Mobile marketing became so important so quickly that platforms soon became the single most crucial decision for retailers and brands looking to offer the best possible shopping experience to their loyal customers.
How It All Began
While some industries still placed a majority of emphasis on design and ease of use, these two factors just created a fundamental starting point for retailers. Retail brands were - and still are - faced with the challenge of seamlessly bringing both the website and in-store experience to the 5" screen in their customers' hands. That includes e-commerce carts, product detail pages (PDPs), customer reviews, social sharing, an integrated digital loyalty program, stored customer information, secure checkout and mobile payments. All that without the lslightest bit of friction that could potentially interrupt a customer's path to purchase. Not an easy feat!
Creating this seamless experience across multiple shopping channels incudes designers, technologists, retail experts and marketers - a large ask from in-house teams who were typically experts in either mobile technology or retail marketing. So smart knew they had to turn their mobile initiatives over to outsourced firms.
A Painful Learning Experience
But with user experience being top of mind, they often ran straight to design agencies - talented professionals who created aesthetically mobile websites and sometimes even gorgeous apps. But agencies lacked the technology expertise, and they certainly weren't equipped to handle the scale and security needed to meet the needs of enterprise retail businesses.
If the disconnect wasn't apparent immediately, it became clear on peak holidays like Black Friday. Apps crashed, millions of dollars were lost, and no-longer-loyal customers turned to brands with better mobile experiences.
Retailers quickly became aware of the urgent need for mobile app experts better qualified to handle both the customer-facing design and back-end technology support. Enter the mobile commerce platform.
Why is Platform Important?
With a mobile commerce platform, retailers can not only integrate their loyalty programs or e-commerce engines with an app (like GPShopper's first-ever Demandware-approved mobile app cartridge), but manage a host of other features including push notifications, in-store wayfinding, wish lists and price alerts, mobile payments, and so much more.
The best mobile app platforms tie these features together with a mobile content management system where retail marketers can manage the messaging of app banners, beacons and push notifications, along with in-depth, location-based reporting in real time. A customizable analytics dashboard makes measuring campaigns in real-time a cinch. A mobile commerce platform can also deliver on two critical items that can make or break a successful mobile program: scalability and security. A platform can give you the flexibility to grow from 50,000 users to well over 200,000 that using multiple vendors cannot. This means that as a retailer's user base grows, loading photos, populating search results and commerce functionality can still be accommodated at optimal speeds. It also allows an application to be multi-lingual and source data from multiple product catalogs. Having a comprehensive mobile solution means that a platform can provide the architecture to ensure security across all features. This makes it easier to monitor and manage, as each layer will no longer need its own security system.
Selecting a Mobile Commerce Platform
How to choose a mobile platform? Put out an RFP to 4-8 mobile commerce vendors that lead in their market. Use expert analysis to build your short list, such as Forrester Research's Wave Report: Mobile Commerce & Engagement Platforms, Q1 2016. While the report typically costs $2,495, you can download it for free here.
When executed properly, a native mobile app delivers positive return on investment within the first year of its launch. If your app hasn't seen that success, it's likely time to replatform.