In Mobile, Customer Engagement More Important Than Sales

Companies rate long-term customer relationship building as a bigger priority than bringing in more revenues or employee enablement

By Joel Schectman, Wall Street Journal

For business leaders honing their mobile strategy, customer engagement is king.

Customer engagement is the top priority driving mobile efforts, as traditional retail companies strive to remain relevant through multichannel strategies. Engaging the customer on a mobile platform is a far bigger priority than driving more sales though it or even customer satisfaction, according to a new survey from Forrester Research Inc. and mobile payment vendor OpenMarket Inc.

The survey of 167 mobile channel decision makers found 63% citing customer engagement as a top priority. Only 27% listed sales as a top priority. Companies believe that higher sales from mobile, as part of an multichannel strategy, is a long-term goal that will come after developing a stronger multichannel relationship with customers, according to the survey.

Many traditional retailers see mobile strategies as critical to remaining relevant over the long haul, even though they are not necessarily highly profitable in the short-term. Companies like Target Corp. and PetSmart Inc. often tell investors of their multichannel prowess. But when pushed by the SEC to quantify ecommerce wins, both companies said contributions from online sales were immaterial, the Journal reported in August.

A spokesman for Target said in an email that while the revenue from ecommerce is still immaterial, “the lines are blurring between a digital/online sale and an in-store sale which is making it harder to distinguish. Our guests are shopping on their phones while in-store, [or] doing research online and then visiting a store.”

Empowering employees with mobile enterprise applications was low on the mobile wish list, with only 20% of respondents identifying it as a top priority. “[I]t indicates that business leaders are less focused on employee and supply chain issues and more focused on engaging with customers,” the study stated. “This reflects a prioritization of scarce resources in the short term, as many companies we speak with have dozens of mobile projects on the books and scant resources to devote to them. As a result, customer-facing projects tend to get the nod first.”