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Moving along with your digital transformation roadmap? Try mobile first

Everyone is talking about digital transformation, but in the process, mobile is often an afterthought. Expert Christopher Ward explains why mobile needs to be number one.

This is part two in an occasional series looking at how companies can prepare themselves for the digital future ahead.

Today, most customers increasingly work, play, research and purchase on mobile devices; the best companies will anticipate and be ready to fulfill customers' needs.

High-level market data from recent years creates a compelling argument for making mobile a priority in a digital transformation roadmap. More than ever, consumers reach for mobile devices first, and they use them often throughout their day.

In a 2015 survey by Deloitte, 92% of customers said they searched for products and reviews on mobile devices while shopping at physical stores, and 89% did so during leisure time. Customers aren't logging in on laptops to shop.

Another 2015 survey found that 72% of digital moments happen on smartphones, and 65% of those are within mobile apps, not responsive mobile browsers.

Where to start

For these reasons, planning mobile touch points can be a powerful starting point for outlining a digital transformation roadmap. Yet, far too often, mobile is overlooked. Oftentimes, companies begin their company-wide efforts within other areas of the digital experience, such as web presence, digital marketing and in-store digital interfaces.

Whether your company is already primed to take on a mobile-first strategy or just getting its feet wet, here are four areas of innovation where a mobile-first digital transformation roadmap can make a real difference for most businesses:

  1. Augment in-store shoppers: High-end clothing retailers like Neiman Marcus enable their apps with location-aware notifications, allowing them to push promotions and offers to customers while they are shopping in the physical stores.
    Planning mobile touch points can be a powerful starting point for outlining a digital transformation roadmap.

    Target's mobile app enables customers to find shopping items, shop on mobile devices and pick up purchases curbside.

    Hotels, such as MGM Resorts International, already capture more face time by allowing guests to check-in and out, book reservations at in-hotel restaurants, order movies and room service, and build loyalty accounts to receive special offers, all via their mobile device.

  2. Accept mobile payments: While the mobile payments market remains fragmented, it pays to be a leader in this space. As customers depend more on mobile during their in-store shopping experiences, and as services like Chase Pay, Android Pay and Apple Pay begin to support multistore and loyalty programs, businesses will have more incentive than ever to support these payment options.

    Starbucks has already seen its own mobile payment program pay dividends. According to a 2016 report by Bloomberg, mobile payment has become one of Starbucks' core strategies. Customers can order and pay in advance, and then get their orders without waiting in line. According to Starbucks, U.S. transactions have increased 15%-20% since the mobile payment implementation.

  3. Mobile apps to support employees: Mobile apps aren't only for customers. Retail employee-based apps have been shown to boost sales and productivity. With employee-centric apps, teams can communicate updates and product information in real time, incentivize sales teams toward specific goals and enable employees to conduct customer service-related tasks on the sales floor.

The ubiquity and utility of mobile devices makes them essential to any company's digital transformation roadmap. That said, being mobile-first can't stop at building phone-friendly channels for promoting products and services. Within a company's digital transformation, the mobile experience provides an unprecedented opportunity for brands to be present at every step of the digital customer journey, and to provide real differentiating value at every step along the way.

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