By Alison Sainsbury, Director, Value Engineering & Business Optimisation, APJ at Sitecore
The pandemic has rapidly changed the way consumers interact with brands, with digital platforms becoming the sole way for browsing and purchasing goods and services in almost all sectors. This has resulted in a tremendous rise in the use of mobile, leading it to become a key platform for marketing, selling and communicating with customers.
In fact, mobile ecommerce sales are expected to account for over half (54%) of all ecommerce sales by early 2021 – more than on any other platform – while the number of customers engaging with brands on mobile for the first time has increased by 62%.
It’s worth noting that customer’s shift to digital engagement has not been restricted to the brands they already knew and used. 75% of consumers have tried a new shopping behaviour in 2020, and most intend to continue this after the pandemic ends. These consumers will not stay with a brand whose experience is poor; digital-only engagement and time pressures lead to digital fatigue, which makes it imperative that organisations across all industries deliver the experience that will differentiate them from their competitors and build trust.
With some brands quickly pivoting to sell directly to customers through apps, optimising their mobile sites to be easy and convenient to use and making greater use of QR codes, customer expectations about the quality of mobile experiences have increased. To be successful and attract and retain customers, brands need to keep up and ensure their mobile offerings are cutting-edge. In this article, I explore three ways brands can do this.
Make use of apps and social channels
When browsing on mobile, a purchase journey often starts outside of a brand’s own website or app. Many shoppers are served an ad, see an influencer or engage with a brand on a social channel like Instagram, and are then directed to a website or app to purchase it. This process needs to be frictionless, and just a few clicks away, in order to offer the speed and convenience that customers now expect.
Consumers also value reviews and endorsements from peers, friends and influencers very highly – 81% trust their friends and family’s advice over advice from a business. User-generated content, which is often shared on social media platforms, has become more effective than content created by brands in many cases, as it is perceived as being more authentic.
At a time when consumers aren’t able to see and experience a product in person before purchasing, the next best thing is to get a recommendation from a friend or an influencer online – someone you trust. For marketers, this means that encouraging customers to use a brand hashtag and share their feedback on social media, or incentivising them to share a text or email to friends recommending a product at the click of a button – can be an effective way to attract new customers.
To make the most of this valuable user generated content, brands should also look at ways they can incorporate these reviews into their site; either through social integrations which show feeds, or by encouraging and incentivising customers to leave reviews on the site itself.
Optimise experiences for mobile
For mobile to be effective, brands must invest in optimising their websites for mobile. For example, it’s important to ensure mobile checkouts are simple and easy to use, and that all of the benefits that would be available on a desktop or in-person are available. This includes things like access to loyalty schemes or member discounts, customer support, multiple ways to pay and the ability to compare different products or services.
Investing in an app with all of these features can help to deliver quality customer experiences that aren’t offered through a search engine. For those who are more advanced in their mobile offering, features like augmented reality or AI can help to engage and impress customers. For example, Sitecore customer L’Oréal has used AI to meet consumers’ diverse needs. Shoppers can upload their own picture to L’Oréal’s websites through their mobile, and in just a few minutes they receive their personalised skincare matrix. Consumers learn about how to look after their skin and are presented with a product routine specifically tailored to meet their needs.
Prior to the pandemic, parts of the purchase journey were often carried out in person – like browsing in-store before buying online, or speaking to a shop assistant about a purchase – but this whole journey is now taking place online. As a result, mobile must be seen as a platform in its own right, not a pared-down version of the website with limited services.
Embrace the QR-code boom
Since the beginning of the pandemic, QR codes have grown in popularity by allowing customers to safely view menus, order food and drinks or register their contact details with a venue through their mobile phones. There are huge possibilities beyond this for how our mobile phones can be used to connect offline and online experience. For example, Instagram recently launched a QR code option, allowing people to open a profile from any third-party camera app. This means mobile users can scan a business’s QR code, and instantly view their Instagram page or follow the account.
Essentially, any billboard, letter or packaging could have a QR code added for customers to scan and receive additional product information or make it easier to register for a service. This is a seamless way to move an in-person experience online, and for further purchases or engagements with a brand to take place through mobile. If an energy company posts paper bills to customers, they could add a QR code to the letter to direct people to easily pay online instead. Physical products can also have QR codes with them to allow customers to register the product, sign up for product information and extras.
For example, if you bought a new smart barbeque, a QR code could direct you to recipes or you could connect it to a mobile app where you can receive notifications on when it’s time to ‘flip-and-serve’ the meat. Through these codes, everything becomes well-connected and very simple for customers. A brand could even include a QR code on their desktop site, which the customer can then scan with their mobile to download the associated app.
However, it’s important to remember that whilst mobile is the technology of choice for the majority, not everyone has a smartphone, so it shouldn’t become the only way for consumers to reach a brand online. In fact, over the past year we have seen many changes as to how brands are able to interact with customers, and what customers have come to expect, as a result of the pandemic. Mobile marketing has become more important than ever, but to make sure its successful marketers need to overcome certain challenges.
If they prioritise and invest in the technology to power in-app purchasing that offer a frictionless experience, ensure websites are optimised for mobile as well as desktop, and take advantage of the boom that QR codes have seen this year, they will be well placed to impress and retain customers that shop mobile-first by default.