Michelle Morton-Banks: What We’re Doing Wrong In Mobile Retail

Michelle Morton-Banks: What We’re Doing Wrong In Mobile Retail

Founder of Transmobi explores the possibilities of new user experiences that propel brands.

Michelle Morton-Banks, Transmobi
  • 12 may 2013

Until my recent trip to the 2nd Mobile Retail Summit, I had mostly ‘blue sky’ ideas about trends in mobile retail. After a day and evening of networking for mobile retail industry folk, I received a much-needed dose of reality.

Walking into the plush surroundings of The Grand Hotel hidden in the back streets of St Pauls, I had illusions of grandeur that I’d be hearing the Tesco, Morrison’s and Asda’s of this world, offer-up their thoughts on voice-activated mobile purchasing. Since my last venture – in part – focused on biometric-activated payments, and since reading a plethora of posts about Amazon recent acquisition of Evi, I suppose my mobile retail knowledge was not in the day-to-day, the here-and-now…

During chats with Heads of mobile at Tesco and Asda, ‘getting the basics right’ was definitely the consensus. Moving away from the beaten track slightly, Morrison’s mobile evangelist Sienne Veit gave a slightly different slant, suggesting how companies might market mobile products: “customers were the best marketing tools.” Invaluable and useful to know from a marketers point of view, but I still I felt hungry for that level of granularity, that would actually say quite plainly, what mobile retailers should be focused on across the mobile ecosystem.

So then, I was glad to bump into serial speaker at Google events and successful retail entrepreneur Roger Wade. Wade’s knowledge of retail oozes aplomb: He launched the UK’s first success street brand Boxfresh and created Boxpark, the UK’s first pop up retail park in the heart of Shoreditch. When asked what mobile technology retailers should be focused on he says: “Being a retailer for over 20 years I have tried many technological ideas and really it’s all about getting to know the customer. Retailers sometimes focus on just one type of customer. Smaller independents definitely do this; even ASOS does.” Mobile technology he feels starts a journey of creating “better personalisation and customisation to embrace different types of customers.” And Wade is of course right, phones capture so much personal and location-specific information, the phone acts as a personal assistant of sorts, keeping track of nano, yet fragmented, parts of our behaviour; customers expect mobile devices to be more tailored to their needs and reflect who they are, and more importantly, what they want.


But it’s not just the focus on creating a personalised experience that a mobile device can potentially offer: “Mobile also gives today’s shopper more freedom. Customers can scan an item and have it delivered to him within 72 hours” says Wade. We agree that sharing items found in store, taking pictures of favourite outfits in store and adding them to fashion networks such as Fashion Freax, scanning items to compare pricing, are the types of actions that are applicable to here and now.  It seems the mobile retailers challenge extends much further than using a mobile device to complete a transaction – in fact the term NFC wasn’t even heard at the Summit – even more than web it’s about creating a very personal user experience that subtly reflects and propels a brand.

The focus on personalisation and customisation made me wonder why we keep our mobile devices so close to us, almost as if the mobile phone forms part of a person’s identity?  “Of course,” says Wade. “This is where personalization is key” the mobile phone can help us solidify both our experience of ourselves as much as a retail brand we are purchasing from. Away with traditional advertising of a brand, bring on a method of pushing personalised content whilst keeping a strong brand identity – sure it’s a challenge but not one that’s impossible to achieve.

“There are so many things in mobile retail we’re not doing right,” says Wade. And I am inclined to agree, across the mobile industry ecosystem, there are so many challenges to face retailers getting ahead of themselves right now isn’t the right thing to do, my dreams of biometric driven m-commerce must hold on another five years at least. Delivering the very basics to a customer: What they want, when they want and perfect how they receive it should be the prime focus now.

Michelle Morton-Banks is the founder of Transmobi, a mobile technology consultancy.


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