GrowthNovember 26, 2014

The 5 steps to customer-centric mobile commerce

When you align your mobile strategy to consumer behaviors you are supporting consumers’ mobility, not mobile in the abstract, and you greatly improve your chance of success.

Although I never tire of reading about growth projections for mobile everything, there are times when it feels like the steady drumbeat of “Mobile, Mobile, Mobile!” can drown out important concepts that transcend the medium. This is particularly true for mobile commerce.

We get it — mobile commerce growth is explosive. Purchases made using a smartphone or tablet are accelerating. Mobile influence increasingly plays a role in commerce whether the purchase is made in the store, online, or via a mobile device. Mobile commerce is a globe saturating phenomenon. Once breathless projections are becoming reality — and if anything that, reality is approaching sooner than we had imagined.

And yet. Mobile commerce isn’t about mobile. Mobile commerce is about the customer. Pretty obvious, huh? You’d be surprised. There are incredibly customer-centric reasons why mobile commerce is becoming a dominant force. Those reasons start and end with consumer behavior. When you align your mobile strategy to these consumer behaviors you are supporting consumers’ mobility, not mobile in the abstract, and you greatly improve your chance of success.

Naturally, the starting point in understanding the consumer is to look at the data — get smart about what your customers are doing! Let’s look at how to do that…

Set your objectives

The data shows us that most consumer mobile behavior patterns falls into one or more of these categories:

  1. Looking for deals. Coupons, sales, earning/redeeming awards via a loyalty program.
  2. Product research. Feature research, price research, comparison research.  Often while in the store.
  3. Finding a store location.
  4. Social commerce. Sharing some aspect of the retail experience with friends.
  5. Making a purchase on the device.
  6. Making a mobile payment in the store.

Once you understand what your customer is trying to achieve, the next step is aligning what you want to accomplish in mobile with that objective.

Flash sales sites like Gilt and others have arguably capitalized on mobile in some of the most effective ways, and they generally keep their objectives very clear: drive engagement and conversion. When aligned to consumer mobile behavior patterns, this has translated into tactics that have resonated with consumers such as mobile exclusive offers, personalized sales, and a fast and simple user experience that allows them to shop anywhere and anytime. All of this speaks directly to the whys and hows that drive consumers to adopt mobile in the first place.

Do the important things right

Now, let’s get to the practical – what are the important things to do right?  Here are the 5 practices that will get you started if you have a mobile commerce app.

Collect and own your data

You can’t start with the data or make data-driven decisions if you don’t have the data. I still can’t believe how many enterprises I talk to whose app data is essentially trapped in the app or in third-party service providers and effectively siloed off. Instrument your app! And not just the purchase funnel, although that is of course critical. Identify users and instrument their app interactions. Own and control your data – make sure your data is passing through an infrastructure that you control and is not being fragmented and sent directly off to multiple analytics, attribution, push notification and other data-hungry service providers. Pay yourself first, and pay yourself with data. Otherwise, you’ll be in tech debt with no data assets to offset it. That’s a data balance sheet that you don’t want to have.

2. Measure lifetime value

Define and measure what you consider to be customer lifetime value. Core to that is revenue of course, but you must establish and measure the key customer behaviors that you also consider accretive to value such as registering for promotions, sharing with friends, and so on.  This customer lifetime value is the beating heart core metric of your business.

3. Optimize the purchase funnel

For smartphones, the checkout is still the problem. Shopping cart abandonment rates on smartphones are significantly higher than on tablets or desktop.  For example, the abandonment rate for mobile shopping carts is 97%, compared to 70-75% for desktop carts.  A greatly simplified, highly optimized checkout process can make a tremendous difference in mobile.

4. Deploy a holistic customer engagement strategy that is aligned to consumer behavior

The marketing automation solutions available on the market today are ushering in a whole new era of customer engagement. Which is a good thing for app owners, because we are all experiencing a substantial shift in market focus from simply driving installs and acquiring new users to making those users highly engaged and highly valuable. It’s the difference between racing to follow your customers on mobile and actually building a sustainable business on mobile. And it will be fascinating to see how the marketing automation ecosystem evolves with Marketo / Hubspot / Eloqua and other established marketing automation providers starting to mesh with the emerging mobile first Appboys / Kahunas of the world.  But I digress.  Email, push notifications, deep linking (particularly for cart abandonment remarketing), ibeacons, location based messaging – all of these may have a role in executing your customer lifetime engagement strategy and tactics.  But make sure you are aligning these tactics to consumer mobile behavior patterns, and make sure they work together. Make your engagements mirror your consumer behavior patterns.  E.g. a 1:1 email offer triggered by a browse session, followed by a push notification / coupon triggered by location or offer expiry, followed by a store locator prompt, and so on. The possibilities are endless and should stem from your business model, your business objectives, and a data driven understanding of your consumers’ behavior.

5. Test and evolve relentlessly

Mobile like so many things can only be done right if you have the right data. Your consumer behavior patterns are influenced by many factors and are changing rapidly. The mobile ecosystem and it’s associated platform, technology, and service providers is seemingly re-inventing itself every 18 months.  Lack of speed kills.  Test and evolve continuously and relentlessly.


If you believe that mobile commerce is all about the customer then what strategy are you implementing to inform how you market?

If the answer doesn’t involve data, you might want to rethink your strategy and assess if you really understand the heartbeat of your customer. With the speed at which consumers are changing their behavior it’s important to have an infrastructure built on data that will surface the changes in real time. Do yourself the favor of laying the groundwork now so that when the data signals a change, you’re able to see it and adjust. Anything short of that would be a failure to align your marketing with the customer’s behavior.

The good news is that it’s easier than ever to create a sound data strategy in mobile. Tools are emerging that enable you to focus on insights so that you can spend less time asking hypotheticals and more time marketing based on data. The ultimate winner will be your customers who will receive more timely, more personalized and overall more meaningful engagement from you.

Latest from mParticle


SDKs for mobile marketers 101

Coby Berman – February 10, 2015
Why it's time to rethink your customer data strategy


Why it's time to rethink your customer data strategy

David Spitz – July 20, 2017


How to improve data control with SDK consolidation

Michael Katz – May 27, 2015


The top 5 ways mParticle saves your mobile team time

Coby Berman – October 15, 2014

Try out mParticle

See how leading multi-channel consumer brands solve E2E customer data challenges with a real-time customer data platform.

Explore demoSign upContact us

Startups can now receive up to one year of complimentary access to mParticle. Receive access