Google reinforces mobile as the pinnacle of customer engagement

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By Jamie Anderson, Senior Vice President, Marketing, SAP hybris.

The retail sector has experienced its fair share of disruption over the past decade, with advancing technology driving dramatic change across the industry. Part and parcel of this change is that consumers have become harder to catch and many brands are struggling to secure customer loyalty. In addition, Capgemini revealed recently that most loyalty programs lack personalisation and fail to offer cross-channel redemption services.

The rise of mobile has been a major cause of this shift in consumer behaviour. Customers now spend more time on the small screen than any other, checking their phones up to 150 times a day. Our phone is frequently the last thing we check at night, and the first thing we turn to the morning. Despite this, some organisations still see mobile integration and optimisation as a tick-box exercise, designed to alert consumers to their existence in the new world of omnichannel commerce, rather than an essential part of their selling strategy.

The update to Google's algorithm should significantly change the existing perception of mobile integration by downgrading sites it deems "mobile unfriendly" and promoting sites that are optimised for smartphones. The move underpins Google's ambition to encourage more users to surf the Web on their phones instead of using mobile apps.

In addition, the update will put pressure on retailers to upgrade their view of mobile integration beyond a tick-box exercise and place mobile firmly at the epicentre of their omnichannel strategy. The browsing economy will shift with this new algorithm and retailers need to change how they use mobile to engage consumers.

The Google algorithm change is likely to drive home the folly of failing to integrate mobile properly. Prior to this development, a poor mobile experience might have a negative impact on conversion rates or customer loyalty – following it, consumers may struggle to find sites at all. The mobile experience must be good but must also follow the trend of creating personalised experienced for consumers.

When online page position is on the line, it can be tempting to try and implement changes specifically to beat Google's algorithms. In the case of mobile, this is the wrong move - mobile is now so central to success in the omnichannel retail space that delivering a positive and personalised customer experience should be the number one priority, not second guessing Google's ranking requirements.

Mobile is not simply another channel. It is the vital link between every aspects of the omnichannel journey. For the customer, it underpins a seamless and consistent experience across channels; internally, it breaks down business siloes and increases operational efficiency. As such, delivering a contextualised mobile experience for staff and customers should be at the heart of any retail business strategy.

In marketing terms, context has become crucial, and mobile devices can act as a hub for capturing data that can inform a contextualised customer experience. As discussed earlier, consumers use their devices all the time, across a multitude of touch-points, so they are perfect for building the single, real-time view of the customer required for contextual personalisation.

A company that has successfully implemented a mobile strategy and moved beyond simply optimising its mobile sites is luxury online beauty brand Sephora. The company created a "Beauty Insider" loyalty program that syncs loyalty accounts with a mobile app as well as the Apple Passbook mobile wallet. This allows Sephora to provide a seamless purchase experience, where customers can track their purchases, view offers, and redeem reward points via their mobile devices. The strategy has proved to be a major success, with Sephora's Passbook users doubling their annual spend and purchasing twice as often as the average Sephora customer.

The bottom line is that retailers must focus on where their customers spend the most time, meaning creating a compelling mobile experience has already become a top priority. Google has further upped the stakes for any marketers still doubting the importance of the small screen – and firmly established mobile at the forefront of customer experience and engagement.

Make your move to mobile a meaningful one.

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