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There’s a lot of emphasis on user experience when it comes to mobile. And there should be. Delivering a great user experience with great content (and in the right context) is what makes mobile apps useful and keeps users coming back for more. It’s the key to engaging your audience on the device that 90% of them keep within arm’s reach at any moment.

A great user experience cannot be thought of in a vacuum, of course. There are technological underpinnings to make sure a meaningful experience is delivered. For example, in a discussion with an eCommerce retailer that also had numerous brick-and-mortar locations, several topics on consumer engagement arose.

One of the potential opportunities discussed the idea of pushing notifications about in-store deals on certain items when a customer was in (or nearby) a brick-and-mortar location. When I asked about the integration possibilities with their inventory management system, brows furled and hands were wrung.

It turned out that accurate product counts were only available at the end of each day – after running batch jobs to update in-store inventory with data from the daily sales, returns and received shipments.

So imagine the scenario:  You’re driving by a brick-and-mortar location. You get a push notification on your device about an item that’s on your wish list.  he store is offering a 10% discount if you purchase in the next hour. You swing into the parking lot and run into the store, only to find out after a 20 minute search that the item is sold out.

Yeah, that’ll keep ‘em coming back.

Don’t get me wrong. There are lots of companies doing a fantastic job with mobile. Walmart, for example, recently released an amazing update to their iOS app. You can now view a store’s weekly flyer and, simply by clicking a page, be presented with a list of items on that page. The mobile app also let’s you know whether the product is in-stock at their brick and mortar. And if not, the app offers you the opportunity to purchase it online.

This is just one example of how Walmart has torn down some of the customer facing boundaries between in-store and online. I’m not certain about this, but given the degree to which the customer-facing boundaries have been eliminated, I wouldn’t be surprised if some internal organizational silos have been eliminated as well.

Retailers, especially those with brick-and-mortar locations, have three things key areas to consider when considering how to best engage consumers on mobile:

  1. Tear down artificially created organizational divisions between web, mobile and physical sales and back-end proceses. While these silos were likely implemented when web and mobile were young to create better focus, we can probably all agree that web and mobile are here to stay. Collaboration across these traditional silos will serve to make the consumers multi-channel experience more positive.
  2. Create a user experience that engages consumers in a brand consistent manner. In other words, if your customers are bargain hunters, then displaying new daily deals in the context of what you know about a user would likely be important. Don’t try and do mobile things based solely on what your competition is doing. Make sure there is a valid customer-centric reason for delivering a component of a mobile user experience.
  3. Last, but certainly not least, understand your technology capabilities, and whether or not your organization’s current IT infrastructure is capable of delivering the data and services needed (and expected) by mobile users. If not, efforts to bring your systems in-line with current consumer expectations should be prioritized based on the most important mobile features to your customer base.

As with any technological implementation, there’s a plethora of details to consider when embarking on any mobile effort. Once you know that your organization is ready to properly support mobile and multichannel commerce, and that your IT systems are capable of supporting such a rich and contextual mobile user experience, the rest should come together in a relatively painless fashion.

If you follow the three guidelines outline above, you’ll have a solid foundation on which to build a brand-consistent and effective mobile experience. But you must be prepared to handle the services you offer. Don’t implement something you can’t support yet, just because your competitor did.

When it comes to mobile, you have to get the experience right the first time. You don’t want to send your users on a wild goose chase because your inventory doesn’t jive. Because when you do things like that, mobile users tend to feel alienated by your message. Or even worse, they feel duped. And when consumers start feeling duped, not only will they stop being loyal users of your application, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll stop being loyal customers altogether.