Enhancing omnichannel with mobile-first strategies

As omnichannel retail matures, mobile has become an important channel for connecting digital and physical consumer experiences. Considering smartphones are ubiquitous wherever people shop, it’s no wonder that most retailers are on the journey to becoming mobile-first.

Facebook, the world’s largest social network in terms of active users, is in the unique position of being able to see and guide the mobile journey for many retailers. At Retail’s Digital Summit, Facebook Director of Product Marketing Maz Sharafi shared insights and explained how the platform is helping retailers get closer to consumers.


See more insights from Retail’s Digital Summit: Check out the event recap.

Facebook’s own mobile-first journey

Before discussing mobile in retail, Sharafi felt it important to explain how Facebook itself became a mobile-first business. When he joined the company seven years ago, Facebook had around 25 million mobile users — a fraction of what it has today — but could see where consumer behavior was headed.

As counterintuitive as it may sound, Facebook’s first step in becoming mobile-first was abolishing its mobile development team. This meant every department had to become responsible for enhancing mobility. Sharafi said that if anyone went into founder Mark Zuckerberg’s office with an idea that didn’t start with mobile, Zuckerberg would end the meeting immediately.

The mobile consumer

By reinvigorating its strategy around a mobile-first platform, Facebook is positioned to gain deep insights into how smartphones impact consumer behavior. “People are much more in a discovery mindset when they’re on a mobile phone,” Sharafi noted, which means retailers must drive that discovery toward their desired outcome.

Even though a purchase may not always occur on a smartphone, the moment of influence can often be traced back to mobile. As a result, using “last click” attribution to measure success has become outdated.

Facebook Director of Product Marketing Maz Sharafi

Facebook Director of Product Marketing Maz Sharafi

In addition to contextualizing mobile consumer behavior, Sharafi drew on Facebook’s insights to outline six considerations that retailers should bear in mind when developing their omnichannel strategy:

Minimize friction in the path to purchase
Consumers will take the path of least resistance, so retailers must eradicate the barriers that prevent shoppers from making a purchase on their smartphones. Facebook has introduced new fast-loading, immersive, visual advertising formats that are optimized for mobile. The company views these ads as the modern equivalent of a catalog, enabling consumers to engage on Facebook and then link directly to the retailer’s app to find out more.

Adapt offers and promotions to mobile
“Tactics that we use on the web don’t work directly,” Sharafi said in discussing the temptation to “lift and shift” successful campaigns from desktop to mobile. Facebook has responded to this need for a unique strategy by redesigning its offer ads; users now have a dedicated tab to store any offers they wish to redeem, and they receive notifications to remind them of offers they have saved.

Market to people, not devices
Although content has to fit the format of each channel — and the way consumers use that channel — it’s important to view shoppers holistically. This means being able to see all their interactions, regardless of where they took place. For example, it’s not uncommon for people to carry out the entire research process on their phones, but then turn to desktop computers when they are ready to purchase. Dynamic advertising plays an important role in helping to connect the dots between these channels, and Sharafi said that dynamic ads should play a significant role in retailers’ holiday marketing strategies.

Provide locally relevant content
One of mobile’s greatest strengths is its ability to connect digital engagement with physical interaction in a locally relevant way. In the United States, 90 percent of smartphone owners are already using their devices to look for directions and information, so incorporating retail information makes sense. Facebook is leveraging mobile’s geolocation capabilities by allowing retailers to showcase their latest products along with a proximity locator, so consumers can find those goods at their nearest store.  

Drive long-term value through applications
One of the fastest-growing mobile opportunities is applications; today there are more than 4.2 million apps in the App Store for iOS and Google Play store for Android devices. The challenge for retailers is not just to secure downloads, but to make sure consumers are actually using their apps to explore and interact with the brand. Visibility is important, as retailers need to promote an app’s features and benefits across all channels to increase installation and usage. Social media can be a particularly cost-effective route for increasing app downloads.

Measure across devices
“What you can’t measure, you can’t manage,” Sharafi said, urging retailers to think carefully about what they use to evaluate performance. Traditional models like last-click attribution are not suitable for an omnichannel world, and can result in success being misattributed within channels. To drive value and sustainable business growth, marketers need better methods and tools for measurement in a mobile-first, cross-device retail environment. They also need to analyze the impact to make more effective marketing spending decisions, both online and in stores.

Chelsea Reay is head of content at Retail Connections, Europe’s leading network for retail insight and innovation.