American Marketer


Why retailers should buckle up for mobile commerce

January 18, 2012


By Mike Grimes

In case you did not get the memo yet, it is time to put down the scissors and pick up your smartphones.

The days of clipping coupons, paying through a traditional checkout lane and even handwriting shopping lists are coming to a close.

With growing smartphone adoption, shoppers are charging ahead with increasingly high expectations that are centered on their mobile devices.

To keep customers engaged, grocers and other retailers need to provide customers with value, convenience and innovation – or risk losing them entirely. This sounds like old news, but the truth is, many retailers might think they are in the passing lane when they are really still stuck on the on-ramp.

Mobile super highway

Smartphone growth rates have had a heavy effect on retailers.

According to comScore/Mobilens, as of July 2011, nearly 82.2 million people nationwide own a smartphone, up 10 percent from the previous three months.

The North American Technographics Retail Survey conducted by Forrester Research in the third quarter of 2010 revealed that in the six preceding months mobile commerce purchases grew 25 percent faster than any other channel.

In a marketplace flooded with mobile applications and endless offers, retailers are eager to jump on the mobile bandwagon and deliver mobile commerce solutions that provide true and fundamental value to the shopper.

Consumers are rarely without their mobile devices, opening new market opportunities for time- and location-specific services.

For retailers, that means shoppers must be engaged wherever they are – both in the store and out of the store.

With smartphones nearly always on, the mobile platform is a channel like no other – if done correctly, the possibilities for customer engagement and brand building are virtually without limits.

Retailers are still learning, however, that mobile technology should augment the traditional shopping experience – not replace it.

Mobile’s strength in retail is that it can be complementary – it is more personal, location-aware and delivers a wealth of on-the-spot information.


In June 2011, Forrester Research reported that 43 percent of retailers had not yet defined their mobile commerce strategy.

By answering a few preliminary questions, retailers can save themselves from making a mistake that could easily alienate shoppers downloading apps with high expectations.

• What do shoppers want? And what are they using today?

• What will drive loyalty?

• Which tools will deliver the most effective results and best shopping experience?

• What is their cost and implementation?

• What capabilities are required to support this strategy?

Consumer behavior researcher Ryan Partnership offers interesting guidance through its recent study of more than 5,000 retail shoppers and their expectations of mobile apps.

The study found two key factors: when considering mobile apps it is back to basics and how to save shoppers time and money.

Getting to the destination

The results of a recent Forrester mobile commerce report found that 38 percent of retailers surveyed believe they do not have the right skills and expertise to approach mobile. Choosing the right partner to pair with your strategy is critical to capitalize on the window of opportunity that is now open.

In considering strategic partners, seek out a partner with:

• Direct experience and a track record of successfully bringing innovation to an industry slow to change

• Ability to integrate with existing systems, processes and people

• A commitment to continuous innovation

Driving the future

Mobile commerce allows retailers to build loyalty by providing a superior experience with their brand.

For the retailer, that means delivering a single solution that:

• Enhances the shopper experience from the moment that customer enters the store through checkout

• Learns shopper preferences over time, delivering targeted offers aisle-by-aisle

• Anticipates a customer’s needs and wants, for example, giving them new ideas for meals and recipes based on learned preferences, thereby encouraging the purchase of new products and increasing incremental sales

To keep up with consumers and their on-the-spot, on-the-go shopping, it is critical for retailers to invest their future in mobile commerce.

As mobile commerce continues to rise, so does the importance of the in-store shopping experience.

Along with convenience, personalization and savings, retailers need to start planning for what is next: the push for sustaining customer loyalty and mobile payment solutions.

The right mobile commerce strategy begins with fundamental utility: saving your shopper time and money.

Mike Grimes is CEO of Modiv Media, Quincy, MA. Reach him at