In the early days of the Internet, brands and businesses knew they wanted to get online, but they just weren’t quite sure why, or how best to do it. Which meant that in the early days, when most of us were switching from dial-up to broadband, the website on offer looked a bit like looking at a digitized version of a paper brochure. In the early days, brand sites were ugly, clunky and not terribly useful.
Brands eventually got it together on desktop web – mostly – just in time for mobile web and apps to show up and disrupt the game. And brands made a similar mistake in the early days of the app-conomy when they tried to simply port those desktop sites without a good deal more thought about it.
Vibes co-founder and CIO Alex Campbell told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster in a recent conversation that this is because brands fundamentally misunderstand the consumer they are dealing with.
“The mobile device is a mission-driven device,” Campbell said, noting that when a customer pulls out their phone throughout the course of a commerce journey, they are doing it for a reason. “Maybe they want product information, maybe they want pricing – they might even want to buy something – but no matter the specifics, the customer on a mobile device is always a person on a mission.”
Vibes, he explained, exists to make sure that brands and retailers are doing their best to make sure customers can complete the mission – whatever it may be
“So when you think about what you hate most about takeover pop-up ads on the mobile web page, it’s that it's preventing you from getting to your mission,” Campbell went on to say. “Things are moving along, and suddenly you have to say, ‘No, Chevy, I don’t care. I don't need a car right now, go away.’ The goal with digital outreach shouldn’t be to hijack you and try to change what you buy. I want to make it easier for you to get what you’ve come for – and discover other things.”
Most of what works in retail, Campbell noted, isn’t about flashy change, it’s about reaching out to the customer in a relevant way.
“If I’m a brand, I don't want to show you everything because the customer now feels that I should kind of already know them,” Campbell said.
That is not the experience customers are having as of yet with a lot of digital and mobile transactions, because retailers aren’t there yet. When a customer clicks the desktop or mobile version of something, they often see the same thing.
“Or when I open up a mobile app for a retailer that sells to both men and women – the landing page should be different for me than it is for” another customer.
And although that level of improvement is coming – and can be seen online at places like Amazon, which has perfected it to an art, many merchants are lagging, some contentedly so because they don’t really see the magnitude of the change underway in the marketplace.
“Some retailers are starting to get it,” Campbell said, calling out sites such as Bonobos that have made their in-store location fitting hubs – that rely on online delivery instead of stocking inventory.
“I can’t wear my [Bonobos] shorts home that day, but that’s OK when stacked against how what they offer is actually a better experience.”
But some retailers are not getting it, he noted.
“And those are the ones you’re reading about today because they aren’t staying afloat,” Campbell said. “ We are seeing customers becoming much more active online in a world that is very dynamic and becoming more so. A lot retailers have wanted to pretend the world is the same when it is not. Closing stores is not going to do it.”
So what will?
Slow And Steady Outside-The-Box Thinking
Retailers have gotten so behind in some cases, that step one, according to Campbell, is to give up the idea that this is a race that can be won by flipping a switch and being done with it.
“You don't do it all at once. You look at the customer journey. Creating the relationship with the end user takes a bit of time. Rarely if ever does an entire ecosystem change overnight,” Campbell noted.
“Our plan is to take the most important thing that a retailer is having an issue with and fix that,” he explained. “From there, we will evolve into more things.”
In the spirit of that, Vibes has modernized its platform somewhat to show customers how their programs are doing, One of the ways retailers advance, he says, is to be ready to learn – not only to see if they will work, but to understand why they might fail.
Fixing Mobile Payments In Store
An issue mobile operators have had – from Apple, Samsung and the dozens of stops in between, is that most have had trouble getting consumers really interested in the mobile wallet for real-world purchases. But wallets have had a hard time gaining consumer interest – mostly using a mobile device to pay for something in a store isn’t rocking their world.
EMV, he believes, has helped, because it’s broken most consumers out of the swiping habit – and with an annoying beeping noise at some retailers to boot, consumers might be persuaded to try a form of payment that doesn’t screech at them. Mobile is a better experience – not so incredibly better that consumers don’t need a bit of an inducement to try it out.
But mobile wallets offer retailers a new way to stay in contact with their customers, even those who aren’t part of the 20 percent willing to download their app, Campbell believes. A mobile wallet, he says, is a great place to store an offer that’s been downloaded, to use later. It is also a good way to reach the bulk of consumers who would never download their app – and who can be “reminded” that they have a saved offer waiting to be spent.
And Campbell noted, we have not yet seen all we are going to see.
“This is still very early innings of a very long game,” he observed. “I think mobile payments will be a very big thing soon. But what it will all look like, I don't think anyone knows.”