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Sunday Soundbite

Find out why retail’s secret weapon isn’t firing on all cylinders

Fresh from chairing Mobile Shopping in London, I’m still reeling at the incredible ideas that both speakers and the audience shared in a series of interactive round tables. I came away feeling that the mobile channel is going to need more money and resources thrown at it, if retail is to reinvent itself for the new consumer.

Mobile retail is growing faster than any other channel and last year search through mobile surpassed desktop. Mobile is the consumer’s shop window of choice, their only window in many cases, so if retailers are not reaching them in the right ways, they are throwing money away, or simply handing it to those companies that are mobile first in all their thinking.

Many of the delegates complained that they simply did not have enough resources in house to focus properly on the mobile opportunity. This was true even for well-know, middle weight brands that had only one of two people focusing on mobile. That said, the collective talent within these organisations is very strong, which is the best reason for everyone to come out for two days and share.

What we learned from some of the bigger brands like Vodafone is that they do indeed have both resources and talent in abundance and it makes all the difference. Wilsdon got into accelerated mobile pages to show that mobile apps are probably not the future for most retailers, compared to using AMP to give mobile web app qualities.

Either way, all the delegates now know that they have got their work cut out. There is an enormous amount of work to be done in optimising most mobile sites, even just on page load speeds which are losing thousands of visitors for every second of extra time they spend on a blank screen.

Fortunately, there are a huge number of optimisation tools that deliver results even the most hard-bitten CFO would delight in. It really does seem as simple as following the rules and conversion rises. The only dissenters tend to be the IT department that wants to build everything themselves, which can cause delays. So a vote for the vendors.

Another big takeaway was the power of video. The social media generation is not reading, or certainly not long factual sentences. Sometimes, simply cutting three words out of a nine-word sentence can raise conversion. But more than that, short text embedded in images, gifs and video really can up the engagement. Which neatly explained how augmented reality will take off; it’s the next logical step towards full immersion for consumers who want to be there.

And those consumers want to take part; they don’t just want to be served a bunch of facts or shop now buttons, but given the chance to play, to share their opinions and post videos of themselves rocking their own style. This is part of creating purchase intent, as pureplayers like ASOS clearly understand.

So far, so good. This is all works based on what we know about the consumer, but Dr Simon Moore, a psychologist, explained that 70% of thinking is unconscious so most of the current engagement techniques miss what is really happening in the brain. I like the idea that, if you tell someone they can trust you but they already did, then you just gave them the idea that maybe they can’t trust you. Why reinforce things that are already a given, and then fail to address the real fears.

And the reason mobile is underfunded? I’ve not really got to the bottom of this. I think the reasons are many. There is a generation gap between those who manage and those who are managed. Moreover, retail is still siloed so departments are not working together as they should to confront the common enemy – the customer. And lastly, there is still a feeling inside many retail organisations, with blame laid squarely on the CEO’s shoulders, that there is still time to complete the digital transformation journey. There isn’t. If you are not over-investing in mobile right now, you are possibly already too late. Particularly if you are one of the growing band of UK retailers that is desperately searching for relevance in a world that has removed your whole reason to live.


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