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Retailers Can’t Rest on Their Mobile App Laurels

Guest Blog by Steve Wellen

Mobile retail was sometimes perceived as a bandwagon, and it has turned out to be the boat that no one can afford to miss. Now, retailers are discovering that even with a mobile site, they need better data to turn opportunity into revenue.

Back in 2009, Forrester Research Group forecasted that online retail would reach $229 billion in 2013. It was a cautiously optimistic gauge that had us all crossing our fingers in the heat of America’s mini-Depression.

But the economy had even better plans than Forrester—or anyone—could have anticipated. In 2012, online retail hit $226 billion, and Forrester now anticipates $252 billion before we raise our glasses to a new year again.

And in the middle of it all, we find mobile retail.

In a recent retail article, 14 executives weighed in on 2013 retail predictions, and everyone mentioned mobile retailing, showing that mobile has graduated from “up-and-coming” to “here-and-now.” During Thanksgiving 2012, 24% of consumers used a mobile device to visit a retailer’s site, up from 14.3% in 2011 (IBM report). Black Friday alone saw 16.3% of all purchases conducted on a mobile device. At an invitation-only Salesforce event in New York on February 26, Marc Benioff said that every company is now a software company—we all have apps, we all have to deal with UI, and our customers all hold our brands ransom for an exceptional mobile experience.

But the increase in mobile activity and mobile demand doesn’t mean that we’re doing mobile better. For example, we see that JC Penney has had a mobile version of its site and yet reported double digit losses both online and in store. Google pretty much is the Internet, but their Nexus 4 retail launch was a disaster. Showrooming and other cross-channel challenges continue to get in the way of success for online retailers everywhere.

So if having a mobile site isn’t the differentiator between online success and failure, then what is?

First of all, there is no single great differentiator—otherwise known as a “silver bullet.” But from my perspective at Domo, I would posit that the online retailers we work with see a massive shift in opportunity and revenue when they are able to get a handle on their data.

Here are the data problems that retailers face:

  1. Big data, per se, does not equal big insights into customer needs.
  2. Disconnected data sources leave holes in customer info that need to be filled.
  3. Investments in new data sources aren’t delivering the expected value.

It’s not a data quantity issue, and it’s not even a data quality issue. It’s a data access and reporting issue. Most retailers have plenty of data; they just can’t get it how they want it, when they need it.

Collecting data, assembling data and analyzing data are still several steps away from actually using data to improve your mobile site. Disparate data sources are good at telling you a few things about your mobile sites—CTR, time on page, page views, cart abandonment, etc. But connecting it to social media, finance, fulfillment, POS, cross-channel metrics, and more is a matter of static spreadsheets, human error and late numbers. And that’s where brands stumble.

When retailers can get updated metrics from all their data in one place, mobile websites and apps will start to provide the experience customers want and the revenue opportunities that retailers need.

Steve Wellen is VP of Client Services with Domo

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