Google is constantly updating its search engine algorithms to improve results, but every so often it makes a change which has the potential to dramatically impact retail businesses. Its most recent modification could be the biggest ever for ecommerce companies.

As of 21st April, the search engine operator adopted a new ‘mobile friendly’ approach to ranking results. This means that websites optimised for mobile devices will be prioritised, while unresponsive online platforms will see their performance plummet – a major concern for retailers who are behind the curve.

While the update is being rolled out over several weeks, giving ecommerce businesses time to adjust their online strategies, the significance of this change extends way beyond how Google ranks websites.

This modification symbolises the increasing importance of mobile shoppers to the retail industry. Just this week, IMRG revealed that mCommerce increased significantly from 2010-2014, now accounting for 1 in 4 online purchases.

This mind shift isn’t reserved solely for direct ecommerce transactions, either. A separate study by Google and Ipsos has revealed that the store is the third most popular place to use a smartphone – after ‘at home’ and ‘on the move’ – with three quarters of consumers admitting to browsing their devices in the aisles.

Combine these statistics and there can only be one conclusion: retailers MUST prioritise mobile as a channel if they want to continue connecting with their customers.

Online, this is simple enough. If a website is not already created on a responsive platform, retailers can either rebuild it or create a mobile-friendly sister site. Text can be reduced and sentences shortened to make it easier to read on a smaller screen, and the site can be connected to an ecommerce platform that is optimised for mobile users.

In the store, however, the challenge is more complex. This is because mobile shoppers present channel conflict for retailers. On the one hand, mobile is the enemy of bricks and mortar, tempting consumers online towards another, possibly cheaper or more convenient, brand. On the other, it is a powerful tool to bridge the gap between online and store capabilities.

All too often, fear over not developing the right mobile strategy leads retailers to ignore the use of smartphones in the store. However, this diverts potential revenue away from their business towards ecommerce rivals.

The key for retail stores trying to build an effective mobile strategy is to blend digital and personal service, to create a level of engagement not available purely online.

One of the major issues with consumers using mobile at the moment is that the journey is uncontrolled – they’re using their devices, their own way, to reach their objectives.

Introducing mobile point of sale (mPOS) technology to the shop floor gives retailers the power to bring that journey back under their control through clienteling. Not only is a member of staff steering the journey, but the tailored assistance they are providing brings new personalisation to bricks-and-mortar encounters, which can’t be replicated on autonomous journeys to purchase.

With the mCommerce juggernaut showing no signs of slowing, the dilemma should no longer centre around whether retailers invest in a mobile point of sale system – it should be when and how they implement mPOS to drive stronger customer relationships.

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