By Alex Campbell
Co-founder and chief innovation officer of Vibes
For many consumers, their mobile phones are their primary source for information. According to Mary Meeker’s latest Internet Trends report, they reach for their phones on average 150 times per day.
This statistic presents enormous opportunities for retailers to harness the unique power (and influence) of mobile. As retailers continue incorporating mobile as an effective channel to connect with their loyal customers, marketers must understand these five emerging mobile-commerce trends:
NFC won’t live up to the hype — Near Field Communication (NFC) will finally prove to be overhyped, even among the holdouts. It’s taking too long to get NFC integrated into handsets and too long to get retailers to accept the technology. NFC will be overtaken by payment systems that use location-based technology such as Square and possibly Apple’s Passbook. These secure-payment methods use proximity to know when a consumer is in the store and allow for almost-frictionless check out. This provides a better customer experience at checkout and is the future of mobile payments.
Mobile wallet evolution — The focus will be on the mobile wallet objects — mobile coupons, loyalty cards, boarding passes, event tickets, etc. — and user experience. Passbook has proven to be an effective channel for marketers to connect with their consumers. Google’s announcement of Google Wallet Objects shows a focus on the user experience rather than the backend technology. Passbook will continue to evolve by adding new features that allow users to share offers more easily with friends.
Loyalty card resurgence — Marketers can now deliver mobile loyalty cards, related rewards/points statuses and rewards certificates directly to customers’ phones. This drives average visits per customer and extends the overall life span of the customer relationship. Customers expect loyalty programs to be mobile friendly, allowing them to earn and save points to their smartphone in real time. To date, most mobile wallet usage has been focused on offers and boarding passes. Marketers will realize how effective the mobile wallet can be when it comes to loyalty.
In-store personalization — Apps will become personalized and more helpful in-store and will adapt based on a customer’s location. For example, if a consumer has a retailer’s app, the app experience will change once he or she enters a store. The app transforms into an in-store locator with a map of the store, alerting customers where items are located. The app can also suggest products based on customer preferences, provide mobile coupons, and information about location-specific sales and events.
Retailers will embrace the connected shopper — Retailers that have feared showrooming and a loss of control with connected shoppers will reverse course and start engaging them directly through their mobile phones. Mobile customers are recognized as one of the most loyal consumer groups, and therefore, need to be treated differently. Instead of sending connected shoppers the same incentive through multiple channels — email, Web, SMS, etc. — mobile customers will receive specialized offers based not only on their preferences, but on factors such as time of day or specific locations. Because mobile is such an effective channel, expect to see more time- and location-based offers sent via mobile alerts.
Mobile commerce will continue to advance throughout 2013. To be effective, marketers must guide customers through the purchasing process with seamless cross-channel and mobile-optimized experiences that are personal, engaging and effective.
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Alex Campbell is co-founder and chief innovation officer of Vibes, a Chicago-based mobile marketing technology company.