How Retailers Can Beat Amazon to the Mobile Sale

Last week, I wrote about retail's online traffic problem. In sum, there are two major threats:

  1.  Mobile usage is increasing dramatically and users are spending more of their mobile time in [non-retail] apps
  2. When consumers need to buy something, they're starting more product searches on Amazon than with other retailers or even Google

To compete for traffic and sales, retailers need to meet consumers where they are - in mobile apps - and reach them before they've decided what they need to buy and gone to Amazon.

The company making both of these objectives possible is Button, the "user-first mobile monetization" that company also organized last week's TAP Conference in New York. Button places - you guessed it - buttons to drive app transactions for Uber, Eventbrite, Hotels.com, and others. These buttons become the connector between where mobile users spend their time and where they can spend their money. For example, Button announced a new partnership with Conde Nast, where a reader who discovers a restaurant on the media site can immediately request an Uber to get there.

Button's key to driving not just sales, but app engagement and page views, is that the connection is happening with appropriate context and the link to purchase is obvious and easy. As Ticketmaster put it, Button is a way to "leverage partners who are seeing your customers where or when you may not be".

A slightly different use case for Button is inside Ibotta, where a button deep links its loyalty (read: high-value) customers to a retailer's mobile apps to drive downloads. As Ibotta CEO Bryan Leach said in his fantastic presentation to close out the day, "the best apps link to each other [rather than mobile app to mobile-optimized web, which was a subpar user experience]".

My mind is on Button's retail sector applications -- specifically on the purchase of actual consumer products. A speaker from Pinterest acknowledged its platform isn't social, but about helping consumers find ideas. I think there's massive opportunity to help make these ideas reality through commerce that Pinterest alone hasn't been able to execute. Or, when I find a recipe, what are the tools (let alone ingredients) I need I need to make it? If I'm buying a ticket to the Jazz Age Lawn Party, who's showing me the outfit I need to buy to fit in? I just bought a light, but the bulb isn't sold with it and that's obviously my next purchase. When I book a trip, where's the guide book and mosquito spray?

And then there's the huge appeal of more reliably and seamlessly monetizing mobile editorial content. I was reminded at TAP that organic search, SEM, and affiliates are the top three e-commerce marketing vehicles. And while affiliates and app commerce are growing, they don't work well together. We can add this to retail traffic problems 1 and 2 above. So merchants need other ways to market within apps, and ideally to apps rather than to mobile web. That said, Button recognizes the ongoing importance of mobile web for both merchants and consumers and just launched an easy-to-integrate product for it. It's just another problem Button is solving.

Note: I attended #TAP2016 as press and I wasn't paid to write this recap. I didn't even have time for a free conference lunch, but I did enjoy the Wandering Bear Cold Brew on tap all day - thanks Button, nice touch!