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How APIs can prepare retailers for the mobile shopping era

More customers are turning to mobile devices for their shopping needs and retailers must be able to deliver seamless mobile shopping and marketing experiences in order to better compete in the industry.

We are in the mobile shopping era. During Black Friday 2016, mobile sales exceeded one billion dollars for the first time in U.S. retail history. That day, shoppers spent a record $1.2 billion in purchases through mobile devices, specifically smartphones and tablets. This figure represented approximately two-thirds of all Black Friday sales that year. According to one study, by 2020 mobile shopping will account for 80% of all eCommerce sales in the United Kingdom. Mobile shopping is rapidly becoming the future of retail. In order to remain competitive, retailers must recognize the value of mobile shopping as a purchasing and marketing channel. 


Mobile shopping as a purchasing and marketing channel

Mobile shopping, as a purchasing and marketing channel, is valuable to customers and retailers must tap into this value. Customers are turning to their mobile devices to do more than a product or store location search. A survey conducted by Euclid Analytics found that 83% of customers view their mobile devices as an integral part of their shopping decision and their overall customer journey. 

Today, customers are not just shopping on their mobile devices, they are consulting social media platforms, comparing vendor prices, reading and writing reviews and more. A survey by Nielsen found that over 50% of global respondents state they use their mobile devices to look up product information (52%) or compare prices (53%). In addition, 40% of respondents cited that they use their mobile devices to reach better shopping decisions (42%) or find offers and coupons (44%). 

Clearly, customers find mobile shopping convenient because it enables them to do much more than simply purchase products and services on-the-go. Mobile shopping provides a way to create a relationship with a brand by establishing an entry point into the customer journey.  However, mobile shopping is only convenient for customers if it provides them with a seamless shopping experience. This experience must be frictionless; customers must have a positive experience no matter which channel they use in an omnichannel retail experience

Failure to deliver on these features can lead to shoppers abandoning their purchasing process all-together. According to Business Insider Intelligence, during the second quarter of 2015 U.S. shoppers spent 41% of their time and 85% of their dollars on desktops; compare this to mobile where users spent 59% of their time, but only 15% of their dollars. These figures show that although revenue from mobile shopping is rising, retailers are not offering an optimized mobile shopping experience. In order for mobile shopping to continue to serve as an valuable purchasing channel, retailers must create a painless shopping experience for customers. 

For example, customers should encounter a mobile-optimized site on their smartphone , especially during the early stages of the shopping journey, as this is an impression of retailer’s brand. Similarly, during the purchasing journey, customers should be able to reserve an item on their mobile phone or complete a purchase through a mobile application by connecting their social media account. Unfortunately, the majority of retailers are not implementing these features in their mobile strategies. In fact, a study by BaseKit found that 91% of small business’ websites are not optimized for mobile. 

Further – in addition to serving as a purchasing channel – mobile devices also act as a channel for marketing and advertising. Mobile devices play a key part in the lives of customers, as evidenced by a Bank of America survey in which 91% of 1,000 respondents stated that their smartphones are an “indispensable companion” in their daily lives. In order to take advantage of the ubiquity of these devices,  retailers must not only tap into mobile as a purchasing channel, but also use it to further their marketing and advertising strategies––thereby increasing mobile shopping revenue.

Such strategies include deploying innovative mobile applications quickly, marketing coupons to customers through these applications, creating advertisements that are mobile-friendly, sending emails that are optimized for mobile and integrating social media platforms,. In essence, retailers must deliver mobile shopping experiences that are frictionless, integrated, seamless, and also devoid of any UI/UX issues. 

However, as the study by BaseKit reveals, retailers are not yet maximizing on the above  features and are failing to create an intuitive mobile shopping experience. A survey conducted by Adobe, which targeted digital and eCommerce professionals, found that more than 60% of respondents estimate that mobile will account for more than 50% of their overall digital traffic. Still, despite the ubiquity of mobile, retailers are not entirely leveraging the true potential that these devices can have as both purchasing and marketing channels.

Enabling mobile shopping through API-led connectivity

The mobile shopping era is upon us; however, retailers are still unable to keep up with the rise of mobile to deliver seamless, integrated shopping experiences. In order to deliver better mobile shopping experiences, retailers must be able to integrate their data, systems and applications in a seamless manner that enables them to operate efficiently and deploy mobile applications quickly. Unfortunately, however, the majority of retailers are constrained by an all-too-common approach to integration: point-to-point integration. 

A point-to-point approach to integration hinders retailers from creating a unique mobile shopping experience because the integration relies on a 1:1 relationship. This means that the number of endpoints exponentially increases as more integrations are added. In addition, point-to-point integration creates tight dependencies between applications. Making changes to these applications requires extensive and costly downstream work. 

As a result, when a new requirement comes up for a mobile application that pulls the exact same information as a previous project, developers building the application are not able to use any of the work that was done for previous projects. This hinders retailers from deploying mobile applications quickly. Further, if there are any changes with the endpoints or business requirements of a project, the entire application or major portions of the code need to be rewritten––compounding delivery problems. Luckily, there is a solution.

Retailers can turn to another approach to integration: API-led connectivity. This approach to integration transforms retailers’ IT architecture to ensure agility and rapid delivery. It allows retailers to integrate data, systems, applications and devices by turning assets into managed, composable and reusable APIs. These assets then become discoverable through self-service and maintainable through governance. 

API-led connectivity is a methodical way to integration because it designates specific roles for each of these APIs, whether it is unlocking data from systems, composing data into processes, or delivering an experience. This means that the next time a retailer needs to deploy a new mobile application, developers will have reusable assets to build from and will not have to rewrite code or start from scratch. This mitigates delivery problems and provides developers with the tools they need to deploy applications quickly.

An API-led approach is an approach to integration that can help further mobile strategies. For example, one of our customers, a large retail chain, faced rising customer churn due to competition from retail giants such as Amazon and Walmart. In order to address this, their IT team wanted to tie together their vast portfolio of products and services into a single, simplified digital experience that includes loyalty programs and personalized offers. The customer turned to MuleSoft’s Anypoint PlatformTM in order to build a network of reusable APIs that offer both scalability and future-proofing. Through the platform, the customer built an application that provides real-time visibility into product inventory with APIs running on Mule. Further, with MuleSoft’s API-led approach, the customer was able to enable their IT team to self-serve and scale quickly.

Ultimately, mobile shopping is not going anywhere. In order to better compete in the industry, retailers must acknowledge the value of mobile devices as both purchasing and marketing channels. To effectively do this, retailers must develop an agile IT architecture that can integrate data and applications seamlessly. API-led connectivity can help retailers achieve this architecture. 

Learn more about transforming the digital retail experience and discover some of the integration solutions that MuleSoft provides to retailers.

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