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How To Plan For Mobile Commerce Beyond the Holidays

The Mobile Marketing Association’s Jack Philbin reminds marketers to think integrated--and year-round--when it comes to mobile strategy.

There is a well-known truth when it comes to holiday shopping in 2012: Mobile devices played a huge role. Statistics from the Pew Internet Project show that 85 percent of American adults own a cellphone, 45 percent own a smartphone, and 25 percent own a tablet. More people than ever before are using their mobile devices to browse, research, and buy from their favorite retailers.

However, now that the tinsel is coming down and the stockings are being put away for another year, what happens to a retailer’s mobile agenda? Does the holiday mobile marketing strategy go with it?

When it comes to mobile commerce, what retailers have been doing leading up to and during this holiday season is just the tip of the iceberg of what is sure to become a mobile-dominated shopping experience during the next few years. Brands need to be prepared to best take advantage of this mobile proliferation, not just from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day, but also throughout the rest of the calendar year. So what are some smart--and actionable--steps?

Think about a 365-day plan with the holiday strategy as one component of it

Figures show that 91 percent of Americans have their mobile phones within arm’s reach 24/7. With such widespread dependence on these devices, there is a huge opportunity for retailers to create conversations and develop more personal relationships with their consumers.

While many marketers focused just on their holiday mobile commerce strategy, they’d be wise to focus on a year-round strategy, with the holiday season as one component of it. Such a focus can help nurture relationships throughout the year and will drive more frequent transactions from customers outside the holiday season. It’s much like what a marketing strategy for any other traditional channel will look like. It’s all about generating awareness, engaging customers, enabling smooth and easy transactions, and ultimately, securing loyalty.

Integrate mobile into the overall marketing strategy

Similar to how many marketers have treated their holiday mobile strategy separate from their year-round strategy, many brands have deployed mobile through siloed efforts. Truth is, few consumers make a purchase based solely on mobile. The lines are blurring between marketing channels, and now more than ever, retailers need to think about how to execute a seamless brand experience--integrating all of consumers’ favorite platforms and channels. They also need to provide a very personal and relevant experience to consumers, no matter how they interact with brands.

Embrace mobile as the shopping companion

Consumers are turning to their mobile device as an impartial influencer of their buying decision, and marketers need to guide the consumer through the process with mobile-optimized experiences. A major factor driving consumers to research a product from their mobile phone while still in-store is to simply feel better about their purchase, which could be price, product reviews, alternative product selection, warranty and more. Mobile devices continue to be used throughout the path to purchase, and marketers need to embrace this trend and provide accurate and easily accessible product information that builds consumer trust and loyalty.

Leverage current technologies and prepare for what’s to come

Mobile is a channel in a state of change with new phones and operating systems reshaping the way marketers think about consumer touch points beyond traditional direct mail and email marketing. Marketers need to experiment with new technologies, such as Passbook, a mobile wallet solution available in Apple’s iOS 6 platform. Google’s version, Google Wallet, will likely get easier to use in the near future and offer the same functionality. With Passbook, users can keep track of all their information--boarding passes, loyalty cards, and special offers--all in one place.

Marketers need to be thinking about how to take advantage of emerging technologies, and how they might be able to leverage new technologies that complement their existing marketing plans. As everything in the mobile world changes so rapidly, it’s critical to jump on new developments and quickly integrate them into strategies.

With all the new technologies (e.g., Passbook) and array of channels (e.g., mobile web, text, and social media), it’s important for retailers and brands to experiment and learn the best way to reach their customers. If marketers aren’t testing, they’re not learning, and if they’re not learning, their brands will be left behind.

Overall, navigating the mobile landscape is no different than navigating online or physical retail stores. It’s all about providing consumers with a relevant, engaging experience that ties to the overall brand strategy. Those companies that are able to successfully tie in mobile will reap great rewards during the next few years as more consumers adopt the latest mobile technology. As consumers naturally become more comfortable using mobile to make transactions, retailers will win big.

Jack Philbin is chairman of the Mobile Marketing Association's North American Regional Board Executive Committee and the cofounder and CEO of Vibes, a mobile marketing and technology company.

[Images: Flickr users Alyson Hurt, Fred, and Carlos Carmonamedina]

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