As smartphone and tablet sales continue to climb north, mobile commerce is expected to make a major jump. For all intents and purposes, this is good news for online retailers, that is, as long as they make the requisite changes to their infrastructure.
According to a recent trend report from Cisco and DHL, an estimated $8 trillion will be generated through new connections over the next decade. The study cites a number of factors driving this value, such as enhanced customer experience — something Google has very publicly deemed a priority.
Earlier this year, Google announced big changes coming to its search algorithm. It will start favoring mobile-friendly websites (those that have large, readable text, easy-to-navigate links, and webpages that resize to fit the screen they are being viewed on) and ranking them higher in search results. This means that many high-profile retail brands could potentially fall in the rankings if their mobile sites aren’t up to snuff. And for e-commerce companies, even a slight drop in organic traffic can be a huge, direct hit to sales and revenue.
The change, which occurred this week and many are calling “Mobilegeddon,” reinforces Google’s mobile focus. As of now, more than half of online traffic comes from mobile devices and with its new mobile-friendly algorithm; Google is making it a point to guide users to websites where they can have a positive experience.
Since the update was announced back in February, brands have been scrambling to make the requisite changes to prevent their sites from falling off mobile search results. Google has even created a mobile-friendly test for businesses to evaluate how their website will fare.
It’s a pivotal moment in digital development. And making the shift towards a more friendly mobile user experience is arguably overdue. Still, the changes businesses must make extend well beyond investing in good technology and design. They must begin to understand how to transition into a mobile era where thousands of devices have been linked together, creating what is known as the Internet of Things (IoT).
Mobile search, rankings and communication will also be impacted by automatic identification technologies like near field communication (NFC). Right now, there are roughly 1 billion NFC-enabled phones across the globe.
According to Mathew Bright, Chair of the NFC Forum’s Retail working group and director of technical marketing at Thin Film Electronics, “the tag will guide consumers to information without having the person type a query into a box.”
“The point of using NFC and not typing something into the search box is the event triggers the capability to guide consumers to information mediated by the brand, rather than Google’s search algorithm.”
While Google’s search algorithm focuses on making websites more visible, in the future there is likely to be a shift towards Internet-connected objects like wearables, smart meters, cars and other devices that make use of embedded NFC tags. Even previously unconnected products, such as food, beverages or clothing will eventually come with NFC tags attached, turning consumer goods into Internet-connected advertising platforms that close the gap between the physical and the digital.
Consider a retail store where NFC tags are placed on products, allowing customers to access more personalized information about the product by simply scanning them with an app that integrates their personal information. For example, if you are allergic to wheat, the product scan would be able to determine if the product contained wheat (or was processed in a factory containing wheat) and let you know. The scan would also be able to provide instant coupons, ideas for usage, or various payment options.
Not only does this provide consumers with a more enjoyable shopping experience, it provides retailers with a significant amount of information and data about their audience. And in turn, presents opportunities for marketers and media to leverage the data that arises from so many connected things.
Aside from beacons and messaging, retailers must focus on creating even greater efficiencies in the entire consumer experience, from beginning to end. According to the Cisco and DHL report, this includes mobile payments, checkout optimization, in-store shopper guidance, and what the study calls hyper-relevance, which enables consumers to find what they want, when they want, and in exactly the way they want it.