Should retailers consider getting into mobile commerce?

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With a difficult economy, retailers must ?do more with less. Mobile commerce is gaining attention, but the challenges are significant. Product display on tiny screens is impractical. Fumbling with credit card numbers in public is unsafe. Creating consistent experiences from one device to another is cost prohibitive.?

So retailers want to know: "Are consumers ready for mobile commerce; and if so, where should we begin?"?

Let's face it. The digital shopping experience on mobile phones is just plain awful - for reasons stated above. Nevertheless, these devices offer tremendous potential to enhance the real-world shopping experience. Mobile phones are everywhere; and small investments can extend online features to each one. Mobile utilities should inform and assist during shopping visits; leading consumers to safely purchase in line now or online later.?

These are three important areas retailers should consider in their mobile strategy:?

Start in the real world. ?In the early days of e-commerce, retailers piped the Web site onto clunky in-store kiosks, waiting for something to happen. Shoppers live in the real world. Merchants who understand this meet customers where they are. Shoppers on their feet are ambivalent to shopping online, whether through a kiosk or a mobile phone — they just want help.?

So, forget moving checkout to the mobile phone. Instead, support relevant in-store activity. Mobile phones can help free up time, save money, and lead shoppers to the items they seek. Store signage should promise to enhance the shopping experience this very visit. ?

Allow visitors to register any Web-enabled phone with just a text message. After confirming registration, a menu of options should tap straight into online data. Savvy merchants will augment online profiles with in-store activity to deliver more relevant promotions. It all starts, though, in the real world.?

Satisfy the need for now.? Shopping is largely an impulse activity where decisions are made moments before purchase. Many in-store visits are influenced online. Why not bring research on location? Product details like ratings and reviews help compare the options at hand. These can be made available to any Web-enabled phone. ?

Permit the shopper to text a Universal Product Code or item number, and return a link to details. Delivering more product detail to the store aisle will lift the size and frequency of in-store purchases; and it won't cost a fortune to deploy.?

If an item or size is out of stock, don't make your visitor find an associate. That same item may be available elsewhere in the vicinity. Never forfeit a sale to your competition. Provide inventory availability and location on request. Local store hours, phone and driving directions can also be sent along with product info when the URL is returned. This way, the visitor's need is satisfied today.?

Share the love. ?Some of us need a little help finding the perfect gift. So, extend your wish lists and gift registries for in-store use. Giving window shoppers a tool to share gift ideas from the selection on hand makes everyone's life easier. ?

Shopping in the real world should be more social. Equip your visitor to buzz their buddy and tell-a-friend when the perfect item is available. This deeps affinity for your brand and brings others into the fold.?

Mobile shopping utilities like these can improve the in-store experience in ways that deliver immediate results. While mobile checkout isn't yet worth pursuing, merchants will benefit from tools that deepen affinity for the brand and help consumers as they shop anywhere.?

In a billowing economy, companies must make the most of every dollar. Retailers should consider embracing mobile commerce that is aimed at cultivating cross-channel growth.

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