolies set up billboards across major junctions in the city that contain images and barcodes of products for mobile phone scanning. The Woolies mobile app allows customers walking by the billboards to browse, scan, order and pay for products via their mobile device and have them delivered to a chosen destination. Driven by analytical insight from consumer purchase behaviors, location-based data and contextual history, one can only imagine where this calculated risk will take Woolies in the retail and e-tail space.

Viewing mobile commerce only as a tool for payments is a common mistake that retailers and marketers can make. Combined with analytics, real-time management and supported by NFC and other mobile technologies, mCommerce is capable of unleashing a much more significant power. But does this mean that with such an integrated and seamless e-tail experience, there will be no more room for window shopping and mannequins? Only time will tell…

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