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Forrester: Messaging Apps Key to Mobile Retail Revolution in 2016

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M-commerce accounted for more than two-thirds of Alibaba’s recent $14.3 billion Singles’ Day sales—and companies are taking note. A recent Forrester report estimated that in 2016, more retailers will treat mobile as core to the customer experience.

In “Predictions 2016: The Mobile Revolution Accelerates,” the research firm forecasts that more than 25 percent of companies will use mobile as central to their overall strategy next year, versus only 18 percent in 2015.

It makes sense. Nearly 75 percent of the U.S. population currently owns a smartphone and Forrester predicts that by the end of 2016, 4.8 billion people worldwide will use one.

“And as that number continues to grow, customer-obsessed business leaders have vast opportunities to deliver great customer experiences via mobile,” said Thomas Husson, a vice president and principal analyst serving B2C marketing professionals at Forrester and a lead author on the report.

That’s putting it mildly. When Adobe surveyed more than 4,000 people in the U.S., U.K., France and Germany for its 2015 Mobile Consumer Report, less than half of the respondents said they were satisfied with mobile app and browser experiences.

So, retailers need to step up their mobile-moments game if they want to use smartphones and tablets to help them win, serve and retain customers.

“Many executives believe they should manufacture and own these moments through their native branded iOS or Android apps. While this is, of course, one way to serve their best and most loyal customers, Forrester research found that consumers use fewer apps and concentrate the vast majority of their time in just few apps,” Husson shared, adding that today’s “static” mobile experiences leverage too little consumer context.

“As customer expectations of convenience escalate in 2016, the pressure will be on firms to tap new technologies to serve customers in context where they already are—not where brands find it convenient to serve them,” he continued. “Firms must look to use context both to assemble and deliver experiences dynamically on their own and third-party platforms.”

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He pointed out that social networking service WeChat in China and Facebook Messenger in the U.S. offer a much more relevant experience.

Michael Kors is one example of a brand that’s embraced WeChat as a means to connect with shoppers in Asia by integrating commerce and customer care within the messaging app. In addition to offering access to customer service teams through the app for eight hours each day, the platform aims to influence both online and offline retail purchases by offering promotions to spur spending, while also gathering important shopper insight.

“In 2016, these ecosystems will grow as brands look to serve existing customers in context and developers flock to platforms with large audiences,” Husson added.