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 Chuck Schaeffer The Future of Retail—Retail Mobility


The Retail Call For Mobile

Consumers are tethered to their mobile devices and increasingly using these devices as shopping tools. According to a Goldman Sachs retail research report, mobile-commerce (m-commerce) will represent nearly half of all global e-commerce by 2018. Purchases made with mobile and tablet devices will reach $626 billion by 2018 representing a fourfold increase from the 2013 total of $133 billion. Mobility has passed the tipping point and this trend warrants more than a lukewarm response if retailers are to capitalize on the revenue opportunity.

The retailer of the future will adopt a mobile-first approach to engage consumers on their devices.

There’s a plethora of mobile driven use cases for retailers to consider.

Mobile Concierge Services

Brick and mortar retailers are using mobile engagement as a concierge service once consumers enter the stores. Offering WiFi access, inviting shoppers to join the loyalty program with their mobile devices or using beacon technology to detect mobile apps or when a loyalty member or shopper enters the store permits the retailer to offer greetings, incentives or specials on the consumer’s mobile device.

They may also offer helpful features such as product search with in-store mapping, quick navigation and quantities on hand. Providing a floor map displaying a bird's eye view of the store footprint, and a product locator for item search and location plotting are methods that are proven to keep buyers in stores longer. Loyalty members can see what resembles a shopper dashboard with links to accumulated point totals, exclusive offers, new products that are related to prior purchases and other loyalty program benefits.

Many retailers are weary of sending push notifications to mobile shoppers. However, consumers are showing interest in those offers as long as they are relevant. In a consumer survey done by mBlox, 73% of consumers who have download mobile apps reported receiving push notifications and 86% of those recipients found them worthwhile. A retail best practice is to use the mobile app for more than just sales offers, such as sending push notifications for shipping alerts or delays.

Before rushing to create a retail mobile app or even mobile browser display for in-store consumers, it’s important to recognize consumer opt-in and adoption are big challenges. Smart retailers begin their mobile design thinking with Voice of the Customer (VoC) analysis. Here’s some VoC analysis I gathered in a prior soft apparel goods retail project.

Retail Mobile Capabilities

Interactive Item Engagement

Once merchandise is found or an item is under consideration, the consumer can scan the QR code with their smart phone and be offered supporting links to information, rich media or even entertainment – all of which are effective at improving conversions at the point of purchase. This product engagement also works to reduce retail floor showrooming.

I managed a CRM implementation at a luxury garment retailer where we tested 14 types of content to display from QR codes on the consumers mobile device. We found the top 3 content types which most led to sales conversions were links to product back stories (i.e. how the product was made, where it was made, who made it, etc.), social reviews (primarily curated product reviews on Facebook and Pinterest but also other social networks) and videos showing other consumers using the item.

We also found that placing social sharing buttons on the content under buyer consideration generated a 6% activation, meaning that 6% of the buyers forwarded the content (generally with product images attached) to their social spheres. This was huge. Social sharing and propagation increase reach exponentially and because the messages are coming from within social circles the read rate was exceptional. Other content types which weren’t far behind included access to online product catalogs, related products (this content type ballooned if the related products were included as bundles), price comparison, coupons, contests and other forms of rich media (particularly interactive images and slideshows).

Beyond our own mobile device orchestrated consumer use cases, we found that for garments it was common that buyers would snap a picture and ask their friends for feedback. To aid this process, we provided a number of stock photos that could be appended to the actual picture so the garment could be viewed in different scenarios. This increased the positive feedback to the consumer – normally by several points but the results varied significantly by SKU and product category.

There are many additional product-based immersion techniques. For example, based on the shoppers persona or their in-store location – and using beacons or LED technology – ads or entertaining video can be displayed for the products under consideration on nearby digital signage. So if a consumer places some Fontina cheese in their shopping basket, the retailer can then display a Chianti or other red wine that goes with it on nearby digital signage or send a wine promotion offer to their mobile device. There are real techniques to improve up-sell of higher margin goods.


My positive experiences with clienteling make me extremely bullish that this technology is a must for the retailer of the future. I won’t suggest clienteling is for every retailer, but the revenue benefits are solid for most big box, white goods, electronics, apparel, luxury goods and all forms of full-service and specialty retailers.

Equipping your store associates with tablets and positioning them on the floor to interact with consumers is quite possibly the single best method to merge the benefits of etail and retail shopping. For consumers who are loyalty members, opt-in to the store WiFi, link to the retailer’s social networks or just identify themselves to the sales associate, clienteling tablets connect to the CRM and loyalty systems in order to empower the sales associate with the consumer’s purchase history, personal preferences, lifestyle interests, loyalty program benefits or personal information such as birthday or anniversary. You can optionally dig further to view the consumer’s digital footprints from the website or other online properties to see what items the consumer spent a lot of time checking out, but didn’t buy. This is powerful consumer information that the sales associate can use to engage in a relevant conversation.

Taking it to the next level, CRM systems can suggest up-sell and cross-sell items based on the consumer’s prior purchases and known preferences, or can use Next Best Offer algorithms to suggest the item that is most likely to be positively received by the consumer. Now you're using predictive analytics to know what the consumer wants before he or she knows to ask for it.

Clienteling offers many other capabilities – from virtual customer service (delivered on the store clerks tablet or the consumers mobile device) to self-checkout and mobile payment – but the end result is offering the best of the online and offline worlds in a way that engages consumers and significantly improves the consumers shopping experience.

The Mobility ROI

To forecast and measure the payback for retail mobility, you need to start by understanding how consumers use their mobile devices. According to the most recent Deloitte annual survey, 67% of consumers use their smartphones to find store locations, 59% to compare prices, 51% to obtain product information, 46% to check product availability, 45% to read reviews, 45% to shop online, 41% to find and use coupons, 40% to scan bar codes, and 35% to access social media and social networks.

Aligning mobile concierge services, interactive item engagement and clienteling with consumer use cases will drive five strategic benefits.

  • Increased consumer registrations (thereby creating more consumer records and information – for more customer intelligence and improved marketing capabilities)
  • Increased consumer (digital and physical) engagement at the point of purchase
  • More flexible and even dynamic incentives and offers (unlike printed coupons, displays from smartphone scanning can be changed, rotated or discarded on demand, and further displayed contextually based on consumer behaviors)
  • Increased sales conversions, and
  • Better information reporting, including product-specific engagement trends, SKU-specific consumer feedback, offer acceptance rates, purchase conversions and more.

Next - Social Media For Retailers >>

The Future of RetailRetail LoyaltyRetail MobileRetail Social MediaOmni-Channel RetailRetail Customer ExperienceRetail MarketingRetail AnalyticsRetail Big DataRetail Store ImmersionRetail Future is This




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According to the Deloitte annual survey, 67% of consumers use their smartphones to find store locations, 59% to compare prices, 51% to obtain product information, 46% to check product availability, 45% to read reviews, 45% to shop online, 41% to find coupons, 40% to scan bar codes, and 35% to access social media and social networks.


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