Together, these powerful technologies are compelling business and consumer marketers to clean up and better manage their product information.
On Monday, research firm IDC announced what on the surface appears to be a startling statistic: 28 percent of sales during the holiday season will be made over smart phones or other mobile devices.
The way the release is worded suggests that it means 28 percent of the $447 billion the National Retail Federation estimates people will spend this holiday, not necessarily that one out of every four shopping transactions will be made over a smart phone.
Still, it’s an impressive figure that drives home the importance of sound product information for retailers and dealers and their suppliers and distributors. IDC elaborated on this point in its release, stating:
…adults aged 45 to 54 years were the most inclined to use their mobile information advantage; for example, asking for a better price to match one they find on their mobile device while in the store.
New behaviors facilitated by mobility…include searching for price and product information, checking merchandise availability, comparing prices at nearby stores, browsing product reviews, and purchasing goods.
Consumers using multiple channels sequentially as they move from Web to store will give way to concurrent omnichannel behaviors as consumers bring their comfortable use of m-commerce with them into the store. [emphasis added]
This is my first encounter with the term “omnichannel,” as in “omnichannel marketing.” It definitely captures the growing sense that mobile-connected consumers are less likely to think of their shopping options (in-store, online, catalog, etc.) as discrete or separate channels.
Rather, all these channels combine to create an almost “augmented reality” kind of experience in which the consumer is perpetually immersed in an environment of seamless opportunities to purchase. (“Commerce immersion,” similar to “language immersion.”)
The continued growth of smart phones is going to accelerate this trend. The Nielsen Company estimates smart phones account for more than a quarter of the U.S. mobile market; by the end of 2011, they predict smart phones will overtake basic mobile phones.
Compounding this dynamic is the increasing popularity of social media, which serve to accelerate the sharing of information among consumers. An article in Mobile Commerce Daily cites Unity Mobile CEO Daniel West as suggesting that social media over mobile “can be used to allow consumers to share product reviews or get information on products/services and should be part of a mobile merchandising strategy.”
(Although the focus of this post so far has been on consumer retail, all these trends are affecting enterprises across their supply chains, as well as business-to-business industries. Here’s an excellent overview of the growth of the mobile Internet and how it affects dealers and distributors in the HVAC/R industry. And here’s an analysis of social and real-time media use among industrial distributors.)
Together, the growth of mobile and the expansion of social media are sharpening the need for excellence in product information management. The lessons for “ominchannel marketers” in both consumer and business markets are clear:
Your product information is anywhere your customer is. The “omnichannel marketing” model means that your customers no longer think of catalogs as one channel, Web sites as another, mailers as another, and in-store as still another. Your product information is with them like their wallet, or their purse, or…their cell phone. Which is the device they’re increasingly using to get information about your products: from your mobile Web site (you do have one, right?), your Facebook page, your Twitter feed, and feeds from their friends.
Your customer expects your product information to be correct and consistent. Ensuring accurate product information in all channels has always been important. But now it’s mandatory. The customer’s mentality today is a Zen-like, “your product information is your product information.” At one time you might have been able to tap-dance around a customer in your store, asking why the price he saw on your Web site at home is different from the price on the shelf. But in the “ominchannel commerce” model, he’s going to hold his smart phone in your face and demand (and deserve) an explanation.
Your customer has options. “Roaming” not only describes the charges a mobile carrier imposes for overseas usage. It aptly describes today’s customers. Armed with a smart phone, a customer can cover a lot of ground in a shopping mall or retail district, checking prices, looking for bargains, and checking customer reviews. And that’s also increasingly true for business-to-business customers such as contractors, who can find substitute goods and better pricing with a few keystrokes from their vehicles.
If you’ve been thinking that you need to get a handle on your product information, this is the time to begin. If you’d like to contact us, we’d enjoy hearing the issues you’re facing and discussing possible options.