Wherever You Are, That Is the Point of Sale

Within the next few years, the post-PC world of connected devices is going to have as profound an effect on the buying and selling of goods in this country as the internet has had in the last decade. The velocity with which people are embracing m-commerce and now t-commerce (tapping buy buttons on tablets) is surprising even the cheerleaders of mobile media. Publishers, watch this space. Having your content on handsets and tablets could position your company to be at that lucrative point of sale (POS) in a way never before possible, largely because now the POS can be anywhere inspiration hits.

Case in point: Valentine's Day! In the early 2000s, Valentine's Day became a surprising hit on the web. It was a way that neglectful husbands and boyfriends could dash off a last minute e-card or order next-day shipping from lingerie dealers everywhere. So an otherwise minor event became a red-letter day for the web, among the busiest of the year. Apparently the web was built for dolts like me who pretty much ignored all the fair warning that Valentine's Day was coming until that very moment when I received someone's Valentine greeting. Oops. Does Lindt or Victoria's Secret have same-day delivery, I wondered more than once.

Enter mobility. According to an IBM Benchmark study, which manages and monitors many online retailers, this Valentine's Day saw a near doubling in the number of user sessions coming from mobile devices over last year-14.5%. In some key categories such as intimate apparel, the jump was extreme-from 8.29% of sessions last year to 24% this year. And sales followed suit. While 10.1% of purchases were made either on a mobile phone or tablet-which is astonishing enough-in the jewelry category mobile accounted for 28.8% of electronic purchases for the week running up to V-Day.

Wow is right! And by the way, the tablet has emerged as an incredibly important force in post-desktop buying. Despite the much higher penetration rate of smartphones in the U.S., 4.9% of electronic purchases during the week before Feb. 14 were made on tablets. While early in the game, many marketers are starting to talk about a special "lean back/lean in" tablet mode that is especially conducive to impulse buying.

That is what mobility brings to the ecommerce world, impulse buying that is closer to the moment of need. This is also where publishers need to try to position their content-closer and in service to the consumer's impulse points. If media sellers want to enhance the value of their mobile content for potential marketing partners and benefit from the torrent of investment that is coming mobile's way, they need to reimagine themselves at the always-there point of sale.

Traditionally, consumer-facing media inspire consumption by featuring products people want to buy or depicting lifestyles readers aspire to achieve. Advertising is sold against those dreams and affinities, with the expectation those audiences will remember and act upon the brand messages later at a point of sale. But mobility, even more than the web, shortens that process of inspiration leading to purchase.

How does content get into that truncated purchase path? Look at Shazam. It is a music discovery and audio ID app that recognizes what song is playing on the radio and lets you buy the track on the spot. Look at Lucky magazine's sophisticated Lucky Shopper app for smartphones. Rather than re-create the magazine content on an app, it blends editorial voice-like trend tracking-with real-world shopping tools for scanning bar codes, creating shopping lists, finding better prices, and buying on the spot by phone.

Entertainment Weekly recently launched its digital edition on iPad, but it also turned the reviews and product announcements of the print magazine into an inspiration-to-purchase pathway. These are the front-of-book pages in magazines that traditionally feature hot new products, but devices add Buy buttons you can tap in store or just when in prime time media consumption mode. CNET Reviews is a mobile app that gives impartial gadget reviews anywhere and links directly to affiliate ecommerce buying opportunities.

The rise of m-commerce and t-commerce means one big thing for all publishers. As the commerce money flows, so flow the marketing budgets. As phones themselves become on-demand points of sale, m-content needs to reimagine where and how it sits in relation to the always-on cash register.