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A Day Inside the Mobile Ecosystem

This week I attended Bricks + Mobile 2011, which was held at the Spertus Institute here in Chicago. The day offered insight from retail and brand managers, mobile strategists and commerce thought leaders on the current state of mobile and where it’s heading.

The mobile-centric sessions covered topics around in-store opportunities, mobile loyalty and CRM, mobile payments and security and privacy. An audience of merchants learned about the latest trends and developments in mobile commerce and retail from experts in the field which included representatives from Discover, Estee Lauder Companies, ISIS, Motorola and Verizon, among others. The day ended with an impactful keynote from Bridget Brennan, CEO of Female Factor & Author of "Why She Buys."

As a fairly new follower of the vast world of mCommerce and mobile technologies, I was intrigued learning about how mobile is shaping the way we interact. I was introduced to concepts around things like the mobile/digital wallet, QR and barcodes, wayfinding, augmented reality, location-based services and value exchange, all of which are emerging trends and buzzwords within the industry.

There were a few concepts that particularly stood out to me, though, that seemed to be recurring themes throughout the day. Here were MY key takeaways:

“Ease of use”

Consumers are looking for easy, readily available, simple ways to interact. When a consumer visits a website on their smartphone or tablet, they are usually looking to accomplish something specific, not just to browse. Using their mobile devices, consumers most frequently are searching retailers to find a store or compare prices, and want to see those capabilities front and center when they reach a site. Another example, consumers are much more apt to use check-in capabilities, for instance, if they are asked when they walk into a store “Would you like to check-in?”

“Know your customer”

It’s important to tailor information and messages specifically to your customer, as everyone is using their mobile device in different ways. For example, a soccer mom is looking for different things out of her smartphone than the club promoter is. A soccer mom is looking for ways to make her life easier and less complicated, by scanning at the grocery checkout or comparing prices on school supplies. A club promoter is probably using check-in capabilities and leveraging applications like Gowalla and Yelp. One size does not fit all when it comes to mobile commerce.

“Target and Starbucks are doing it right”

Large-scale retailers Target and Starbucks have gotten rave reviews for their mCommerce capabilities. They both have mobile-optimized sites AND apps that give shoppers a truly unique user experience. Target features a mobile site that makes purchasing quick and easy, and they are also intelligently employing QR codes by directing consumers who scanned the codes to videos of a Target style expert sharing tips on how to use Target home decor and furnishing products. Starbucks has received huge impact from their Starbucks Card Mobile program, boasting more than 3 million users since its inception 3 months ago. Brands should take note on the way these retailers are paving the way in mobile.