NEW YORK: Brand owners such as Gap, Coca-Cola, GameStop and Nissan are all taking an increasingly integrated approach to mobile, reflecting the diverse consumer needs these devices now serve.

Gap, the apparel chain, recently joined the Merchant Customer Exchange, a body seeking to create a new generation of mobile commerce services, and boasting members like Sears, Target and Walmart.

Tricia Nichols, global lead, consumer engagement, media strategy and brand partnerships at Gap, told TNS that the power, ubiquity and portability of these gadgets could lead shoppers "closer to purchase".

"We see mobile as the future of our business. It's a tool of convergence that not only helps us bring bricks and mortar and ecommerce closer together, it becomes a tool to connect consumers with our brand and stores in a deeper way, adding value to the Gap experience," she said.

Mike Hogan, CMO of GameStop, the games chain, added that distinguishing "mobile" and "non-mobile consumers" was an error. "It's the same person we're reaching but at different points in time," he said. "So the question is: Where are they in the path to purchase and what are their needs at that moment?"

Coca-Cola, the soft drinks firm, has made progress here by allowing members of its MyCokeRewards loyalty scheme to redeem points using their phones at checkouts, rather than paying with a card.

"I think what we are discovering is that we are in the very early stages of the game," said Mike Hornigold, director, emerging shopper technologies at Coca-Cola. "And with that we are actually probably experiencing more shopper frustration than shopper benefit at this point in time."

The opportunities may prove especially pronounced in nations like China, where mobile phones are frequently the main way of accessing the web, and users are hungry for information about brands.

"Mobile will have a transformative effect on the path to purchase for the beauty category," said Joanna Wang, chief marketing officer, China, for L'Oréal, the cosmetics group.

"Because the category is often a consulting service, it's not like a simple 'easy know-how' category. You need service; you need consultation – for example beauty consultants in the retail environment. Mobile can help us replicate that personal, consultative experience."

In big ticket sectors such as the auto industry similar trends are at work, as car manufacturers build apps for phones and vehicles, and use tools like mobile games to connect with consumers.

"Mobile has emerged faster than most marketers believed possible. Frankly, I think we're now in catch-up mode because it has moved faster than many brands expected it to," Simon Sproule, CVP, global marketing communications for Nissan, said.

Data sourced from TNS; additional content by Warc staff