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NRF releases blueprint for retailers to leverage mobile

With mobile commerce representing a major growth area for retail, the National Retail Federation, through its Mobile Retail Initiative, has unveiled the first version of the Mobile Retailing Blueprint.

Thanks to features such as texting, GPS and Web browsing, mobile phones have quickly become a necessity many consumers cannot live without, and nearly three-quarters of retailers are exploring mobile strategies, according to a recent survey. However, 62 percent of retailers have either not yet begun or are only in the early stages of planning their mobile strategy, and this alarming gap shows that many retailers are not prepared to leverage the industry?s newest channel.

?The Blueprint is first and foremost an educational document that provides the state of the industry and some recommendation for moving to successfully utilize mobile in retail,? said Richard Mader, executive director of the Association for Retail Technology Standards at the NRF, Washington. ?Recommendation No. 1 is to create a coordinated implementation plan with all organizational units involved?marketing, store operations, IT and finance.

?The plan should begin with simple methods to reach out you customers, normally marketing applications like couponing, GPS store location and progress to the end goal, which is your customer having a mobile wallet containing all payment and loyalty cards,? he said. ?Principal issues to address in plan are security, authentication, privacy and integrating your existing application with the new mobile data. 

?Another great recommendation is how to align your mobile program to deal with the many different mobile phones--RIM, Apple, Windows, Android?a retailer cannot offend customers by providing no service or poor service on a particular brand of smartphone.?

As the world's largest retail trade association, the NRF's global membership includes retailers of all sizes, formats and channels of distribution as well as chain restaurants and industry partners from the U.S. and more than 45 countries abroad.

In the U.S., NRF represents the breadth and diversity of an industry with more than 1.6 million American companies that employ nearly 25 million workers and generated 2009 sales of $2.3 trillion.

Mobile retail blueprint
The NRF?s blueprint is a virtual roadmap for retailers to assist in the use of mobile to enhance their marketing, ecommerce and store operations with a special emphasis on implementation planning and technology.

The blueprint also explains multiple secure mobile payment processes that can provide customer convenience and lower processing costs.

The blueprint is designed to help retailers answer the following questions:

? How can mobile retailing improve my business?

? What technologies and standards apply in the mobile field?

? What implementation options should be considered?

? What capabilities do mobile phones currently offer?

? What types of mobile applications help consumers shop?

? What are the choices for mobile payment?

? What types of mobile applications help associates be more efficient?

A complimentary copy of the 176-page blueprint is now available through the Mobile Retail Initiative?s Web site at

The mobile blueprint was developed by NRF's Mobile Blueprint Committee, chaired by Mr. Mader, with vice chairs from Oracle, Smart Card Alliance and CellPoint Mobile.

More than 30 companies representing a diverse group of retailers, service providers and leading mobile association partners contributed to the blueprint.

With the first version of the blueprint available to the industry, the Mobile Retail Initiative will launch a series of initiatives to continue its mission to help the industry adopt global standards in mobile commerce.

These initiatives include special events for knowledge sharing, releasing the second version of the blueprint to further define best practices and standards to ease implementation of mobile based on reader feedback and producing new research to help the retail industry understand the role of mobile commerce plays in the global economy.

The National Retail Federation?s Mobile Retail Initiative (MRI) brings together the collaborative strengths of NRF's IT standards division, ARTS; digital division,; marketing division, RAMA; and NRF's CIO Council.

MRI is designed to lead the industry in the development and dissemination of mobile-related best practices, standards to ensure global acceptance, original research and educational events for the retail industry as it relates to mcommerce, marketing, operations and alternative payment methods. 

Why is mobile an important channel for retailers?

?No one leaves home without their mobile phone?it is always tethered to customers, which provides retailers the opportunity to reach out to them any time and any place,? Mr. Mader said. ?There are 1 billion-plus more mobile phones than credit cards?I would call that opportunity.

?And with mobile marketing and commerce, retailers can work directly one-on-one with customers in their store, send out special offers, provide item locations and product information download, even let consumers checkout without waiting in line,? he said.

The future of mobile commerce is bright, with sales of $120 billion forecast for 2015, according to the NRF.

?Today sales are limited, as ecommerce was designed for PCs with large screens, and they do not work well with all mobiles,? Mr. Mader said. ?As ecommerce redesigns for mobile, look for major increases.?