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Getting Commerce Right with Mobile

Mobile’s ability to integrate technologies is what gives it the advantage it needs to become a standard for commerce.

Mobile commerce has to be better than what we’re already using, or people won’t bother to use it. It can’t just offer a new way to pay. It has to offer a new way to pay that’s better than what you use today.

Lucky, then that mobile is knitting together a number of different kinds of technologies: voice, SMS, GPS, video, CRM, inventory, etc. The challenge is in designing comprehensive systems.

Ideally, mobile commerce should join together

  1. Payment method / mobile wallet
  2. Customer relationship management (CRM)
  3. Inventory / supply chain management (SCM)

Here’s an example. Mother’s Day was Sunday, March 10th here in the UK. I rang my mother in the morning, and her first words to me were ‘Not even a card Diarmuid!’ I told her the card was with the flowers I’d sent, but she hadn’t received either the day before, as scheduled.

To get myself out of the doghouse, I called Marks & Spencer. Their phone system welcome message included something like ‘and if you’re calling about Mother's Day flower delivery…’

When I got through, the representative immediately apologised and then gave me the exact time the flowers had been loaded into the delivery van that morning, and an estimate of when my mother would receive them. So I guess the bouquet must have had a barcode, and the driver a mobile device equipped with a scanner, connectivity and GPS. To top it off, the company gave me a full refund. Obviously, the company has connected its CRM (#2) with its inventory/SCM (#3). I didn’t pay with a mobile wallet, but still, two out of three ain’t bad. That’s what end-to-end thinking can do. Bravo. I was ready to hang up happy.

However, that’s when the rep told me that I’d been randomly selected for a satisfaction survey, but that given the circumstances it was understandable if I declined. On the contrary, I was happy to say that accidents happen and they’d handled it well. Unfortunately, the survey was a very wonky IVR one, and it took three attempts to take my answer.

What they could have done was seen they had my mobile number (and if I hadn’t already shared it, this would have given them an excuse to ask for it), and taken my feedback via SMS. As the single survey question was ‘How well did our agent meet your needs today on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “did not meet” and 5 being “exceeded,”’ it would’ve been easier and quicker via SMS for them and me. The technology is available—the UK mobile operator Vodafone use SMS micro-surveys all the time, as does Orange.

But wait, there’s more. A week later, I received an email from M&S asking me to rate my recent purchase! Hmmm. Does the company really have no way to tie my purchase to The Great Mother’s Day Flower Delivery Debacle of 2013, and have the good sense to not harass me about it after the fact? Apparently not. Funny, I’m not wound up at all about the delivery delay, but the disjointed follow-up. 

Despite the tardy delivery, at least M&S did a better job than another retailer. In the week before Mother’s Day I received an email promoting its gift service. Just one small problem: the first open delivery spot wasn’t until two weeks after that weekend!

There’s one thing worse than no promotion: promoting something that’s out of stock! And that’s where there is a real opportunity for retailers to create a better service with mobile—one that’s not just instant, but truly real-time and integrated.


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