As consumers, whether we’re aware of it or not, we are perpetually shopping. We establish deep relationships with the brands we trust and give them access to every aspect of our lives. We actively seek out the next new thing, and social media has enabled us to reel in instantaneous recommendations from friends and family.
In a world where shopping is no longer isolated to a particular channel, a brand’s ability to build relationships with consumers through personal interactions at every step of the buying journey is crucial to their success.
A mobile device isn’t just a flashy toy with some cool features; it’s also a highly personal possession. When we think of our phone or tablet, we think of all the photos, music, calendar, videos and more that are central to our individual, daily lives. A personal device assumes a personal experience, which can translate into personal commerce.
Continuous Commerce™ relies heavily on a brand’s ability to tap into this form of intimate commerce. When invited into this relationship, mobile can become the hub for brand experiences. The relationship is similar to that of a retail salesperson who has established trust and influence. Becoming this hub is crucial in furthering the sales process—and that’s far more achievable in the mobile realm than it is on a desktop, for example. The desktop was made for a user, not an individual. By contrast, the personal relationship I’ve formed with my phone provides opportunities in commerce that were never possible before.
Mobile devices are also thought of as providing streamlined experiences. Whether this is perception or reality doesn’t matter. When a user is asked why she chose her phone over her desktop to accomplish a task, she often talks about convenience and speed. These two factors influence commerce as well, no matter the medium or channel.
Mobile security is shaping convenience and speed. Since mobile devices are easily lost or stolen, security technology has been accelerated and is yielding some interesting short cuts, such as purchase verification via fingerprint scanning, a technology that was attempted on desktop machines but never gained much traction until mobile made it necessary. Users much prefer single-touch verification over codes and pins.
Mobile is very much about the here and now. When we talk about “here,” we’re talking about geolocation (unique to mobile). With new technologies such as Apple’s iBeacon, position accuracy can be measured in inches. This can provide a level of consumer data and analytics never before available. For example, it’s now possible to know the consumer’s path through a store, and the amount of time they’ve spent at a specific product display. This information could be used to enhance both the in-store and the post-store experiences.
When we refer to the “now,” we’re talking about the moment a transaction becomes a possibility. Users have come to expect of-the-moment content, features, and functionality on mobile devices. Many consumers are willing to make decisions and purchases on the spot, and mobile can provide consumers with that opportunity in a way no other channel can. Many purchasing triggers are compulsive or rely on timeliness. Mobile is always there and always on, and can quickly act upon the triggers unique to its user. These triggers might be a reminder of when your ink cartridges are low, a notification that you are within 500 yards of your favorite sandwich shop, or an alert for a sale on the camera you’ve been researching.
Hyper-personalized customer service is also an element of Continuous Commerce™ . Based on a consumer’s loyalty, brand interaction and purchasing history, customer service can be personalized to the individual (versus a simple tiered criteria) and provided in a spectrum of ways. On the high end of the spectrum is Kindle’s May Day button, which launches a video chat in which a service person can “pilot” you through an experience by seeing and manipulating things your screen. Imagine the possibilities in commerce for a clothing brand to provide fashion consultants, or a home-improvement brand offering a do-it-yourself consultant.
We’ve arrived at a place and time where the technologies empowering Continuous Commerce™ are not the awesome part. The awesome part will be implementing those technologies. We must remember that the brand should be honored to live in its consumer’s pocket, and that means being a polite and well-mannered guest. Since mobile is always there and always on, brand touchpoints must have context, relevancy and good timing. Without that, the relationship with the consumer can be easily lost.