Swift advances in mobile technology have disrupted almost all sectors, and for retail it has had a dramatic impact. Retail’s popularity has soared with online shoppers, and mobile now accounts for 40% of online retail sales in the UK, according to IMRG. Meanwhile, at ChannelAdvisor we found that during the 2016 ‘Cyber Five’ week (the five consecutive days running from Thanksgiving in the US to Cyber Monday) we finally reached a mobile tipping point. More purchases were made on mobile devices than desktops, accounting for 64% of Black Friday purchases in the UK.

However, from a user’s standpoint, the mobile experience could still do with improvement. It’s easy to access, but not always easy to use. For example, checking out a product using a smartphone or tablet device can be a clunky and time-consuming affair, particularly if the website is slow and unresponsive, or the retailer isn’t using a mobile-orientated payment method. This is a big turn-off for shoppers and can instead drive them to other platforms to make a purchase. Of course, the worst-case scenario is that they’ll then abscond to a competitor for good. 

With that in mind, how can retailers take advantage of the mobile platform and offer the very best experience for customers? Here are some top tips for perfecting your mobile marketing strategy in 2017.

Think mobile first

Time-poor and brand-promiscuous, it’s increasingly difficult to capture the attention of consumers, let alone convert this attention into sales. However, with an increasing number of shoppers turning to their handheld devices to browse and buy goods, mobile is a channel that can no longer be ignored. Unfortunately, many retailers still spend time optimising their desktop site without considering its navigation, speed or ease of use on a phone. 

In 2017, it’s time for a ‘mobile-first’ mindset. Optimise navigation for mobile, make sure your website is responsive and concentrate on personalised social campaigns. Retailers also need to adopt mobile-friendly navigation and payment methods such as Apple Pay and PayPal. Don’t make it difficult for people to buy from you. It’s details like these that help retail brands keep ahead in a jam-packed and ever-aggressive sector.  

Embrace marketplaces

One mobile strategy we highly recommend is getting your products on online marketplaces, such as Amazon and eBay, to take advantage of the adoption rates of these apps – and their millions of unique visitors. Retail sites where products and services are sold via multiple third parties, online marketplaces are hugely popular and now the first shopping destination for over a third of online consumers.

Not only do they have an extensive reach, but also sophisticated capabilities that make them extremely convenient for retailers to use. These include ready-made online tools and services such as auctioning and multiple listings. 

Up until now, boutique retailers might have thought marketplaces were too difficult to tap into, but this has drastically changed. With services such as Fulfilment by Amazon, as well as distribution and logistics services, marketplaces provide smaller retailers with far greater reach, visibility and delivery options, enabling them to better serve a new pool of consumers who may not have discovered their brand organically in a Google search or known to head directly to their website.

Implement dynamic advertising 

Social media continues to go from strength to strength as a tool in the modern marketer’s arsenal. While Facebook and Instagram continue to be important for building consumer engagement, and Twitter a vital channel of a customer service team, do consider the possibilities of newer platforms. Many retailers upped their social game in the 2016 festive season, with both John Lewis and Sainsbury’s getting creative with Snapchat to reach shoppers in new and exciting ways.

Brands should also consider putting dynamic ads on their social tactics list in 2017. Exploiting data pulled on consumer browsing and purchasing behaviour, these targeted adverts enable retailers to break new ground with personalised marketing at scale. As well as significantly improving customer experience, it avoids having to configure thousands of individual ads, which is not only time-consuming and costly but can also be ineffective. While Facebook was first out of the door with dynamic ads, Instagram is now following suit, making them available to 98% of users who are accessing the app exclusively from a mobile device. 

Don’t forget your ABCs… Google Indexing

All change at Google. The big news is that it’s ‘splitting its index’ to list desktop and mobile searches separately in two versions. Previously, its algorithms have listed results based on criteria such as popularity and relevancy. Therefore if a retailer’s website is not optimised for mobile, it may only feature in the desktop index, and not in the mobile index. With so many consumers making mobile their first port-of-call, retailers who neglect mobile can significantly impact their visibility and reach in search results. In 2017, focus on building responsive websites that work smoothly on all platforms.