Four rules for directors of m-commerce

Walgreens’ mobile chief details leadership tactics at Mobile Commerce Forum 2010.

Bill Siwicki

Tim McCauley is a rare bird in Internet retailing: He’s among a handful of executives with m-commerce in his title. He is director of mobile commerce at Walgreen Co., leading its three-pronged mobile effort involving an m-commerce site, mobile apps and text messaging.

McCauley says that directors of m-commerce must have rich multichannel experience. And in his featured speaker presentation today at Internet Retailer’s Mobile Commerce Forum 2010, a presentation titled “The rise of the mobile commerce chief,” he outlined four rules executives with mobile in their titles should follow to ensure their mobile initiatives succeed.

First, it is important that mobile commerce chiefs secure the backing of the senior-most executives at their company

“Mobile heads need support from the top down—this sounds simple and is basic for whatever you are doing, but as crucial as it was for e-commerce, it is ultra-critical for mobile today,” McCauley said.

McCauley, who as a member of the retailer's senior e-commerce management team works with senior vice president of e-commerce Sona Chawla, who reports to CEO Greg D. Wasson, said it’s very helpful to a have a direct pipeline to the top. But at the same time, he said it is key to maintain strong lines of communication with other department heads to ensure everyone’s voice is heard and everyone is on the same page.

“You need to make sure you are involving other parts of the company, constantly getting in front of management,” McCauley said. “You need to make sure you are giving opportunities when setting up and getting buy-in during strategy sessions, and you want to make sure you are the one driving the conversation.”

The second rule for mobile commerce chiefs, McCauley said, is to obtain employee support. In the case of a vast retail chain like Walgreens, that means workers in the company’s 7,600 stores.

“Employees need to understand mobile is good for them, too,” he said. “It’s easy for customers, and it’s easy for stores to push it.”

He said the perfect example is Walgreens’ text messaging program, which alerts customers when their prescriptions are ready for pick-up. It is a convenience for customers and it helps employees more easily communicate with customers and get their jobs done. He added that the growth curve for the adoption of text message alerts has been much sharper than that for e-mail alerts.

The third rule that mobile commerce leaders should follow is to have a clear point of view.

“If you do not have a clear point of view, someone else within your company will have one,” McCauley said. “Make sure projects you are working on, marketing spend, are aligned around your point of view.”

And the fourth rule is that mobile chiefs must inspire innovation.

“It’s a fast-changing market we’re in and every week someone somewhere is announcing something different,” he said. “You need to make sure to inspire, then test and learn.”

He said Walgreens has tested many different uses for mobile technology—some will be launched when the company feels the time is right and consumers and store employees are ready, others will not.

“You need to make sure you are on top of these projects and decide how to make sure they will be used,” he said. “Make sure the best tests are put into production and succeed. And keep support by communicating success to employees and the public.”


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