Mobile: The Great Equalizer For Retail

By Tim Fujita-Yuhas, Director of Product Management & New Product Strategy, for Retail Touchpoints

Tim Fujita-Yuhas Headshot

In this Q&A, OpenMarket’s Tim Fujita-Yuhas shared insights on how mobile will impact retail moving forward.

1) How have consumer mindsets impacted mobile’s influence on retailers today?

In an effort to win and retain customers long-term, retailers are putting greater emphasis on the personalized experiences for consumers, and investing accordingly.

With omni-channel retailing fast becoming the norm, it’s important that retailers look at what this means for their communication and engagement strategies with customers. As retailers increasingly expand their presence into online, social and mobile spheres, success depends on a cohesive plan that utilizes the strengths of each channel to bring together a much improved customer experience – one that very often culminates in-store.

Many businesses are now exploring technology solutions that can facilitate the shopping journey to fit better with consumers’ preferences. The challenge lies in knowing exactly which technologies and channels should be used, and at which times to create contextual relevant experiences. Email, push notifications, SMS and other mobile technologies are all available to a brand’s marketing, sales and customer support teams. The trick is knowing when to leverage them.

Retailers need to step carefully, however, because if they are communicating at the wrong time, or with too much frequency, or in the wrong manner (with time sensitive information being sent via a slow channel, for example), the brand-customer relationship can be harmed or even irreparably damaged. It’s important that brands recognize that not all communication channels are created equally, and understanding their customers and their information needs is the key to driving effective communication strategies.

2) What are some best practices to consider for retailers when adopting mobile technology?

When it comes to choosing an approach to mobile, there are a few different things retailers should keep in mind. We’ve seen many enterprise brands seeking to understand which mobile technology (i.e. mobile apps versus SMS) they should be providing and what they should be looking for in terms of customer adoption time and expected ROI. By understanding the differences between the engagement options and what they each offer, brands can choose which is right for various use cases, objectives and audiences.

For retailers evaluating which mobile solutions to adopt, there are some key things they should consider:

Device Support

Retailers should be considering what device their customers are using most. For instance, mobile apps work on smartphones and tablets, while SMS/text messaging works on all mobile phones. It is important to understand when consumers are looking to interact with a business, and the types of devices they are using to do so, as well as their preferred channel at that mobile moment.

User Acquisition and Adoption

Which mobile channels are your target audience utilizing most? What are the adoption and response rates of the key audiences you are trying to reach? By understanding what mobile channel a particular market segment prefers, how quickly they are adopting this channel, and overall consumer usage rates, retailers will be able to clearly understand what mobile channels are the ones they should be supporting for various situations.

Customer Type

Are you looking to target customers that are the high-value power users that require a rich user experience, or are you looking to reach the more casual mobile consumer? Answering this question will help you to decide which mobile technologies your business should be adopting. For example, millennials make up our largest generation and text messaging is their channel of choice.  A Harris Interactive study found that 77% of them are likely to have a more positive perception of companies that offer texting as an option for communicating.

Frequency of Use

How often are your retail customers utilizing different mobile channels to interact with a business or make a purchase? By understanding the frequency at which they are using mobile, you can better determine which capabilities your business should adopt.


In addition to frequency, getting an idea of what specific mobile features a customer is using to interact with the retail market will give you clear insight into what features and capabilities you should be offering.

Time to Market

It’s important to consider what it will take to roll out mobile features and capabilities to your current customer base. By gaining an understanding of how long it will take to implement a particular mobile technology, you can determine if it is worth investing in or finding an alternative.

3) With so many mobile technologies available for retailers today, how can retailers determine which is right for their business?

There are a number of mobile technologies retailers can use to interact with consumers and create a better overall customer experience. To determine which one they should use, brands must first understand what type of interaction they want from a particular mobile technology.

For instance, mobile apps come with a rich user experience and for the frequent “VIP” customers, they are effective in allowing them to access extra information, and even shop via their device. Additionally, as consumers have access to a camera and GPS, retailers can find creative ways to integrate those capabilities into their mobile applications and give VIP customers an extra incentive to continue to interact with the brand via their mobile application.

A 2015 study from eDigitalResearch revealed that SMS or text messaging is also one of the most effective communication channels for retail brands seeking to contact consumers in real-time with time-sensitive information throughout their entire journey. Examples are order status alerts, product offers and coupons, two-factor authentication messages for online sign-on, and real-time customer feedback surveys about an in-store or online experience.

Mobile technologies and consumers’ communication habits will continue to evolve. The key for retailers is to find the right mobile mix that will deliver personal experiences and keep their customers aware, interested and engaged over the long term.

Tim Fujita-Yuhas currently serves as Director of Product Management and New Product Strategy for OpenMarket’s Mobile Engagement Platform, specializing in enterprise mobile engagement services. He is responsible for product strategy and business planning for the company’s mobile messaging solutions. Prior to joining OpenMarket, Fujita-Yuhas held a variety of product management positions focused on voice, video and mobile communications, and SaaS technologies.