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The future of mobile shopping is not ready for prime time

What the future of mobile shopping will look like is a hot topic thanks to Amazon?s launch of the Fire phone last week, but marketers express skepticism over the phone?s ability to deliver a seamless experience and believe that working out the basics in mobile is still an issue.

Challenges such as attribution, on-the-go connectivity and image recognition that works like it is supposed to were among the biggest concerns named by marketers at the Mobile Research Summit: Data & Insights 2016 event on June 19. Amazon?s Fire phone is seen as call-to-action for where marketers needed to be headed but many expect that its impact will not be felt for some time

?I have yet to experience image recognition being seamless,? said Krassimira Bijeva, marketing communications specialist at Quad/Graphics. ?We talk about it and it is not there yet.

?It is going to take a while to have an impact,? she said. ?By the time we get there, the oh and ah is going to be gone.

?If you are a retailer, need to find a way to deal with it. Ideally, I would like to scan what I need and it arrives in my house. [Mobile shopping] has to get there.?

Marketing as service
The Amazon Fire phone is an ambitious attempt to address some of the biggest complaints when it comes to shopping on a mobile device. It promises to make it easy for users to find out more about products they see in the real world by simply pointing their camera at the item, which would then pull up a product page on the Amazon site. Registered users can complete a purchase with one click while Amazon Prime members can have it shipped for free.

Amazon is not the only one working on how to leverage image recognition for better shopping experiences.

An IBM executive at last week?s Mobile Research Summit pointed to a test it is running in grocery retail using image recognition and augmented reality to enable shoppers to hold their phones up to a shelf and see nutritional and other product information overlaid next to the actual items being viewed.

Such deployments are an example how mobile provides an opportunity to deliver marketing that is so relevant, consumers perceive it as a service (see story).

The basics
Numerous big brands such as Macy?s, Victoria?s Secret and others having also been talking up the powerful combination of smartphones and image recognition technology to help bridge the divide between real-world and digital shopping.

However, it is not clear that such strategies are ready for mass deployments.

The concerns expressed by Quad/Graphics? Ms. Bijeva were echoed by an analyst from a national department store chain who said the retailer has been exploring image recognition but has not been able to find any solutions that works well enough to provide the quality of customer experiences it aims for.

While the Amazon Fire phone and the grocery shelf augmented reality experience are great examples of where mobile shopping is headed, many marketers continue to struggle with getting the basics.

A daunting task
Donna Esposito, board president at Reader?s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation, said her main takeaway from last week?s Mobile Research Summit was the complexity of layering mobile marketing efforts on top of everything else that marketers need to be concerned with.

She said attribution and proving the return on investment is a major concern, and she was glad to see that discussed in a presentation at the Mobile Research Summit by Michael Boland, senior analyst and vice president of content at BIA/Kelsey. Mr. Boland presented a video explaining how Adidas was able to connect a mobile communications with in-store purchases.

Another takeaway she had from the conference was support for her belief that mobile marketing is all about making the experience easy for the consumer. She said users should be able to navigate from page to page without re-entering any personal information, and that customer data like credit card numbers should be stored to make repeat visits flow more smoothly.

?As a marketer, it?s daunting how much we need to do to drive the same amount of revenue,? Ms. Esposito said. ?A lot of marketers are not using this important channel, just because we already have so much to do with all the other media.?

Additional reporting provided by Mark Hamstra and Michael Barris

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Marketer, New York