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As consumer confidence in mobile grows, so does mobile-originating traffic to retail Web sites. In fact, according to a June 2014 comScore report, fully 60 percent of digital media time spent online by consumers is originating from smartphones and tablets, a figure that has increased 50 percent over 2013.

In February of this year, an inMobi study showed that only 11 percent of consumers report accessing the Web mostly from a computer. A recent index of 350-plus retailers saw a same-store year-over-year increase in mobile commerce revenue of 102 percent.

Any online retailer that does not yet have a mobile commerce site is now way behind the curve and is potentially losing money every day.

Mobile commerce is hotter than a five-dollar pistol and offers some tremendous opportunities for retailers who are ready to take advantage. But pitfalls also exist.

Here are five things that online retailers should not do this holiday season if they want to take maximum advantage of the mobile revolution that is transforming the retail landscape.

1. Do not treat mobile as a shrunken version of your main site
While it might be fine for a tablet, serving a resized version of your main site to your smartphone traffic can kill conversion rates and disappoint your customers.

Responsive design has been pitched as a way to display your main site on any screen, but cramming large images and content into the mobile context slows page-load speeds to a crawl, hurts conversions and causes bounce rates to surge.

Responsive design might work fine for content sites, but retailers should not expect a shrink-to-fit approach to satisfy an increasingly savvy mobile consumer base.

Internet Retailer reported in June that, among 12 top-tier responsive mobile sites, the average page-load time was more than 18 seconds.

From the article, “A one-second delay in Web site page load time translates into a 7 percent loss in conversions, according to research firm Aberdeen Group Inc. So if an e-retailer makes $100,000 a day from its mobile site, a one-second page delay could mean around $2.5 million in lost sales every year. If that’s the case, what does an 18-second page load time mean?”

Adopting a mobile-first methodology means you end up dumbing down your ecommerce site to ensure that pages display fast and well. Throwing out the ecommerce baby with the mobile bathwater is not the answer.

Smart retailers see mobile as just what it is: a separate channel with separate use case scenarios that should be treated as such.

Unshackling your mobile site from your ecommerce site pays off with big dividends, in direct proportion to the size of your mobile audience.

2. Do not over-deliver to your mobile homepage
Why would you deliver all your traffic to the same page universally when that traffic might very well be originating from a link that is very product-specific?

Deep-linking is a must these days, and allows smart retailers to sharpen the path to purchase and reduce friction.

While deep-linking a tweet, Facebook post or even a scanned physical QR code to a product detail page and tracking everything is a great first step, mobile landing pages are an even better approach.

Large brands are using branded, custom-designed mobile landing pages to immerse consumes who are pre-qualified to be interested in a certain item. These pages feature omnipresent “Buy Now” buttons to capture the intent to buy without making the consumer scroll and click all over to purchase the item.

If well designed with an easy path to purchase, mobile landing pages can deliver conversion rates many times the rates associated with normal mobile site traffic, since they deliver the consumer to the sweet spot of the mobile commerce site.

3. Do not set it and forget it
Simply having a mobile commerce site is not good enough. It is the bare minimum ante. Retailers should always be iterating and tweaking and even fully re-designing mobile commerce sites on a periodic basis to take maximum advantage of this new sales medium.

Again, mobile is not the same as ecommerce and different things work for different reasons.

Evaluating analytics to identify a mobile commerce site’s top five friction points and fixing them is a great first step.

Often a pop-up email modal or some other gimmick that works well on the ecommerce site will cause mobile consumers to instantly abandon the site. This is another reason why responsive sites tend to under-perform.
Mobile is different and it should not be assumed that what works on your main site works on mobile.

Test, iterate, re-test and refine the mobile experience to ensure you are always increasing your conversion rate and decreasing your bounce rate.

Do not be afraid to embark on a site redesign.

4. Do not ignore mobile wallets
While most press these days is around in-store mobile payments (think Apple Pay), remember that mobile wallets can also serve as friction-reducing tools for mobile commerce sites, allowing a customer’s address and payment information to be auto-filled in.

The checkout process can be a bit tedious on a smartphone, and tools such as Google Wallet and PayPal Mobile Express Checkout allow a customer to pour in their payment information and ship-to address in a single click. The upside of adding this feature can be very significant.

Rockport was the first online retailer to use Google Wallet for its mobile site and has since reported that nine out of 10 consumers who start the checkout process with Google Wallet continue through the process and checkout. When you compare this to an industry average for converted purchases, the upside is beyond obvious.

In 2013, a study by Jumio reported that $15.9 billion in mobile commerce sales were left on the table for that year due to a 97 percent average cart abandonment rate for mobile.

Sure, things are busy and it takes time to add any new feature, but something that can significantly boost your conversion rate usually comes with a rapid ROI and is well-worth doing.

5. Do not forget your physical stores
Smartphones are in people’s hands and are always on. Too often, the commerce team that handles the mobile site and the marketing teams that handle the in-store experience and display are siloed off from one another. These teams should be meeting, talking and finding ways to use in-store mobile engagement to further both their missions.

Consumers in a store are highly pre-qualified to be interested in your products. Mobile engagement can mean the difference between knowing nothing about your store visitors and adding them to your customer logs.

QR codes, NFC and SMS can all be used to deliver a link to an interested consumer that can trigger the launch of a page custom-designed to receive this traffic.

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This article was the lead story in Mobile Commerce Daily on October 24, 2014. Wilson Kerr is vice president of business development and sales at Unbound Commerce, Boston. Reach him at wilson@unboundcommerce.com.

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Google’s Location Based Advertising Storm

Google’s recent moves in Location Based Services (LBS) advertising are like dark clouds on the horizon, all moving toward each other, while they suck in energy and gain speed. The collective LBS world is becoming jittery, and for good reason. Google is redefining location based advertising and is setting the stage for a takeover of traditional advertising, using free location-based consumer functionality as effective and unobtrusive cover.

On October 12, 2009, well in-advance of predictions on this subject, Google ditched map provider Tele Atlas and rolled their own proprietary base map as fuel for the massive Google Maps engine. On October 28, they dropped the “free navigation bombshell” by announcing that the Android platform (running on approx 35 mobile phones, including the much-touted Droid) will feature no charge turn-by-turn.

Ads In Disguise

While the “Free Nav” story captured headlines and the stand alone navigation world is still reeling, few seemed to notice that Google added clickable, tracked POIs (Points Of Interest) on their newly copyrighted maps. With no search needed, business listings populate the map, based solely on one’s propensity to be in physical proximity to these listings. A consumer can redeem Google Coupons fed into Google by the merchants and make a (web) purchase through Google Checkout. The listings are packed with tracked functionality such as photos, reviews, click to call, website links, brands carried, average prices, etc. Google collects all the information from the actual business owners, through the Google Local Business Center (video link).

These on-the-map business locations are ads in disguise. They function like ads but look and function like free increased functionality. Google is proving, as it did with their turbo charged cash printing behemoths Adwords and AdSense, that location-based advertising carefully masked as contextually/location relevant functionality that improves the mobile user experience will be not only used by millions, but welcomed.

Recently, Ulocate Communications (the people behind the Where platform) dropped banner ads for their Where app via their new Spotlight program. Their users rejoiced! What they really did was change the format of the ad to look like a business location and the effectiveness of these “non-ads” soared by 3X!

“(Our strategy is to) provide a successful monetization tool that doesn’t compromise the user experience, but rather serves to enhance it,” said Lacy Garcia, director of marketing and communications at uLocate, Boston. “We have received positive feedback from users thanking us for removing ads, when in actuality we have not removed them but rather replaced them with Spotlight.”

The Secret Sauce

While brand agencies of record try to catch up, scramble to build mobile sites, or dive headlong into branded apps, a powerful, easy way to compete with Google is for LBS companies to provide platforms that allow national brands to leverage their secret sauce. Only the brand owns the right to use their mark and only the brand really knows where its locations are. Stores open and close and phone book databases for sale can be months or years out of date. While Google is smartly tackling the hardest part first (local businesses), there is an opportunity for platforms to target national brands with simple, tracked, branded POI programs.

Navigation device  manufacturers have been selling powerful drivers of incremental store visits, without taking advantage. Connected PNDs should all be, at least, tracking POI search display and counting the consumers directed to these business locations. Every off or on-board navigation application should be doing the same. Even if they are not used to hit up brands for ad money, these metrics are powerful proof to the power of infusing maps with Alternate Value-Add and these metrics will be important when new programs are rolled out to brands that do not want to park their entire LBS marketing budget in one Google parking place.

Metrics Now For Money Later

Google is collecting metrics regarding the effectiveness of these branded locations, for the future. Google controls what businesses are displayed, and to whom. Imagine the value proposition of a program with a proven track record of driving real consumers into real businesses, versus to their websites? Imagine the impact of removing a business from a Google LBS advertising program, once it is established and Google can prove the impact of ending participation?

While Google has populated the map with generic icons for now and is not charging the business owners for being on the map (literally), it will not be long before we will see their Ad Extensions program kick in, allowing advertisers to upload entire store location lists, with brand icons, and link them into tracked performance-based campaigns.  These icons-as-ads will infuse powerful cooperative name brand recognition into Google Maps and will be a potent new weapon in the Google ad arsenal.

Like a bullet shot in the vacuum of space, most navigation devices and platforms are fired once (at the point of sale) and then speed off forever, loaded with untracked POI searches and untold millions in incremental revenue generation, with very little of it currently tracked or measured. These platforms can and should take advantage of their user base and the fact that millions of business locations are being delivered today. Smart agencies will seek out these opportunities to partner with the platforms now, so their brands can learn and actively participate in shaping how the programs evolve and the agencies can offer their clients more than just an integrated Google campaign, going forward.

A Google Future Based On Percentage Of Incremental Sales

The real end-game could be for Google to collect a percentage of actual, tracked sales via Google Checkout in real stores. Forget pay per click or run rates on text ads (or Google/AdMob’s banner ads) that drive traffic to websites, the Google “non-ad” model fueled by the “secret sauce” of brand plus location could-well lead them to a future where the business only pays for incremental actual converted sales. It’s not a stretch to imagine Google actually giving their much-anticipated Google phones away for free, with subsidized carrier plans, to enable the armies of millions to go about their daily lives while their phones get smarter and deliver opt-in services and offers and what they want when they want it. If they can make more off the phone in advertising based on a percentage revshare of actual proven incremental sales than the device sale or the Carrier use fees, why not lower the barrier to entry completely? I doubt the Carriers care if Google or the consumer pays them. Then there is the 700 MHz spectrum Google won at auction…

A Google Future That Is Already Here: Google Favorite Places

A missing link in the “tracked incremental sales based on location” future is already here. It was announced yesterday Dec 6 and it’s called Google Favorite Places. It is hard to overstate the potential power of this new Google program and I hope the LBS world sees the potential impact it has. While I thought sneaking in branded POIs on their new maps was big, this is far-bigger.

As I type this, Google QR (Quick Response) code store front stickers are being shipped to nearly 200,000 Google Local Businesses. These are those funny rectangular 2D barcodes you see on packaging and they will allow a consumer to stop in front of a business, scan the barcode with a smart phone and access time-sensitive specials, brands sold, coupons, reviews, photos, etc. Imagine the power of knowing that a specific consumer was standing in front of your store and when and if they came in and took advantage of the information on the Google listing in the form of a redemption! If Google Checkout was used, they could obviously track sales volume and whether or not the promotions on the Google listing correlated to what was bought. Imagine the impact of this to local businesses, let alone national brands?

Cost to the business? Free. Cost to download the $1.99 barcode reader for the first 400,000 that access it on the non-Google iPhone App Store? Free (courtesy of -you guessed it-Google). Cost to download the barcode reader on the Google Android App Store? Free.

Speaking of national brands, Google announced today (Dec 7th) that inventory control systems will be fed into Google search for a “Near Me Now” functionality element that will allow a consumer to locate a specific item and find the nearest location that has it in-stock. Once found, a user can use the new Google Goggles to obtain more information about a product.

By giving away all this functionality, Google takes the wind out of the sails of those who might complain about seeing advertising within a paid-for service. Google can then hook consumers on the fact that the advertising is not only non-intrusive and contextually relevant but is linked to location and behavior in a way that actually enhances the user experience, allows the platform delivering the location based “non-ads” to seem smarter and more intuitive, and drive a gold mine of metrics up the rainbow into the Google cloud.

What Can Be Done

What does this all mean? The navigation platforms should seek ways to track metrics using the POIs they deliver today and be working with brands to populate their platforms with ads that do not look like ads. Agencies need to provide innovative solutions and teach their clients about the larger LBS environment, versus simply plugging them into banner ad networks for mobile or building iPhone apps.  It means the collective Western LBS industry should look East to see the future, if they cannot see the Google storm front yet. Companies like NTT DoCoMo have been pioneering tracking incremental sales for years and most people in Japan now use their phones to make purchases.

Advertisers and brands and agencies and platforms all need to watch the LBS horizon to learn from what they see coming and use this impending front as incentive to create and offer local and national brands innovative solutions that can be shown to be effective, as the Google clouds gather and build.

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Wilson Kerr is the founder of LBS consultancy Location Based Strategy, LLC. www.LBStrategy.com

Wilson@LBStrategy.com    iPhone: 303-249-2083 (BOSTON)


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