Businesses that want to succeed in the future need to develop effective mobile engagement strategies today.

Consider two key points revealed in recent research: 1) Mobile provides tremendous opportunities to reach key target audiences, and 2) Many marketers are falling short of reaping those benefits — meaning mobile is now a significant competitive differentiator.

First, a new Pew Research study found that 56 percent of American adults now own smartphones, and not surprisingly, the percentage appears to correlate directly with household incomes. Smartphones are owned by:

  • 61 percent of those making $50,000-$74,000
  • 78 percent of those making $75,000+
  • Roughly 80 percent of young adults from 18-34

Without a doubt, substantial numbers of the consumers most marketers covet are using smartphones to communicate, for entertainment and to make purchases. Retailers who learn to engage mobile users effectively will gain competitive advantage and position themselves to reap sales now and in the future.

User experience is crucial

However, a Harris Interactive study sponsored by Skava found that 88 percent of Americans who shop on retail mobile websites experience difficulties. In fact, a full 30 percent leave and never come back.

Mobile shoppers in this study said the biggest problems they encountered were:

  • Difficult navigation (51 percent)
  • Product images too small to make a buying decision (46 percent)
  • Smartphone security concerns (41 percent)
  • Challenging checkout process (26 percent)

Effective mobile engagement strategies

Clearly, retailers need to do more to provide consumers the products, security and user experience they need – and expect.

Here are some suggestions on how to succeed with mobile:

  • Make your mobile website as user-friendly as possible. This may seem like a no-brainer, but since more than half of those surveyed consider difficult navigation to be a major problem, it appears a gentle reminder is necessary. Don’t forget: People use mobile on the go, so make navigation and purchasing easy. Avoid the trap of designing mobile sites as an afterthought to PC or tablet-enabled websites. Be certain images, etc. are scaled to the small screen.
  • Use insight. Consider the situations in which prospects and customers use their smartphones. They’re not looking for deep research; most are still most likely to research purchases on their tablets and PCs. Instead, consumers are looking for real-time, useful, and even location-based information
  • Be “Johnny on the spot.” When providing location-based offers, give customers something they’ll value right then and there, when they can use it most. You don’t want to come across like “Big Brother,” tracking their every move, but if customers have opted-in, be sure you’re there when they need you. Smartphone users will appreciate the convenience, and they’ll reward you, often with a sale.
  • Design your mobile site to feel secure, and then live up to that promise. Nearly half of the mobile shoppers surveyed cited worries about security. Anticipate these customer concerns and make sure your site addresses them. For instance, let customers set up an account with a safely stored credit card on file, displaying just the last four digits. Permit them to quickly choose that card if they wish. If they must enter credit card information, they may have to do in a public place. Let that be their choice, not yours.
  • Put yourself in your customers’ and prospects’ shoes. If you were in a taxi, stuck in a traffic jam on the way to the airport and needed to use your smartphone to check your flight status, the last thing you’d want is an intrusive ad blocking your screen. Marketing “impressions” are important, but you must always consider what kind of impression your ad presentation will make.
  • Leave intrusive, irritating mobile advertising to your competition. When a mobile advertisement appears at an inopportune time, blocking needed information, it will likely cause irritation, even anger. Ultimately, that will hurt, not help, your effort to add customers and sales. Your goal should always be to improve the customer experience, not detract from it.
  • Recognize the impact of showrooming. Showrooming is the term used to describe what happens when a consumer visits a physical store to try a product, but then uses a mobile device to check for the best price online. Our research tells us that one in five consumers is showrooming, and that a whopping 96 percent of smartphone owners plan to showroom in the future. What’s more, of those already comparing prices online, 33 percent ultimately leave the store and purchase from a competitor. (An earlier blog post has tips to combat showrooming.)

Yes, mobile is here to stay. Forward-thinking companies recognize this highly promising channel as a strategic differentiator, and they’re using it to gain competitive advantage. How could you improve the mobile experience for your customers?