There is a tsunami occurring in our wireless space these days. The phenomenon is called “Mobile”. We know cell phones are ubiquitous around the world (in fact there are 5 billion subscribers today out of close to 6.5 billion people on this planet). Now the second generation of mobile phones are called “Smartphones”, with RIM’s Blackberry and Apple’s iPhone leading the category (1 in 3 people around the planet have a “Smart” type). The phenomenon is still peaking with 67% increases in shipments of these Smartphones this past Q1 alone.

With the introduction of the iPad and more tablets to come, these are the next generation of mobile as they are the size of magazines (with all its ramifications for reading and hence, marketing and merchandising online) and are fully interactive beasts. There doesn’t seem to be any abatement in this movement so retailers (and businesses in general) will have to adapt to this new reality and quickly.

I had the opportunity to moderate a panel at the recent Retail Council of Canada National “STORE” Conference in Toronto this past week on Mobile Marketing and how retailers of all sizes can take advantage of this phenomenon. I am admittedly not an expert, but three really smart people sat on the panel who were experts and it was fascinating to listen not only to them, but to every plenary session speaker who spoke of the pending opportunities and challenges of this increasingly mobile world (no one mentioned more car accidents…hmmm…)

Here are just some of the learnings from the experts and my research as it applies to us merchants…

1) Retailers better do something about and be present on mobile devices or else they will eventually lose market share and as importantly for the long term , mind share

2) If there is current e-commerce infrastructure in place, it will not take a huge investment to create the proper m-commerce platform. The user experience and behaviours are different on a mobile device than on a standard computer so there is a need to convert functionality, graphics and messaging

3) You must determine realistic and specific objectives and target your consumer vigilantly. It may be a different market than you are used to communicating to. Pier One learned that they actually reduced the average age of its customer by 10 years and increased its average revenue per visit by $10 during one mobile coupon promotion

4) This will likely not be an overnight sensation, it is a gradual and steady strategic build

5) One of the best ways to get into the mobile game is to start collecting cell phone numbers and creating a text message campaign

6) Mobile advertising can take additional forms such as embedding your message in the applications that are being downloaded. You can also tag onto additional functions such as Google Maps and other mobile search engines for location based traffic building and identification

7) The most important functions of the mobile universe are location and context – namely “Where am I and what am I looking for?” Mobile marketing is perfect for helping merchants answer those questions for consumers to induce impulse purchases

Dan O’Connor of the RetailNet Group posited that mobile marketing and m-commerce “allow small retailers to look big” and to become global. I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. O’Connor. This should not be taken lightly or misused.

Chris O’Neill from Google cited the fact that 50-60% of these mobile device users are using their devices in their purchase decisions whether it be price comparisons, reading reviews or actually purchasing on the device itself. He stated that “mobile devices are the personal computer of today”.

Pretty heady stuff to start considering. The pace of change in this area is breathtaking. My advice is to jump in now in some capacity. It may actually lead you in a completely new and profitable direction. At the very least, you will maintain your market share with respect to your competitors.

TheRetailTherapist 🙂