The need to engage with prospective customers through multiple channels is not a new concept for marketers and, by adopting an omni-channel approach, marketers hope to gain enough individual customer insight in order to appeal to the customer and positively influence a purchasing decision, according to Katharine Hulls, vice president of marketing for Celebrus Technologies.
As this process migrates to the web and online consumption becomes increasingly more sophisticated; insight available into consumer browsing behaviour and trends is being accessed through a perpetually growing, complex array of channels. As a result, marketers must adapt their engagement approach to ensure that prospective customers remain informed and targeted with relevant content across whichever channels they are engaging.
According to figures from the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) and Capgemini, not only did UK m-commerce sales show growth rising 136% in June 2013 compared to a year before and up 8% from May, but conversion rates via mobile devices increased from 1.27% to 2.03% between June 2012 and June 2013, and spending via tablets now approaches that of desktops. In developing a mobile commerce strategy to tap into this growing market retailers must engage consumers who demand a good customer experience whilst mobile browsing, under-taking price comparisons and purchasing.
Yet it appears that much of this spike in sales is being achieved despite - rather than as a result of - the quality of mobile retail experience. Our recent research reveals that only 31.7% of the top 120 UK Retailers by web sales revenue have mobile apps available for customers to download onto their device - while only 61.3% of those without a dedicated app have successfully optimised their home page, let alone the rest of their site or their purchasing process, for mobile visitors. The impact of mobile as a purchasing channel, despite the only partial adoption from major retailers, highlights its potential value as a customer engagement channel.
Social media presents another key, innovative channel within which retailers are beginning to flock to in order to engage with customers. On social platforms, consumers are presented with the opportunity to engage with brands on a more personal level as well as accessing a community of other customers and prospective buyers. Our recent study revealed a company average of 367,839 Facebook likes, 43,171 Twitter followers as well as 165 YouTube videos. Amidst this social shift however, there is potential for retailers to jump a little too far on to the bandwagon, resulting in too heavy a focus on social metrics and a disregard for other key engagement channels.
It is undeniable that if utilised effectively, social media can strengthen any ecommerce campaign, and indeed a social presence has become a necessity to remain competitive within the space. However, in adapting a social strategy e-commerce retailers appear to be overlooking the additional, equally crucial benefits of more traditional engagement channels, such as welcome emails. Our research has revealed that, while the vast majority (86.7%) of retailers have a sign up email newsletter option, only 57.5% sent out a welcome email to customers when they sign up. That percentage dropped to just 48.9% for web only retailers for whom this is a superb opportunity to deepen engagement with new customers at a key stage in their lifecycle.
For optimal customer engagement, retailers should understand the value of each channel within which consumers can interact with their brand and product offering. Combining a user friendly mobile commerce platform with automated email engagements and an active social strategy is an example of how retailers can attempt to keep pace with the growing complexity of information sources available to consumers, whilst not undervaluing traditional engagement methods proven to be effective. This retail strategy should be viewed as dynamic and responsive, ultimately driven by consumers and the technology facilitating the process of making informed purchasing decisions.