IRCE 2010: Mobile As An In-Store Guide

Josh GordonAs I mentioned on Monday, I am one of the over 6,000 people in Chicago for the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition 2010. One of the keynote addresses I was most looking forward to was from Imran Jooma, Sears’ SVP and GM for eCommerce. Jooma is perhaps best known for his work with Circuit City. While the business eventually liquidated, it was not because the eCommerce was ineffective. Jooma, in fact, pioneered the buy online, pick up in-store concept, and he has brought that program – and a host of other successful marketing tactics – to Sears.

The theme of the conference is “Recharge Your eCommerce.” Jooma, right off the bat in the first keynote address, zeroed in on the importance of direct digital marketing for improving eCommerce efforts. Specifically, Jooma spoke of mobile being the key link between the online and offline world, and Sears has the programs in market to back that up.

One comment from Jooma that was particularly sticky with me was how he referred to the mobile device, from the customer’s perspective, as an “in-store guide.” So much concentration and enthusiasm from marketers about mobile is getting customers to purchase directly from their mobile device. While that convenience is nice, customers must evolve a great deal to universally gain a comfort level with purchasing from a mobile device. Using it as an in-store guide, however, is a massive opportunity that enhances the billions of dollars many clicks and mortar retailers have already invested in the in-store channel.

The challenge to marketers is to create the right guide for their customers in-store. Whether a brand prefers a short code SMS program or a 2D tag generated-mobile Web experience, opportunities are wide open right now.

A store like Sears has a significant challenge because of the three-pronged strategic goal of convenience, choice, and value. With over 12 million products, the in-store guide must help customers navigate, and it must include personalization and relevance that consumers demand. Therefore, a multi-channel communications program like this – to maximize impact – must have strong glue that connects the experience. That glue is the data. When a customer is on a mobile Web site while in-store the content should be dynamic and relevant not just based on location with the mobile device but based on important factors like past purchase history.

It is one thing for retailers to embrace the mobile device as an in-store guide, it is quite another to do it well and maximizing the customer experience regardless of channel. A universal profile management system is required to power this type of experience to make a significant positive impact on the bottom line and the customer experience.

The main takeaway from Jooma’s presentation was the importance of mobile, the fact that mobile’s penetration has eclipsed the PC, and how marketers must embrace it full force. If the goal of marketing is to make life easier for customers, direct digital marketing is crucial – and mobile is the beating heart necessary to connect with the next generation of customers.

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  1. Posted June 11, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    What a great post! Look at what I wrote about Jooma’s session!

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