A recent seminar I attended gave a fantastic insight into the changes happening in online commerce, or Multi-Channel Commerce, brought about by new channels. Called “Shift Happens” and organised by WorldNetTPS, an Irish online payment solutions provider, it featured some thought-provoking presentations from people at the coal-face. Or perhaps we should call it ‘the interactive device-face’.
The key message of the day was that to do business in the future you need to be able to sell to your customer in the way they want, via their preferred channel. The winners will be the retailers who are watching where their customers are hanging out and who provide a buying experience that meets their ever changing needs and desires. When Amazon set up shop some 15 years ago selling online was in its infancy and ecommerce evolved over a relatively long period. Now commerce has taken another great leap and the new Mobile and Social channels are changing and growing much more rapidly.
One of the presenters at the seminar was app developer Dermot Daly from Tapadoo, who used his own experience to illustrate the new ways that customers purchase. He was watching a program on TV which featured a new book. It looked interesting, so he picked up his iPad (it could have been a iPhone), purchased it and downloaded it to his reader. The whole process took less than 2 minutes – it takes longer to boot up a PC. And it takes a lot longer to go to a bookshop. What he did represents an enormous shift in purchasing behaviour.
The immediacy and convenience of this channel is compelling and has an extraordinary ability to capture impulse buys.
However, before you race out to find an app developer, Dermot emphasised that the mobile channel is not for everyone. His advice was to think about your app and the context in which it will be used. Selling via apps is particularly suitable for:
- low-value goods
- digitally consumed goods
- easy to deliver goods
Karl Grimes from Owjo focused on social commerce. Their portable online store, called an Owjo, can be placed on your website, Facebook Page, Blog or practically anywhere online. It allows you to reach your customers wherever they are. Customers can purchase within Facebook for example, without having to leave the site. With Facebook experiencing the highest number of pageviews of any website in Europe last march, it looks like your target market is on Facebook [Comscore]. The personal sharing and recommendation power of social is tremendously powerful for increasing sales.
And what does Google have to say?
For Google, in the personal and engaging form of Damian Lawlor, all eyes are on the 1+ billion mobile Internet users globally. In 2010 smartphones outsold PCs, and in Africa the expectation is that the desktop step will be skipped as users go straight to mobile. He also indicated some key factors in a successful mobile strategy:
- Be clear
- Make it a great user experience (with big buttons!)
- Have white space on screen, not cluttered
- As for the web, prioritise content ‘above the fold’
- Be optimised – have a site optimised for search
How important is the Technology?
Social networking is driving mobile growth and mCommerce, or Social Commerce, is part of this. The technologies are enablers. The role of WorldNet is to provide online payment solutions for the new platforms. Currently, 30 to 40% of the cost of anything you buy on your iPhone is taken by Apple, as the payments have to go through the Apple payments infrastructure. That’s a big chunk of change. But alternative embedded payment options are on the way.