November 7, 2012, 5:10 PM

If you’ve got it, flaunt it

Promote your mobile program to combat showrooming.

Lead Photo

My colleague Sylvia came up to me excitedly in the hallway, a booklet in hand, saying, “Bill, you gotta see this. Mobile commerce is on the cover.”

What she presented me with was a promotional booklet from Costco, its “Autumn Online-Only Offers” catalog. And sure enough, on the bottom of the cover (as you can see in the picture on the right) is a promotion for Costco’s mobile app that reads: “Download your free app today and enjoy everything Costco on-the-go!” A picture of two smartphones with the app onscreen accompanies the text along with a QR code that when snapped leads you to the app download page.

Costco, No. 22 in the Internet Retailer Mobile 400, is doing something many more retailers should be doing: it’s promoting the fact that it has a mobile commerce program. So many retailers build wonderful mobile apps and m-commerce sites then do little to let shoppers know these mobile shopping tools exist. Smartphone owners love mobile sites and apps, you want them to know these things exist.

And they’ll use them. Four of every five U.S. adult smartphone users, 85.9 million in total, accessed retail content on their device in July 2012 either through a mobile commerce site or mobile app, web and mobile measurement firm comScore Inc. finds.

There’s a big benefit to having your mobile presence in the hands of in-store shoppers. PriceGrabber asked 2,469 mobile shoppers how they plan to use their mobile devices during the 2012 holiday shopping season. 70% will check prices on their phones before making a store purchase, a tactic known as showrooming. If you’re a store retailer, you don’t want them opening up the Amazon.com app while in your store. Post signs at entrances and in high-traffic areas urging shoppers to download your mobile app to receive special discounts and offers. You’ve got to be the one in-store shoppers turn to for more information on products and the best deals. Smartphones are research tools, and you should be the one providing the information.

When it comes to showrooming, 85% of consumers that said they used a retailer’s own mobile app to help them shop in a store made a purchase on that shopping trip versus 71% who said they made a purchase when they used shopping apps operated by another company, according to Deloitte. Further, 61% of smartphone owners who use their devices to shop have done so in a store, the study finds. The Deloitte research indicates consumers’ in-store mobile activities are contributing to, not taking away from, in-store sales, and that smartphone shoppers are 14% more likely to convert and make a purchase in the store than non-smartphone users.  This means that mobile is an important tool for retailers to drive incremental in-store sales, Deloitte says.

If you have an m-commerce site or mobile app, you should be promoting it on the home page of your e-commerce site, you should be promoting it in stores if you have them, and you should be promoting it on printed materials, like Costco. 1-800-Contacts is promoting its new iPhone app as the main image on its Facebook page. Walgreens even has some of their cashiers wearing T-shirts encouraging customers to download its app.

Let people know you’ve gone mobile. Show off. You’re in the vanguard. The easier you make it for your customers to know you’ve gone mobile, the more likely they are to use the channel. And the more mobile sales, and mobile-facilitated store sales, you’ll receive.

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