Guest post written by Jason TaylorJason Taylor is VP of platform strategy at Usablenet.
Picture the new digital-savvy American consumer walking through Times Square. When a cool item on an interactive promotion catches their eye, they want to whip out their smartphone, take a picture of the item, and be immediately directed to a page with product information where they can buy, share with friends, write a review and send a tweet.
New technology has turned every billboard, window and surface into a potential interactive store or extension of an organization’s services, and every device into a vehicle for consumers to transact, purchase and pay bills. This changing behavior in American consumerism requires businesses to developan agile multichannel strategy that supports screens ranging in size from smartphones to large digital displays that wrap subway cars or even buildings – all with the scale to support a global consumer base.
Last year CIOs were primarily concerned with ensuring content and services were optimized for mobile devices. But now the consumer is increasingly “mobile”, moving between their smartphone, tablet, and computer – in and out of stores – on Facebook and other social networks. Increasingly the new digital consumer wants to engage with companies and brands on their own terms, and in order to remain competitive in a business environment that is facing significant disruption, CIOs have to make their business accessible across all channels in a scalable, secure and innovative fashion.
Over the past two years, the need for CIOs to extend core brand services to the multitude of new devices available on the market has exploded. A recent survey from comScore finds that nearly 7% of all digital traffic in the United States is driven from smartphones and tablets. Smartphones account for two-thirds of this traffic and tablets have been picking up speed. Overall more than 116 million Americans (half the U.S. population) use mobile media, up 19% over the last year.
The multichannel stampede began with organizations optimizing their Web sites to function properly on the small smartphone screen, and recent advancements in HTML5 technology have created an oasis of innovation where brands are empowered to deliver even better mobile experiences for the customer. Furthermore, over the last 12 months the number of channels that must be accounted for has greatly increased to include mobile apps, tablets, social media outputs and screens like digital TVs and large flatscreen displays on subways or buildings – important real estate for brands to establish themselves.
While the business need seems to have developed overnight, when combined with a slowing economy and an increasingly mobile workforce, the demands on the CIO have never felt more immediate. However, the new mobile and multichannel reality provides an opportunity for forward-looking organizations to make strategic investments that extend their brand into the 21st century. CIOs that move strategically can maximize an early market revenue opportunity by making a strong impression on digital consumers that have shown deep loyalty to brands that effectively deliver core business functions and a positive customer experience – regardless of how the consumer chooses to engage.
Getting the cross channel strategy right offers brands huge upside. Consumers are clearly trending towards engaging brands on their own terms, and organizations that deliver a consistently positive user experience regardless of device are being rewarded with heightened brand loyalty.
Recent research by global business consulting firm L.E.K. Consultingestimates that more than 50% of U.S. consumers will be regularly using mobile devices for shopping within the next 5 years. In fact, L.E.K. reports that two-thirds of smartphone owners today have used their devices to make purchases and over 80% have used smartphones to assist in purchasing decisions through product research at least once in the past year. These numbers suggest that delivering a user-friendly, seamless and fast mobile experience is a necessity for brands that want to remain relevant with a new generation of consumers.
As the boundary between buying patterns across channels continues to blur, it becomes incumbent upon organizations to ensure a consistent message across all their customer channels – which exerts downward pressure on prices for the consumer. In the retail environment, for example, any inconsistencies in prices online and in-store can now be identified quickly, and younger customers are demanding the lowest price from any channel. In fact, L.E.K.’s research shows that younger customers are generally prepared to use their phones to compare prices while physically standing in a store, and 20% of this group will drive to another store to buy the same product for less.
The Tablet Emerges as an Essential Channel
According to recent data from IDC, worldwide tablet shipments reached 13.6 million units in the 2011 second quarter, and based on an improved outlook for the rest of the year IDC raised its shipment forecast for 2011 to 62.5 million units, up from a previous projection of 53.5 million units. Gartner recently released a bullish forecast that projects tablets will outsell PCs by 60% over the next four years, demonstrating that the tablet is poised to continue its major role in modern digital life,
As tablets continue to spike in marketshare, their ability to become a highly profitable revenue stream for e-commerce is emerging. In a recent report on the tablet’s promise for e-commerce, Forrester points to characteristics such as the large screen, portability, and the ability to deliver richer content as primary reasons for the tablet to become an important sales channel moving forward. As such, CIOs must strive to deliver their customers a highly usable tablet experience that takes advantage of the device’s unique functionality.
New Screens Offer Real Value
Forward-looking brands are already experimenting with new ways to reach customers on large displays outside of the home. One of the most innovative uses of a non-traditional display to engage consumers was recently deployed by global grocery chain Tesco in South Korea, which installed out-of-home storefronts in subways with QR codes that allow people to shop for groceries with their smartphones during their commute. After scanning the codes and filling their virtual carts, Tesco employees deliver the goods directly to the home, sparing the shopper a trip to crowded South Korean grocery stores and making the daily commute infinitely more efficient.
With more and more devices entering the market and consumer adoption rates surging, businesses must be prepared for additional disruption to the way their audience consumes content. It’s clear that mobile is fast becoming a significant channel that requires continued investment just like the Web, and with the ascension of the multichannel consumer, businesses must adapt to this new reality or risk being left behind.