5 Reasons Fashion Needs Mobile Shopping Apps
“Moving Targets: How to Connect and Engage Lifestyle Customers via Mobile Devices, Games & Apps” is a three-part mobile series on mobile sponsored by Fresh Concept Lab, creators of Stylmee, the fashion and lifestyle industries’ first 3D fashion iPad App.
The holiday shopping season is in full swing, and this year’s buzzwords are mobile shopping. Mobile commerce has reached levels that are shocking to brands. Over Thanksgiving weekend, PayPal Mobile reported a 552% year-over-year increase in global mobile payment volume for Cyber Monday activity. eBay mobile also reported record high Thanksgiving Day shopping in the U.S. with the amount shoppers spent via eBay Mobile more than doubling over last year. Analysts anticipate mobile commerce will remain strong throughout the holiday season and will become an increasingly important sales channel for brands over the next several years. These numbers signal that customer demand for a mobile connection to retailers and particularly fashion brands has room to grow.
Mobile commerce has been around for several years now, but hasn’t delivered on sales due to device size and usability issues. That changed with the proliferation of user-friendly smartphones, highly functional apps, the introduction of tablets and the overall increase in mobile subscription. The biggest obstacle in adopting mobile commerce is not the technology anymore, it is the hesitation and lack of know-how on brands’ side.
The fashion industry dominates the space with its sheer number of mobile applications available, offering 17% compared to other industries according to Exicon review. Most fashion apps fail to differentiate in features, however, and provide limited shopping capabilities at best. The lack of mobile shopping capabilities in branded fashion apps also presents an opportunity to create something unique, as long as brands are committed to taking advantage of this relatively new channel.
Here are the five reasons why fashion brands should incorporate mobile shopping into their mobile strategy:
1. Consumers want seamless shopping experience anytime anywhere.
The act of shopping once meant going to a mall or a store and making a purchase from a physical location. Today, shopping is not tied to a location, it is rather tied to a device. Geographic borders and limitations are melting away, allowing greater access to goods and information. Consumers want to be able to have the same or better shopping experience across all channels, devices and screens, and they are purchasing across all of them.
Unfortunately, retail and fashion brands are behind in providing seamless shopping experiences on mobile. Many are still trying to figure out the new digital and social landscape and grappling with issues of control and traditional channels. Providing a seamless shopping experience is easy, it requires strategy and organizational commitment along with considerable resources on part of each brand, but the rewards of being one of the first to offer seamless shopping are great.
Nordstrom is a great example of a retailer with a solid mobile strategy. Mobile commerce has been a major priority for the retailer in the last couple years. Last year, the company installed Wi-Fi networks in its stores to make it easier for smartphone owners to access the web while shopping.
Earlier this year, Nordstrom began testing an iPod Touch based wireless point-of-sale system. The system enables devices to serve as a remote credit-card and barcode readers, search and obtain inventory information from the scanned barcode and allow customers to pay with credit cards by swiping, which then generates an automatic e-mail receipt.
In addition, Nordstrom launched a well-designed and highly functional iPad app, as well as mobile app for Android and iPhone with smooth shopping features in time for this year’s holiday shopping season.
Nordstrom’s branded apps are critical component of a successful cross-channel mobile strategy that builds a closer, more personal relationship with loyal customers. In the meantime, the company anticipates its mobile channel to be its biggest growth area.
2. Clothing and accessories are among the most popular mobile purchases.
Clothing and accessories purchases on mobile were second to digital purchases. According to comScore in September 2011, digital purchases (music, eBooks, TV episodes, movies) were the most popular mobile purchases at 47%, followed by sales in clothing and accessories purchased directly from retailer at 37%.
It is a strong indicator that fashion brands should absolutely provide their customers with mobile shopping options. What is the point of having an app if customers can’t purchase their favorite items?
If fully functional shopping capabilities are out of the question, brands should consider limited features. DVF launched their mobile application in 2010 with limited shopping capabilities. DVF’s iPhone application lets consumers view collections, videos, store locations, music and exclusive products, and most importantly consumers can also purchase items with an app limited to store hours. It is not ideal, but it does meet customers need to purchase.
3. Mobile shopping is not simply a trend, it has become a way of life.
- 79% use a smartphone to help with shopping.
- 70% use phone in store.
- 35% purchased on their smartphones.
- 27% purchased via a mobile site.
- 22% purchased through a mobile app.
- The average annual spend on mobile purchases was US$300.
There is no arguing with numbers. Mobile is part of our lifestyle so much so that every man, woman and child conducts their daily affairs increasingly on the phone. We schedule meetings, plan meals, research purchases, play and entertain ourselves on mobile. Mobile shopping is just the next natural step in meeting demands of our busy lives.
4. Cross channel engagement is the magic recipe for customer loyalty.
Exicon’s review of 1,200 branded apps shows that by the end of last year, just 12% of top 500 retailers had mobile sites, and only 7% had apps. Shoppers using their mobile phones to research purchases and complete the transaction either via m-commerce or in store. Out of fashion brands and retailers that have apps, very few offer app features the customer in store. Only 2% of retailers offer real-time coupons, and only 4% of apps offer the ability to access the store’s loyalty program.
The fashion industry is well-known for heavily employing loyalty cards, yet most customers have a hard time managing all of the different cards. Perhaps single best way to improve customer satisfaction with loyalty programs would be building them into brand’s mobile app. In this regard, fashion brands have a lot of learn from Starbucks. It is leveraging its mobile app as an extension of its overall brand, and as a way to increase the brand’s presence among consumers. The actual payment component is convenient and valuable, but ultimately the capabilities built into the app extend the value beyond having a quick and easy way to pay.
According to Starbucks, mobile payment is the most popular feature of its app overall. After its launch in January 2011, there were more than 3 million transactions during the first nine weeks of the program, compared with 6 million transactions for a nine-week period starting in October 2011, which demonstrates a significant increase in customer adoption.
5. If your app can entertain a customer, it certainly should allow your customers to shop.
One of the defining characteristics of mobile channel is a short attention span, therefore it is important to capture the attention of users with relevant and entertaining content. Many brands make entertainment the main objective and invest in games, videos and images. Who says that shopping shouldn’t be incorporated as well?
Sephora proved that an app can do both. Sephora’s iPad app offers a feature impossible to duplicate on a traditional e-commerce site. The customer activates “mirror” feature on the app, which uses the tablet’s front-facing camera to show the customer on the screen in one window, while allowing to watch a video of an expert applying makeup on a window below. That lets the shopper watch herself repeat the expert’s techniques as the expert explaining the technique.
As smartphones replace feature phones and more people worldwide continue to access internet on mobile compared to PCs, mobile shopping will demonstrate significant growth across the globe. Considering how far this medium have come even within this year, fashion and retail brands can’t afford to not enable their consumers shop via mobile. There is a real opportunity to take a lead and prepare for extremely mobile future.
“Moving Targets: How to Connect and Engage Lifestyle Customers via Mobile Devices, Games & Apps” is a five-part mobile series on mobile sponsored by Fresh Concept Lab, creators of Stylmee, the fashion and lifestyle industries’ first 3D fashion iPad App.