Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sears Adds Appliances, In-Store Pickup Features To Sears2go Mobile App

Written by Amanda Ferrante
Two months after unveiling its Sears2go mobile commerce website, Sears has added the capability for customers to browse, purchase and schedule delivery or pickup for major home appliances like refrigerators or washing machines, all on their mobile devices.

Powered by Usablenet, the Sears2Go mobile commerce web site is the first on-the-go technology offered by a U.S. retailer which pairs mobile commerce with services such as in-store pickup. The new application is designed to cater to consumers who use their mobile devices to browse the web for convenience while they are out of the home.

"There is an increasing population of "people on the go" that have smart phones and Internet plans," said Ravi Acharya, director, online business unit at Sears. "Daily commuters, for example, are a sample demographic where users can find and buy products on the go and pick up their purchases in stores on their way home."

The full appliance product line available at Sears2go joins a variety of other product categories, including apparel, electronics and computers, fitness and sports, jewelry, tools, toys and games. All categories support purchase and scheduling home delivery or in-store pickup through the mobile site. After purchasing an item on Sears2go, shoppers picking up their order in store will receive a text message alert when their merchandise is ready for pick-up. Sears2go is the first on-the-go mobile e-commerce site offered by a US retailer that pairs mobile commerce with Sears' best-in-class in-store pickup or delivery.

The new mobile component is part of Sears' overall strategy developed from witnessing the buzz and interest around mobile commerce. "We have been watching industry trends and testing various mobile capabilities for the past 2 years, launching various SMS based alerts, deals and marketing campaigns," says Acharya. "Therefore, moving into the mobile commerce space was a natural evolution as we noticed significant customer interests. Our key value proposition is to provide another convenient mechanism for customers to interact with us and the mobile phone is a very personal device that customers can use at any time of their choice to engage with us."

"The comprehensive catalog of products that Sears now offers on its mobile site delivers huge value in convenience to customers on-the-go," said Nick Taylor, President of Usablenet. Usablenet Mobile is a fully managed service that leverages the features and functionality of a company's existing Web site and extends it to all mobile devices worldwide in less than six weeks, requiring no client IT or Web design resources.

After purchasing an item on Sears2go, shoppers picking up their order in store will receive a text message alert when their merchandise is ready for pick-up. The mobile application also allows consumers to mix and match orders, choose different fulfillment options for different products. For example, if one item from a shopping list is available for delivery, but another is not currently in-stock, a text message will alert when the store has the product available.

Forrester: Shopper’s Show Cross-Channel Eagerness, But Satisfaction Levels Slump

Written by John Gaffney
Consumers continue to migrate toward cross-channel purchase behavior, but most are not too happy about the experience. That’s the conclusion of a Forrester Research report on cross-channel customer satisfaction, which defines channel migration behavior of more than 5,400 consumers during 2008.
The report, “How Satisfied Are Shoppers When Moving Across Channels?,” shows that $630 million worth (or 24%) of offline retail sales were influenced by Internet research in 2008, but shoppers also research products in the store and then purchase online. Overall, two-thirds of online consumers engage in some form of cross-channel shopping behavior when purchasing apparel, wireless products, consumer electronics, personal computers, and large appliances. That’s the good news. Forrester found the following areas that clearly need attention:
  • Cross-channel experiences fell short of single-channel satisfaction. 82% of online consumers report satisfaction with buying experiences that begin and end in a store. However, among consumers who started their shopping experience online before going to the store to buy, satisfaction rates drop to 61%. Similarly, while 61% of online consumers report satisfaction with Web-only purchases, only 56% of consumers are satisfied with their buying experience when whey research in-store and then buy online.
  • Consumers are more satisfied with online-to-store than other channel transitions. All three types of cross-channel experiences leave room for improving consumer satisfaction, but consumers rated some cross-channel experiences higher than others. Satisfaction for researching online and purchasing in a store was highest at 61%, followed by 56% for store-to-Web and 49% for Web-to-phone. Researching in a store and purchasing online produced the largest discrepancies across purchase categories — a 12% point gap from apparel (58% satisfied) to large appliances (46% satisfied).
  • Large appliance shopping experiences left consumers the most dissatisfied. Cross-channel shoppers were the least satisfied when researching and purchasing large appliances across channels. This held true whether the shoppers moved from Web to store, store to Web, or Web to phone. Conversely, PC purchase transitions were among the most satisfactory across the board.

The report also found significant differences among age groups. Across all product categories except wireless, Older Boomers were the most satisfied Web-to-store shoppers. The most satisfied in wireless were Seniors, who were also pleased with consumer electronics and PC experiences.

Forrester analyst Adele Sage, author of the report, interpreted that data to mean that seniors have lower expectations because, for most of their lives, using the Web to research considered purchases wasn’t an option. Gen Y consumers’ satisfaction with Web-to-store is low. Their satisfaction scores averaged 13 percentage points lower than Older Boomers across all categories — except apparel. Gen Y consumers take the Web for granted and so expect the Web to be woven as seamlessly into their shopping experiences as it is into their daily lives.

The report recommends three strategies to improve cross-channel customer satisfaction:

  1. Design experiences that support users’ goals. Make sure that you ask and answer the three questions: Who are your users? What are their goals? And how can you help them achieve those goals? The answers to those questions guide the design of interactions that provide users with the content and functionality they need in the channel(s) they use to complete their goals.
  2. Use design personas to guide decision-making. Design personas — user archetypes that represent key user behaviors —contain detailed information on the motivations, goals, and behaviors of target customers. To help support the design of multichannel experiences, some firms create cross-channel scenario maps for personas that show customer paths as they move among channels.
  3. Apply Review Methodology. An important step on the way to improving multichannel experiences is to diagnose usability problems that prevent users from accomplishing their goals. To get started, the report recommends retailers develop a description of their target user, write down a few goals that the user would have, and then try to accomplish those goals using the channels — both individually and in pairs — the way the user would.

This is Forrester’s first look at cross-channel satisfaction. It’s 2007 customer satisfaction study came up big for retailers, who comprised with four of the top five rated companies.

Friday, January 16, 2009

By John Gaffney, Senior Analyst
Already a competitive advantage, cross channel capabilities are about to become an even more distinct differentiator with the arrival of mobile commerce. While both consumer and marketers have been slow to embrace mobile commerce in the U.S., several sources point to the channel arriving in a significant way over the next two years.

A new study from Foresee Results titled “Mobile Apps: The Next Big Thing” shows mobile applications will be impacting retail sales sooner than may executives expect, and those merchants already prepared for cross-channel commerce will have a distinct advantage. The study from Foresee shows a 91% penetration rate for mobile phone ownership, but only about a third of respondents have used them while shopping. Foresee CEO Larry Freed expects that usage to double by the end of 2009.

“And I would also say that the retailers who can merge channels have a definite advantage as that adoption rate continues,” Freed says. “As the situation has developed consumers see definite advantages to the web experience in terms of information and inventory choices. And they see an advantage to the in-store experience, because it’s more personal and tangible. Mobile is the bridge between the two experiences.

Freed is so bullish on the rapid acceleration of mobile usage for three reasons. First, he sees retailers making a priority of bringing the web experience into stores. Second, he believes competitive pressure will force their hand. And third, he expects the iPhone applications that started to appear in 2008 to become more commerce-oriented and less gimmicky.

During the 2008 season the vast majority of shoppers who did use a mobile phone as part of their shopping experience did not use retailer-originated mobile apps or Internet-based product information. Most used their phone to get a simple opinion about a purchase. Freed says this may indicate that mobile apps are very much on the “bleeding edge,” rather than the leading edge, of technology.

How mobile phone was used as part of retail shopping experience % of respondents
One in four shoppers who used a mobile phone during a shopping trip used the device to compare prices, while 15% used a mobile device to go online to check product reviews. Freed says this is a insignificant number, considering the small but growing use of smart phones and the fact that many retailer mobile apps were new this holiday or still in beta testing.

One surprising fact that Freed uncovered from the Foresee study was that the emergence of mobile as a fourth channel could ultimately have more of an impact on brick and mortar shopping than online. “In fact, of all the behaviors we study, only one was different for this group: greater likelihood to purchase offline. All the other scores are identical for those who shop with or without a mobile phone. Given the indications that people are using phones more often to actually call someone to get an opinion or to send a picture of an item (and less for price comparison shopping or store-initiated mobile apps), it would seem that, more often than not, the opinion they get encourages them to buy the item. Perhaps stores should consider ‘phone-a-friend’ promotions to encourage this kind of shopping behavior.”

Freed councils retailers to encourage smart phone users to adopt retailer-generated mobile apps, not only to ask about a product or send a picture of a product to a friend, but to compare online prices, remember specs of something they were researching online, and identify the proper model or version of a wish list item.

In a separate report on the emergence of mobile commerce, a team of executives from Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG for Retail presented their findings at the NRF Show in a Big Ideas Session titled, “Mobile as the Next Channel: Hype or Reality?” Jon Stine, IBSG, argued that retailers can no longer afford to ignore the internal and external benefits mobile devices bring.

“The productivity revolution that mobility represents has just begun,” said Stine. “The smart devices we have, like the iPhone will bring this to its height. When consumers walk into a store and they are going to mobile applications to check prices and SKUs at other retailers, that other competitor has entered your store. In the past, retailers asked the consumer to come to their brand. Then we asked them to find our website. Now it is possible for a brand to go along with the consumer as a shopping buddy. Mobility changes the paradigm. The numbers mobile can produce can and will be meaningful for those who prepare.”

Arguing that mobile commerce is at a tipping point, Cisco’s Lindsay Parker suggested retailers work closely with their customers on finding the most appropriate uses for mobile applications. By creating a collaborative experience out of the mobile channel, Parker pointed out that retailers have an opportunity to significantly increase margins.

Parker also reminded retailers that mobility is no longer limited to consumers; but some smart phone devices can increase store associate productivity for a two-way optimization of the device. “The mobile phone as a new channel is giving retailers a new way to position your brand to your shoppers. Previously it was about getting consumers in your store, but now it's about being with them 24/7 via their mobile devices. The mobile device enables information deliverability and harbors loyalty,” Parker said.

Cisco’s IBSG Director Lisa Fretwell pointed to three main opportunities for retailers to focus on in using the mobile channel:

  • Productivity: By providing store employees access to information on a mobile device that they would have had to find manually, there are opportunities bottom line savings.
  • Shopper productivity: Giving consumers access to tasks that previously could only be completed by store associates, such as self scanning for price checks provides convenience and reduces labor costs.
  • Transforming the customer experience: New messaging channels provided by mobile devices are expected to have a dramatic impact on customer retention, and also provide new paths to increase basket size.
In order to get started tapping into the power of mobile devices, Fretwell suggested retailers focus on using mobility as an additional content source. “Be prepared to sell, but also be prepared to inform. The opportunity to inform consumers on the spot at point of purchase has just exponentially risen,” Fretwell said.