Panel discussion on the future of mobile commerce

future of mobile commerce contactless mobile payment

Published on February 2, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a new era of social distancing, remote working and contactless retail transactions seemingly overnight, compelling businesses to expedite the adoption of new technologies.

Plexure’s CEO, Craig Herbison, and Head of Marketing, Colin Daymude, hosted a panel of experts to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on commerce, the advancements of mobile commerce, and how business unit owners can catch up if they are lagging behind in implementing new technologies.

Below is an abbreviation of the key insights. Alternatively, you can watch a recording of the entire webinar here.

Q: How can mobile improve user experience to grow loyalty?

Cathy Song Novelli, VP Marketing & Comms, Rakuten Ready (US):

That’s a big question. In previous years, many merchants were hyper-focused on creating joyful experiences, and I think what COVID did was reshuffle the deck and made people think, “How easy is the shopping experience? How seamless is that connection from online to offline?” And that's where mobile really shines.

When you're able to move more and more customers onto mobile, you've got a lot more capabilities to build your orders and fulfillments around the customer and become truly customer-centric. Because they can order online, you know exactly where they are on their way to come pick it up. If you are a restaurant, you can actually cook the order to perfection based upon the fact that you see they’re 45 seconds away. You know the exact parking spot they’re in so you're handing off the perfect food in the perfect condition in the fastest, most seamless manner.

I think that as more and more customers grow comfortable with sharing data—and I think they will as more merchants are transparent with why they want location or any kind of data—mobile will converge with “Auto Commerce” or “a-commerce”, and that is super exciting. It will enable more of those perfect consumer experiences that are centered around the customer, that make ease and simplicity and seamlessness the name of the game. And this grows business, grows repeat customers and brand loyalty. So I think the technology was given the spotlight a bit during COVID, but all of these new experiences will allow brands to rethink what the perfect customer experience is.

Q: How has Microsoft helped customers adapt to changes around mobile centricity?

Vanessa Sorenson, Managing Director, Microsoft (NZ):

Just to briefly quote Satya Nadella (CEO Microsoft), “We saw more digital transformation in two months than we would have in two to 10 years”. It’s incredible. And from a Microsoft perspective we're defining “mobile commerce” more broadly. It's “anywhere commerce,” bridging the digital and physical world, especially with what we've seen in the last six months. But we've also seen the organizations that had already embraced [mobile] or put the tracks down were able to pivot their businesses so much quicker.

There has been an a massive digital transformation in terms of adopting contactless payments and using mobile more extensively. There’s a stat from MasterCard saying 82% of consumers view contactless as the cleaner and easier way to pay. The way we look at it, COVID has been the Chief Information officer of 2020. We've experienced levels of change that one expert described as witnessing a 10-year evolutionary leap towards digital in a matter of months (Read more in Plexure's EBook on the evolution of marketing). Who would have imagined our government having to have everyone work from home in a matter of a couple of days? So from our perspective it is a significant role shift for retailers. So I'd love to hand to Marcy who's really seeing where this retail boom is going from a Microsoft perspective.

Marcy Larsen, Retail Industry Executive, Microsoft (US):

Well, I think when we focus on contactless, an important opportunity that we have with mobile is also contactful and personalization. This may be potentially one of the largest data gathering events of our time, and there's no medium where we can really present that personalized experience that's more contextual than mobile.

And we feel that is absolutely a trend that will stick as we emerge into new times ahead.

As Vanessa pointed out, the Chief Innovation Officer of 2020 is COVID-19, and we saw many of our customers rise to the occasion with innovative solutions to address the immediate opportunity. But they were bubblegum and sticky tape, and now there’s an opportunity to look to the market and see what’s going to scale and truly be enterprise class and continue to innovate. A partnership approach is really the way to go, because it's difficult to maintain those types of things in-house and that sticky tape and bubblegum approach could start to come apart.

Lastly, whilst we talk about privacy and security, we have also seen the rise of bad actors. So with payments moving to mobile it's more important than ever to be protected. That’s something that's just table stakes that we work with every day here with Microsoft and our partners.

mobile commerce woman checking phone with mask on
“This may be potentially one of the largest data gathering events of our time, and there's no medium where we can really present that personalized experience that's more contextual than mobile.”

Marcy Larsen

Q: How has mobile changed in the consumer feedback space?

Zack Oates, Founder & CEO, Ovation (US):

Everything we do is for guest’s experience, right? Everything we do as a business is to create a great guest experience and loyalty, it's more than just an app, it's a consistent great experience. But we look at ways to measure that guest experience and you only get a sliver of the full picture if you look at public reviews.

It's just crazy that we care so much about guest experience and yet the way that we measure that is so archaic. We did a study in May of 2020 and the number one reason that people don't take surveys is because it's a hassle, right? It just too much work. And so the mechanics have a lot of issues. For the consumer, the convenience is just nowhere to be found and for the merchant, the ability to take action and respond to that guest is just too much. But mobile has changed that for both groups.

With the consumer, it's all about making it easy for them - don't make them download or log in or create an account. Like baggy pants and boy bands, QR codes are back baby. They are back and they're here to stay. Over 52% of restaurants right now are using QR codes for menus and over 95% of iPhones have a native QR Code Reader. So let's leverage the QR codes. What we've seen in our data is that about 42% of takeout orders have an issue, and if you're not hearing about the 42% having an issue, either you're losing customers or you’ve probably seen it come up in negative reviews. And so we want to make it really easy.

Consumers quite frankly are like a bad boyfriend. You can try to teach them how to do things differently, or you could just work with what they’ve got. Don't try to change consumer behavior. The key to digital hospitality is mobile. Use SMS or QR codes because those things are only growing.

On the merchant side of things, how do we make it easy for people to respond to guests? It's not just about getting that data, it's about connecting even if it's contactless, so how do you do that? Well, mobile apps make it so easy. With Ovation, you click three buttons and a GM can respond to a guest with a personalized text message. So it’s going A to P, or App to Person, and that is so key in getting a great feedback loop. And what we found is that when we're comparing that with other things that we used to do – email, responding to online reviews – we're getting 16 to 20 times the amount of guests recovered from making it personal and using SMS. So in the feedback space, it's all about making it easy for the consumer, making it simple for the merchant and actually bridging that gap between the digital and the physical because humans are craving that human engagement.

You can't take the person out of the hospitality, right? You use technology to enable that.

Q: What is the impact of 5G on mobility and mobility services?

John Dittig, Senior Leader, Business Development, Samsung (US):

I'm on the display side, but I work a lot with my mobility counterparts across a lot of the verticals, and 5G is really changing the game when it comes to speed for retail and QSR. So at the QSR and grocery store level it's all about efficiency and speed, and 5G is driving all that from a technology standpoint, especially from a mobility standpoint.

One of the things we're seeing, is that 5G and self-service are becoming a lot more mission critical in certain verticals. The speed of 5G from the mobile phone or the tablet to the display behind the QSR or grocery desk all works in synchrony and it's so much faster. I'm sure you heard that we made some significant investments with some large providers in North America and it's just all about being efficient and moving faster.

The other thing we're seeing is that the larger companies are moving to 5G and these new technologies faster. They’re adapting to them faster just due to the fact that they have the resources to make it happen. They have the capital where a lot of the small to mid-sized businesses don't, especially in a post COVID-19 world.

So, when it comes to 5G - it’s just more efficient and faster.

Q: Within the experience layer is the total sales solution – display, mobility and connectivity. Do you have a perspective on where that’s heading?

John Dittig, Senior Leader, Business Development, Samsung (US):

One exciting project that we ended up working on together with Rakuten was with a large grocery chain here in the US where they wanted to put our displays in the pickup area. They have 26 outside pickup lanes for grocery, and everything is scheduled on the display and everything is live. So with the Rakuten app, it tells the employee who’s going to take the bags out to the car exactly where that car is in terms of the drive to the store, if they're 38 seconds out, and literally by the time they get there that person can be ready to put the items in the car.

And of course, 5G is making that process a lot faster and a lot more simplistic. So customer pick up is huge, because there’s still some apprehension with people walking into the stores. We've had to adapt with retailers to make pickup a lot more efficient, quicker and non-invasive to the customer. With a lot of the technologies that we came out with on the mobile side, and of course the display side, we were fortunate to have that solution to put the pieces of the puzzle together so we can sell the entire solution to the customer.

Q: Do you have a perspective on any particular verticals adopting this technology ahead of others?

John Dittig, Senior Leader, Business Development, Samsung (US):

the States, you still can’t go inside a lot of the QSRs. If you go to Chick-fil-A, there’s a line wrapped around the building. So that customer experience with pickup in the lanes is becoming a lot more prevalent because they want to cut those lanes down as much as they can, same as with McDonalds. So the QSR industry I think has probably adapted that technology quicker and of course that's pushing the C-Stores to adapt because they feel that they're in competition with the QRSs. Then I would say tier 1 retail, there's so much skin in the game for them to make that customer experience seamless. So I would say retail, QSR and C-Store in terms of the ones that have pivoted the quickest.

Q: For companies who are just starting their digital transformation journey, what’s the first step?

Zack Oates, Founder & CEO, Ovation (US):

I have a podcast and we've interviewed over a hundred restaurant experts in 2020 all about what they are doing, and what are they seeing. And every single one of them has said start doing something right. Starting with the least amount you can get a consumer to do, all the way up to this incredible customized app downloaded experience, but it does require the consumer to take action. So I look at it as laddering the effort. How do you get consumers to do the least amount possible? With Ovation, we get them to take this to question survey, then we can get them to take a more secret shopper longer survey later, then we can invite them to download an app and now they are in the ecosystem. It’s about laddering that effort to get them to where you want them to go.

Vanessa Sorenson, Managing Director, Microsoft (NZ):

I agree. You can't stand still, and in the face of this rapid change every retail business must excel in a number of core areas to keep pace – personalization, staffing, supply chain, cross-channel experience. All the while you've got to ensure customer and employee safety throughout each step. Foundational to each of these new requirements is the ability to leverage data rich intelligence and ensure that these insights are distributed across all levels of the organization.

woman grocery shopping using mobile phone
“You can't stand still, and in the face of this rapid change every retail business must excel in a number of core areas to keep pace – personalization, staffing, supply chain, cross-channel experience.”

Vanessa Sorenson

Cathy Song Novelli, VP Marketing & Comms, Rakuten Ready (US):

I agree wholeheartedly with everything that was said and I think the part that brands miss the most is that final step. They might take a few steps and implement a simple technology, and then they don't tell their customers. So their customers, for instance with restaurants, continue to default toward their common customer behavior, which is Door Dash or any kind of aggregator food delivery service and that's really hurting restaurants.

Unless every single restaurant employee is told, “As you are talking to customers, please remind them that we've got our own app. Or they can go to the website and order for pickup, they’re going to save on delivery cost, they’re going to get better food...” Give them the talking points so that every employee can throw the flyer in the bag and also tell their customers how they can help the businesses. Every customer wants to help the local restaurateur, but they're not always told how to, and this is a very simple step that brands often forget.

Marcy Larsen, Retail Industry Executive, Microsoft (US):

When COVID hit, we saw a number of restaurant booking companies then become appointment booking companies to shop in a supermarket. Or we saw last-mile providers offering their app to order the groceries through. That is a massive loss of data for the brand and the retailer, and these other service providers are getting years’ worth of data in a matter of days, and then they will use it to service their competitors.

And then you must also consider the role of the employee and all of this. This is massive change for the employee in hospitality or in a convenience store and in some ways they’re now becoming app assistants. So as they may move more into a Host and a Concierge role because increasingly more of the business processes are moving to mobile, they may need to understand how to help that consumer with the app and their rules are shifting. So part of how we work with customers is making sure those employees get that training they need and the brand can adjust to deliver these great experiences not only for the consumer but the employee.

John Dittig, Senior Leader, Business Development, Samsung (US):

In 2020, the brands that had the most successful year were the ones that really listened to their customers and listened to their needs. We're one of those companies where we like to tell our story and how we can do everything within mobility, we can do everything within smart signage and displays. But I think 2020 was a year to step back and ask what's important to you, you tell us your story and we will try to do everything we can to jump through hoops to build solutions for you. Last year there was probably more customization to fit the customer need than I've ever seen before in this industry just due to the fact that we understood and we listened and we were able to provide solutions that were extremely beneficial on a wide variety of fronts.

Zack Oates, Founder & CEO, Ovation (US):

A lot of times pivoting can be focusing, finding your center of strength and leveraging that. As opposed to doing stuff for people, doing something for someone is so much more powerful. A lot of companies were able to cut things that weren't really strategically aligned with their core center of strength. One incredible restaurant decided to totally shut their doors to public and now they're selling their sauces to grocery stores. They looked at the things that were they were doing really, really, well. How do we focus? They realized that the restaurant was a distraction, and now they are a nationwide brand. As you focus on your core center of excellence, what you do better than anyone else, that opens up a lot of possibilities. When you start from there, it’s a lot easier to make the right pivots.

If you’d like to see how Plexure can work with your business to future-proof your mobile strategy, book a demo of our intelligent mobile engagement platform.

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