Despite “omni-channel retailing” being a buzz-word term for a while now, most retailers would admit that they’re further behind the curve than they would ideally like in how they use mobile devices to create transaction opportunities with shoppers. Recent news reported that 83% of online retailers expect to have implemented an omni-channel strategy by Q3 of 2015 – clearly a real shift-change for many, which will take time and budget.

Some of the stats from recent research (IAB, April 2014) make somewhat surprising reading:

• 42% of the top 100 UK brands do not have a mobile optimised website
• 40% of the top 50 UK retailers do not have a transactional mobile site
• 10% of tablet-specific retailer sites included Flash, which doesn’t show up on an Apple device

To focus on just how important it is that retailers address the points above, the research also highlighted just how entrenched smartphones are in the shopper’s psyche. Smartphone users no longer just “do nothing”; downtime is phone-time. We have a personal connection with our phones that means they are an extension of ourselves, a trusted entity in our lives, which gives brands real opportunity to build meaningful relationships with their audience.

According to the study, a staggering 78% of recent purchases involved a connected device either as part of pre-purchase window-shopping and research, or the purchase itself. Retailers must ensure that they are optimised for the purchase process, and the personal nature of smartphones means opportunities to target local audiences tactically are endless.

However, be wary; as the smartphone is personal, brands must tread carefully when using this channel to speak to audiences with targeted content. The research shows that shoppers are happy to receive personalised and targeted offers, provided they have already given that brand some form of permission to do so. First contacts should not be over-familiar or pushy, or shoppers will head straight for the “delete” option. 62% of shoppers indicated that they would not welcome personalised suggestions before they had bought something, which reduced to 35% if they had already purchased from the retailer or brand.

Clearly, to do this effectively it’s vital to understand not only the audience itself, their motivations, influences and influencers, but also gain a deeper understanding of the touchpoints in the shopper path to purchase. Brand consistency is, if anything, even more crucial in a mobile channel to ensure we’re engendering confidence and trust, therefore allowing a burgeoning relationship to deepen. To strike the right balance, think “human” in the digital space; you wouldn’t push yourself into someone’s face when trying to talk to them, so don’t attempt to do that via a device. People actively seek out interesting content to consume via their personal gateway to the world – their smartphone. Retailers and brands have just as much right to provide this content as traditional media owners.

Caroline Finch Denham