Customers are mobile first, retailers must be too

Retail marketers are constantly being told to look for new ways to enhance their mobile offerings to catch up with what consumers now expect the shopping experience to be like.

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Five years ago that meant having a website that people could access on their mobiles. Then the focus shifted to mobile apps. Now they are being told to look to next-generation services that can make the mobile experience as rich as the in store one.

That’s because the two are intrinsically linked. Shopping on a mobile phone isn’t something that people only do when they’re trying to kill some time on the bus or waiting for a friend. Increasingly they are using them in store as well, to post pictures of products to social media, compare prices of in-store goods to those online or look for reviews.

The exponential increase in UK consumer’s reliance on their smartphones means mobile must become a priority for retailers. More than half of people have used a smartphone to check product availability to buy goods, according to Deloitte.

Figures from Weve show that 28 per cent people cite mobile as their first screen, with this number rising to 46 per cent among 18-34 year olds. Plus almost three-quarters of UK consumers now own a smartphone, according to Deloitte, up from 58 per cent at the end of 2012. Again it is the younger demographic leading the way, with penetration at 90 per cent among 25-34 year olds.

This group is considered the most affluent and influential by Deloitte, making it necessary that retailers align their priorities to meet the demands of tech-savvy shoppers.

That is why a recent study by retail technology provider Omnico on adoption of technology by retailers is such a concern. The report found that just 14 per cent of shops on Oxford Street and Regent Street, two of the busiest shopping streets in the world, offer free Wi-Fi, only 8 per cent have touch screens in store and less than 3 per cent have mobile point of sale.

Retail marketers are missing a trick. The opportunities to use mobile to improve the customer exerience, build up a relationship with customers, boost loyalty and ultimately drive up sales are huge.

Mobile technology such as geolocation allows retailers to push offers and deals to customers they know are in their store, while geofencing could send out promotions to those walking outside. Integration of mobile sites with social media lets users see what their friends are buying and recommend products to their communities, as well as offering a way of finding out who the customer is and tailoring communications to them.

QR codes and barcode scanning tools can help customers find out more about a product or add it to a wish list to buy in future. Retailers may be concerned about showrooming, but shoppers are already using their phones to search online while in store. The key here is to convince them to buy from them by targeting customers with offers to purchase there and then.

More cutting-edge technology, such as augmented reality, offers the opportunity to surprise and delight. It might not drive up sales directly, but the novelty factor can help create buzz and boost positive images of a brand.

Retailers should also be equipping sales assistants with tablets and giving them access to a customer’s buying history, shopping preferences or what they say about the brand on Twitter. There is also plenty of data that can be taken from tracking customers in store through their smartphones, providing information on footfall, duration of visit and journey through a store.

There are a number of retailers that are doing this well. Burberry stands out as a retailer that has rapidly adopted digital, but Dixons as well has focused on the in-store environment. Now Argos is jumping on board, getting rid of the catalogues and little blue pens in six outlets and replacing them with tablets.

It is calling these “digital concept stores”. Yet really this is what all retailers should be doing to keep pace with a generation of shoppers that upload images of coveted products to Instagram and Pinterest rather than tearing pictures out of a magazine and share photos on Facebook rather than going shopping with friends.

Grabbing their attention digitally is the best way to ensure that customers spend their money in store and not online. Retailers must adopt mobile or risk falling behind.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Totally agree that retail needs to take advantage of the opportunities that mobile technology provide, but then I would given that my company is bringing our own contribution in the geo location space. LocateAware ( www.locateaware.com ) is a platform developed in the UK that aims to provide all retailers and consumers with a new unique shopping experience.
    There are several issues that must be addressed with this technology but keeping it permission based will ensure that users will turn increasingly to its use for guidance as to where and when to find those great deals.

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  • Insightful and technically educational.

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