Guest post by Brian Tilzer, VP, Staples.com, E-commerce and
I work in e-commerce for Staples, the second largest e-tailer in the world, so it may not come as a surprise to you that I’m crazy about technology. I love reading up on (and usually buying) the latest in personal tech.
Mobile technology has a very special place in my heart. I’m always on a mobile device of some sort, whether it’s my iPhone or a tablet. It’s my constant companion piece. As a huge New York Giants fan (I know that’s heresy here in New England but it’s the truth), I love that I can still keep up with the game or listen to New York sports radio, all through my mobile phone. When I am at home, I can turn to my tablet to get the latest stats from the game whenever I want.
In essence, the things that I love about my mobile devices (the ability to do research, access to news and info on the go) are the same things that make mobile so important to businesses in today’s society. Mobile is an inherently cross-channel tool that can provide value to your customers. Even though we’re not necessarily seeing mobile users purchasing as much on the go, we’re definitely seeing them using mobile as a research tool. It really is a cross-channel enhancer. Many of the e-mails that we send to our Staples customers are opened on a mobile device.
Think about how you use mobile in your life. You probably use it as a cross-channel tool without even thinking about it. For example, I love “Modern Family” and I often watch it while simultaneously surfing Facebook or other social sites, commenting on the show, and reading others’ comments. This is no different than a shopper browsing your aisles and checking with their social media circles before deciding to buy something. Mobile allows for a shared experience.
What about going out to eat? I love the “Open Table” app that lets me make dinner plan with family and friends. Usually we find ourselves on the the app again, right at the table, deciding where to go next time. This is much like finding the right ink and toner for your printer on the Staples mobile app, or checking out the available inventory at your nearest Staples before you head out of the house.
Mobile + Your Business: Where to begin?
Mobile has become such an integrated part of our daily lives that if your business doesn’t have a mobile offering, it’s time to create one! But which one? Should you create a mobile website or a mobile app? A mobile website has broader mass appeal, but a mobile app is for brand loyalists who you know the most about. You can leverage your knowledge of them to add to your offering. How would your mobile app interact with your website and other digital media assets? What features would you build into it? How would you integrate it into your marketing mix? Ultimately, these are questions every business has to ask itself. I’d advocate for both a mobile website and app, but the important thing is to ask yourself which platform will add the most value for customers.
The key to having a great mobile offering that customers will come back to again and again is testing and learning. Constantly update your app and mobile website. Take some risks along the way. Not every idea you have will be the best idea, but that’s okay! Even a new release every few months is not fast enough to keep up with the rate of innovation. I think the marketing principles of old still apply when it comes to mobile: you have to understand your customers’ pain points and then add value, and you can’t do that unless you’re constantly looking for feedback and ways you can improve.
In addition to being a New York Giants and Modern Family fan, Brian Tilzer is the VP of e-commerce and business development for Staples.com, the second largest e-tailer in the world. Brian leads electronic and mobile commerce for Staples to drive sales and margin growth and deliver a world-class experience for small business and consumer customers.