Product Bash 2011: Retail and the Multichannel, Mobile Australian Consumer

By far the biggest impact on retail seen in the last twelve months has been the maturation and genuine arrival of mobile commerce in Australia. And of course when you get a room of 100 clever, on the ball Product Managers in one room together, Product Bash 2011 was dominated by the influence of mobile commerce on the retail experience.

Our panel of Mark Rowland, Co-founder of online shoe retailer Style Tread, Andrew Rechtman, Product Director of PayPal Australia and Daniel Roberts, Head of Online for the Woolworths non-food businesses Dan Murphy’s, Big W and Dick Smith, shared their thoughts on The Internet Super Mall and the Future of Retail talk retail and the multichannel, mobile Australian consumer.

“We are probably an unrepresentative group but I would guess that 80% of the people in the room have made a purchase of a good or service on your mobile device in the last 12 months. PayPal have found that from a standing start of 1% of our customers having made a mobile purchase a year ago it is up to about 10% – so we’re seeing enormous growth in mobile commerce. Mobile commerce has been talked about for a very long time but this is the year it has really come into its own. It’s not just in the purchasing, but also in the use of mobile as a discovery tool. Before we began, we (the panel) had been talking about Red Laser, a bar scanning tool eBay owns, and how it has 300,000 downloads and users in Australia, despite its application being limited at this point in terms of purchasing. One of our movie ticket customers for example has about 15% of their business happening via mobile device and again that is from a standing start of a year ago of nothing,” explained Andrew.

During the research for Product Bash, Brainmates found was 42% of Australians own iPhones and 30% have internet enabled phones that have made a purchase with their mobile phone. Whilst still in the process of becoming fully mobile enabled, Styletread have also seen marked growth through mobile commerce.

“Our application launches early next year, so our current sales on mobile are done through web. I can’t remember what the exact number is but I think it’s about 16% of Styletread purchases are done by a tablet or a mobile device. Mobile is great because the Ad Words cost on a mobile device is cheaper. We do a lot of TV advertising and safely assume a lot of people have an iPad or mobile phone near them when they are viewing TV, more than they would have a PC or laptop because it reflects in our sales. It comes back to convenience – you see something you want it, you have a mobile device with you and you get what you want,” stated Mark.

Mobile is definitely influencing how consumers research and shop for products, including changing when they make their purchases. The research and all panellists shared they are recording mobile enabled sales activated at times such as late at night and during the morning or afternoon commute or presumably, waiting in the lunch line on a work day. Mobile is becoming increasingly popular as a payment method for its pocket portability and added convenience. However like any payment or discovery channel, mobile requires proper design and development to be successful. Andrew had this advice.

“From a product excellence point of view, mobile is definitely different from the web and the user interface has to be very different. There are not going to be a lot of successful mobile website where you have to keep scrolling within a screen, pinch and expand, pinch and expand, and have to put thinking time behind how you navigate the page. You have to think about it as being a time poor device. In the online version you have all this extraneous crap – a whole page to fill- but when you get down to tin tacks on the mobile you just have to put in the essential stuff. It’s an interesting challenge for anyone in product management to say ‘I have dealt with the offline and online version- how do I actually optimise the whole experience for the mobile device?’ A challenge sure, but it can be quite liberating too because it takes away all the stuff you don’t really need.”

So how do you create a mobile App people will use?

“I think the principles that Andrew has outlined are spot on. If you look at the Woolworths App, that has over a million downloads on the iPhone and there are only 2million iPhones in Australia, which is pretty good penetration really. What we did was we went out there, asked consumers what they really wanted from shopping in a Woolworths store and gave it to them,” Dan shared.

As discussed in Make the Customer the Centre of Your Retail Experiences and Staying Afloat in a Competitive Retail World, ensuring the customer has the ability to complete their product journey across multiple channels and on their own terms is vital to the success of your mobile product.