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How to Be Truly Mobile Minded

A look at how retailer Alex and Ani raised its in-store mobile game.
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In The Mobile Mind Shift: Engineer Your Business to Win in the Mobile Moment (Groundswell Press, 2014), the authors Julie Ask, Ted Schadler, and Josh Bernoff advise businesses on how to best monetize their mobile customers.


Develop a mobile strategy, before you run into a dilemma like this.

The retailer Alex and Ani was on a tear. The Rhode Island-based company was opening a new retail store every month to sell its unique bangles, earrings, and necklaces. Alex and Ani's jewelry was popular because of its unique message: All of its pieces incorporate symbolism and designs that enable the wearerto express her individuality in an organic, spiritual way. Alex and Ani stores showcase the products and are also a venue for customers to explore different fashion scenarios, often with the help of store associates. The 10 employees working a store at any one time are an essential component of the Alex and Ani shopping experience, advising customers on ways to customize their purchases to express themselves through the positive symbols and charm meanings.

But in the run-up to Mother's Day in 2012, success had overwhelmed the capacity of the stores to serve customers. Customers at some stores had to wait over an hour just to check out at one of three registers. That was a disaster. For Joe Lezon, the company's newly hired chief technology officer, and Susan Soares, its head of retail operations, it was clear that something had to change.

As an experienced technology executive from Fidelity, Joe thought he knew how to solve this customer experience challenge using mobile technology. By putting Wi-Fi in the stores and giving employees an iPod Touch and a credit card reader/printer (known as a "sled"), he could build a mobile point-of-sale system, thereby tripling the number of checkout points. This would give his fashion-advisor employees the tools they needed to help customers choose pieces as well as to process their transactions. Joe knew what to do, but he needed help figuring out how to do it.

Joe turned to Ty Rollin, chief technology officer, at Boston-based Mobiquity for help in implementing his idea. Susan's operations people, Joe's technology people, and Mobiquity's developers formed a team that worked on the problem for six months. Then they deployed the solution.

There's a lot to learn from their approach:

Get integrated. Besides introducing the iPod Touch application to assist employees, they tied the application directly into their point-of-sale system, added analytics to know how it worked, and tested it in the store downstairs. Then the team made it better. They streamlined the app, simplifying interactions to help employees remain focused on customers. After that, they rolled the platform out to all 32 of their stores in time for the holiday season.

Train for optimal effectiveness. This holistic approach included an end-to-end technology solution, employee training, new learning based on staff experience, and a revised process for store operations. All this led to an ideal tool for serving customers. The team from Alex and Ani and Mobiquity did more than just build a mobile point-of-sale system. They designed and implemented a new and evolving platform for succeeding in mobile selling moments.

Tips for Making Mobile Moments:
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  1. Identify the mobile moments and context. In this step, you map out all the situations and scenarios in which you can serve someone on a mobile device.
  2. Design the mobile engagement. This is the step where you bring business people, designers, and developers together to decide how you will engage a customer in his mobile moments.
  3. Engineer your platforms, processes, and people for mobile. Mobile engagement requires much more than an app. What changes will you need to make to your core operations and systems?
  4. Analyze results to monitor performance and optimize outcomes.

Track your efforts. Joe now tracks the checkout in seconds, not minutes or hours, even in the busy holiday season. Susan has data to help her further optimize inventory processes. Operations are streamlined and customers are happy.

Making a mobile app or site is relatively easy. Making it an ongoing business success isn't.

Alex and Ani succeeded because instead of the quick and easy solution ("let's build an app"), they took a disciplined approach to understanding what problems to solve, how to design the best solution, what systems would be affected, and what analytics were needed to keep improving the solution.

Learn from what Alex and Ani--and other companies with mobile success--have done. They didn't just build an app. In our work with dozens of entrepreneurs and more than 100 companies, we have seen that success comes from a new, disciplined way to tackle mobile moments. Even though mobile moments in sales or marketing are different from mobile moments for products or services, and even though customer mobile scenarios are completely different from employee mobile scenarios, your need to serve individuals on mobile devices is a universal business activity. You need a structured business discipline to deliver great mobile moments in every facet of your business. We call this business discipline the IDEA cycle.

 

IMAGES: facebook.com/alexandaniusa, Courtesy Company
Last updated: Jun 6, 2014

TED SCHADLER, JOSH BERNOFF, AND JULIE ASK

Ted Schadler, Josh Bernoff, and Julie Ask are analysts for Forrester Research, a global research and advisory firm.




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