October 1, 2012, 11:07 AM

Why retailers need to be sophisticated when it comes to mobile

An MMCF speaker will challenge views about showrooming.

Lead Photo

Julie Ask

Many retailers tend to focus their mobile strategies on obvious goals, such as providing a consistent experience across all devices and channels, says Julie Ask, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc. What they should be more concerned with, she says, is how to build out more sophisticated services over the next few years as mobile starts to fundamentally change how people shop. “For companies not thinking beyond six to 12 months, they’ll be behind in a few years,” she says.

Ask will be speaking about mobile’s emerging opportunities for enhancing customer experience at the 2012 Internet Retailer Mobile Marketing & Commerce Forum in a session titled, “How store merchants can bust in-aisle mobile-based price shopping to boost store sales.

Mobile already represents more than just another way for consumers to access the Internet. For example, retailers can build mobile-based tools to help consumers find products and information in stores, with capabilities like being able to wave a smartphone in front of a row of candy bars and find the ones without nuts, she says. In-store tools could also help shoppers plan and keep lists, for example helping a consumer make sure she buys everything she needs for a party in one trip. Or, as some retailers are learning, augmented reality apps help shoppers envision what a product will look like at home, such as how a ring would look on a finger or a painting would hang in the living room.

Eventually, Ask imagines that a consumer will be able to snap a picture of a pair of shoes someone is wearing on the bus, find out what brand they are and buy them instantly from his mobile device. “Your business is going to change,” she says. “You really just have to view mobile as an opportunity and not a threat.”

During her session, she says she will talk about why “showrooming” does not constitute a threat to retailers. Showrooming refers to consumers using stores to view and touch products, then buying them online at lower prices, sometimes after checking prices on their mobile phones while in the store. “We’ve had the ability to compare prices for a long time, it’s just become easier,” she says. And price is only one factor a consumer considers before making a purchase, she adds—convenience, store loyalty and others can be as influential. So rather than shying away from mobile commerce, which is increasingly how consumers want to shop, she says retailers need to make it even easier. “Embrace the opportunities that are possible, because if you always focus on being defensive and what the risks are, you’re not going to move forward,” she says.

Internet Retailer’s editors asked Ask to speak because she is an expert in consumer wireless and broadband experience who advises clients on how to deliver products and services via mobile devices.

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