September 1, 2012, 12:00 AM

The mobile age begins

M-commerce leaders will share successful strategies at the Mobile Marketing & Commerce Forum in October.

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It's becoming an inescapable conclusion: Leaders at retail, travel, ticketing and other companies today must be well educated in mobile commerce. Why? Consider these facts:

  • There will be 41.0 billion visits to the top 500 e-commerce sites this year; 10.1 billion, or 24.6%, will come from smartphones, a Branding Brand study predicts.
  • Mobile shoppers make a purchase 59% more often than desktop PC shoppers and over a two-year cycle will bring in 32% more profit, according to a study by Custora Inc.
  • 29% of consumers who use a smartphone to research a product while in a retail store end up purchasing the item online, a study by ClickIQ finds.
  • While smartphones surpassed more than half of mobile phones in use early in 2012, another milestone was achieved in June 2012 as half of U.S. smartphone owners used mobile commerce apps, according to the Nielsen Co.
  • 64% of the retailers in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide have an m-commerce site or app, and their mobile sales on average will grow 85% this year, Internet Retailer predicts.

The heralded "year of mobile" has given way to an age of mobile. Organizations have to be prepared with the best tactics and strategies in order to succeed in an increasingly mobile world.

The stars of m-commerce

Internet Retailer is bringing together leaders in mobile commerce at the 2012 Mobile Marketing & Commerce Forum Oct. 8-10 in San Diego. The names are big: Buy.com, Dell, Dunkin Donuts, Etsy, HSN, InterContinental Hotels Group, Orbitz, Macy's, PayPal, Rue La La, Sears, ShopNBC.com, Taco Bell, Walgreens, Wine.com and more. All together there will be 45 speakers at the forum sharing their m-commerce success stories, along with 50 vendors in the event's exhibit hall showcasing the latest mobile technologies.

The biggest success story, at least in terms of mobile revenue, belongs to eBay Inc. The online marketplace projects mobile sales of $10 billion this year, double that of 2011. The mastermind behind eBay's mobile program, Steve Yankovich, vice president of mobile, will deliver the forum's keynote address, titled "Mobilizing for the Future: How eBay Inc. and Mobile are Transforming the Way the World Shops."

"Retailers know their shoppers are using their mobile phones to influence how, what and when they shop. The more pressing question is: How are retailers taking advantage of these mobile phones to offer the best shopping experiences whenever inspiration strikes?" Yankovich says. "From image recognition and bar code scanning to push alerts and geofencing, the technologies packed in these mobile phones are all prime opportunities for retailers to make shopping fun, relevant and easy."

Yankovich will reveal to forum attendees keys to m-commerce success.

"I'll share how retailers can best use mobile to design the most personalized experiences that will urge consumers to shop," he says. "From sharing insights on how to use location-based technologies to tips on the best time of day to interact with shoppers, I will explain to attendees just how to take advantage of mobile—ultimately helping them compete and win in a new commerce environment that demands a multichannel approach."

Mobile marketing

That means a multichannel approach to commerce as well as marketing. Mobile technologies provide an array of marketing tactics that can help drive sales via mobile, online and in stores.

A mobile marketing tactic gaining in popularity is the use of Quick Response, or QR, codes. These are two-dimensional bar codes that, when scanned by a smartphone with a 2-D reader app, link the smartphone user to mobile web-based content.

Taco Bell ran a QR code campaign that linked food packaging to content from the MTV cable channel. The promotion netted the restaurant chain nearly 420,000 scans during a six-week period, one of the biggest responses ever for its 2-D bar code vendor, ScanLife. And it recently launched a new print advertising campaign with QR codes composed of avocados and lemons, a unique trick.

Taco Bell's mobile marketing aims to keep the brand top of mind with consumers at all times, says Nicholas Tran, social media lead, digital marketing, at Taco Bell, who will be speaking at the Mobile Marketing & Commerce Forum in a session titled "QR Codes + Augmented Reality = A Mobile Marketing Score for Taco Bell."

"The session will focus on how Taco Bell uses mobile to enhance the customer's post-purchase experience with the brand," Tran says.

HTML5

When it comes to enhancing the mobile experience, apps are vital. They can be sleek, quick and cool because they reside on a smartphone and can take advantage of all the features and functions of the device. Thanks to web programming language HTML5, m-commerce sites now can function much more like their cooler app counterparts. The language is key to moving forward in m-commerce and retailers and other organizations must understand it, experts say.

"HTML5 gives app-like functionality and features to the mobile web. The quicker response times of HTML5 and smarter smartphones will accelerate the adoption of mobile commerce even faster," says Tom Kraus, vice president of content and commerce at ShopNBC.com. The retailer is just finishing an overhaul of its m-commerce site and apps using HTML5. He will speak at the forum in a session titled "The HTML5 Learning Curve: Harnessing a Powerful New Mobile Technology."

The best apps

Like ShopNBC.com, Jackthreads.com, a flash-sale e-retailer of men's apparel and accessories, offers customers an m-commerce site and an app. It launched its first smartphone app in late January. Now, 200,000 of the e-retail site's members—about 10% of its total member base—have the app on their iPhone or Android smartphones and 20% of total sales come through the app, says Jason Ross, Jackthreads.com's founder.

Ross will explain to attendees at the Mobile Marketing & Commerce Forum how the e-retailer formulated its mobile app strategy and executed on that plan during a session titled "Keys to a Successful App: Simple, Intuitive, Fun."

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