Amazon T-Commerce: Cloud Meet Mall!

For all the science of shopping, even Paco Underhill, the retail guru, would tell you that designing an optimal commerce experience is a fairly simple proposition. Words like frictionless, seamless, impulse, uninterrupted, and accessible come to mind: One-Click Cha’Ching?

But between the idea and the reality falls an unwieldy shadow. With the launch of Amazon’s new Android tablet, reportedly this October, will Amazon’s signature one-click checkout meet portable desire and allow for an optimal commerce experience for the impulse shopper on the go?

In a world where Amazon has go far beyond the book, is this the new Kindle for the shopper? Will a low price point unit of $199 (sold under the manufacturing cost of $210) bundled with commerce wallet toolkit including reviews, consumer recommendations, shopping comparison and a fairly simple checkout bring the cloud down to the shopping mall?

Shopping Disruption

But all these shopping innovations, tools and shortcuts beg the question of what is the ideal and optimized mobile checkout? VISA “Square” has democratized point of sale of plumbers and pool cleaners across America. It works because it offers a simple, cost-effective solution that is riding the existing commerce rails. “Square” allows for a plastic card swipe and serves up a merchant account through the audio jack on the phone. Everyone is now a store.

VISA and PayPal continue to work to create similar quick-checkout for the small screen, eliminating the clumsy data form fields needs to check out on the large screen desktop that make for abandoned m-shopping carts all over cyber space. VISA’s purchase of PlaySpan is a perfect example of frictionless commerce engineering. PlaySpan (before it was acquired by VISA) allows gamers to buy virtual swords and pumpkin seeds for their virtual battle grounds and farms without leaving the game. VISA is using this same technology to launch a quick check for all those folk for whom real-world shopping is a “game”. We should see this roll out in 2012.

Google’s M-Wallet promises TAP and exit shopping at your local store. The problem here is that for all the hype, NFC-phones are only entering the market now and few retailers (outside of McDs) has contactless POS. I love the bricks and mortar dream-scenario of TAP purchase using your phone for payment, loyalty, affinity and marketing. However, I will remind the reader that self-checkout was a sexy idea twenty years ago and took two decades to start to appear in supermarkets in the US. The retailers are unlikely to pay soon to retrofit their existing DOS-like POS when the “reward” of quick-flowing aisle and proximity marketing is yet to be proven. Until the ROI calculator can be taken out, Google maybe waiting at self-check out.

VeriFone is answering the call by designing Swiss army knife units like PAYware that allow for mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) in store and can accept magnetic swipe, CHIP&PIN, NFC; it can scan bar codes and enter promotional PINs. Companies like GlobalBay have integrated to all major POS vendors (SAP, Epicor, Oracle, etc.) to allow this unit to mobilize the existing cash register without retrofitting it.

Apple has yet to show its NFC card. When they do, look for NFC to meet iTunes checkout. There is a tremendous opportunity for Apple to take over the traditional media space with TAP2SHOP service riding on it iTunes’s quick checkout. Until then . . . we have Amazon’s Tablet.

Amazon T-Commerce

Tom Daly, head of mobile globally at Coca Cola is focused on making their products “within arm’s reach of desire”. If Amazon can allow their customers to have a commerce tablet that enables them to shop where they want, they will succeed. By Q4 next year, look for Amazon consumers all over America, side-saddled in the waiting area of the mall after comparison shopping in their favorite store (showroom) checking out in the cloud.

Will VISA and PayPal design more optimized digital checkout? Yes. Will Google’s Wallet continue to expand retail doors and eventually become part of our shopping experience? Yes. But until then, Amazon will disrupt the mall and dominate the cloud shopper.

(If this all seems a little depressing for the store owner. Here is some advice. While Amazon focused on T-Commerce on a portable screen you need to focus on M-CRM on the small screen. You need to start owning the mobile two-way relationship on your shopper’s “handheld” and use the handheld in-aisle to drive tonnage.)

Mobile Commerce: Where to Start

TXT, SCAN, TAP . . . Mobile commerce is not only about payment but the ability to optimize the path to this payment. Farhan Ahmad, Director of Emerging Payments at Discover Financial Services, the issuer of the Discover Card, the third largest credit card brand in the United States, explains, “Mobile payment is a small subset of mobile commerce. Mobile commerce is primarily about shopper engagement and marketing. ”

What are the mobile marketing mechanisms to engage with the mobile shopper? Twitter’s micro blogging, of Facebook’s community building, FourSquare’s crowd sourcing and Google Deals all are valuable tools but any brand or retailer is committed digital strategy across all their customers’ screens, they need to establish a direct relationship with the consumer.

The only two-way targeted channel to move the shopper across the retail touch points is via the shopper’s phone number. Why. Because once a permission-based relationship is established between the shopper and the retailer, FaceBook, Foursquare, Google, or Apple should not disintermediate this relationship. Messaging can be targeted and personalized increasing improving brand recall and conversion rates.

Like other D2C channels, mobile messaging should deliver concrete results.  A good service provider will be able to show the brand a projected return-on-investment calculator. Key to building a strategy is to be able to articulate how you intend to effectively opt-in the consumer, what are your key-performance indicators including what retail touch points you would like the channel to connect to drive your sales.

Methods for growing your opt-in including website to text opt-in, 2D barcode scanning, NFC tag tapping and direct to txt opt-in. Here are some ways to start the process now:

Large-Screen Web

This is probably the most logical place to start for most brands as it extends their existing CRM opt-in and offers the consumer a choice of channel. Give your consumer a channel choice. Allow for opt-in on the web form to bridge the conversation from large screen to small screen messaging. Messaging that is closer to point to purchase and point of decision. The key is to immediately engage on the mobile channel after the submit button.

Scan

2D codes are dotted everywhere on paper media. It is cheap and easy. Scan and move the consumer to web. The challenge is moving the consumer to a 2-way opt-in relationship. What many miss in the 2D code discussion is the ability for the scan to open directly into a messaging or short code opt-in. Speak to your technology vender. If you want to move directly to mobile web, make sure you allow for messaging opt-in on this landing page. Without this engagement, this is an anonymous click-through with little onward going ROI.

TXT

However old-school, TXT is still the only two-way channel that the consumer uses on their phone – that is native to the phone – and that the retailer can develop a place in this circle of trust. Develop a rich content relationship with a brand loyalty and drive sales. SMS delivers 3x the conversion on POS deals in measured, close-loop conversion over traditional channels such as email. Avoid simple and underwhelming TXT2WIN and focus on promotions and engagement that tie to purchase or to the needs of the brand loyalist.

Look at TXT as being a staple channel: contactless and other technologies will simple allow for more seamless engagement into the messaging channel. Look to BBM and iMessaging to allow for marketing campaigns and communities to coexist in the near future.

TAP

Keep an eye on Near Field Communication (NFC) – seems to be all about payment but it is more about proximity marketing.  Tag a product or poster and allow for TAP2opt-in, TAP2WEB, TAP2Coupon, TAP2Shop. Think of this as a more frictionless SCAN. Native to the phone’s OS, TAP, contactless marketing does not require an APP and will be native to the handset – always on and always a TAP away from activation. The challenge will be building critical mass in market. Look to late 2012 and into 2013 for some reach and frequency in your shopper base. (However, start experimenting now.)