The rapid surge in mobile and tablet device usage has captured the attention of retailers in a big way.
Forrester estimates that mobile commerce is expected to reach $31 billion by 2016 and 51 percent of the U.S. population will own a smartphone by the end of 2011.
As smartphone and mobile device sales have skyrocketed, retailers will see increasing numbers of in-store customers using these devices to enrich their shopping experience. In the U.S., more than 55 percent of smartphone users believe using their phone during the in-store shopping experience will make it more enjoyable and, according to Internet Retailer, a staggering 73 percent of shoppers with smartphones report a preference for using their mobile devices while in store rather than asking a sales associate for help. Statistics like these are hard to ignore, and the time is now for retailers to adapt and offer a solution that meets the needs of their increasingly mobile inclined customers.
To successfully integrate their mobile and in-store channels, retails should carefully consider five key touch points: Pre-store, en-route, in-store, checkout, and post-purchase.
Retailers have an opportunity to start engaging customers long before they arrive at a store and mobile is a powerful channel through which to start the relationship. An intuitive mobile-optimized website that allows for easy product browsing and purchasing is critical for consumers to engage with the retailer anytime and anywhere. By incorporating high-quality pictures and detailed information about products, a mobile site empowers consumers to begin their shopping experience before entering the store. Consumers can not only learn about products they are interested in, but they can also find out about upcoming promotions, in-store events and specials that are relevant to them.
While mobile-optimized websites are a great way to reach a large number of consumers, an app allows for users to integrate smartphone functionality into the mobile experience and take advantage of features such as GPS and camera. Additionally, apps can simplify the user interface, enabling consumers to search for products and easily make purchases from a mobile device within just a few clicks or find a store with availability to purchase locally. Apps can improve the pre-store planning experience as well, by allowing consumers to scan barcodes of products they already have at home to add items to a mobile shopping list, easily add items when they think of them and share lists with friends and family members.
Mobile devices enable customers on-the-go to seek out store locations, receive promotional messages and access special deals no matter where they are. Store locator functionality serves as a crucial link between mobile and traditional in-store retail channels and eliminates the potential initial pain point of the in-store shopping experience: getting to the store. Store locator app functionality give consumers the capability to locate stores and get directions quickly and easily as well as access store hours, and basic information that previously required a phone call to store employees.
GPS-enabled smartphones allow retailers to incorporate location-based promotions into the shopping experience that provide immense value to consumers. For example, customers with an enabled retailer app who enter a geo-fenced area surrounding store locations can be sent alerts with discounts, current in-store promotions or special offers. Location-based promotions have the power to drive store traffic, increase sales, and solidify the smartphone as an integral part of the multi-channel equation.
From the moment customers walk into a store, mobile unlocks the potential to enhance all aspects of the shopping experience. By using a retailer app, customers can “check-in” to receive store coupons and promotions as well as access countless features the retailer chooses to implement. Some retailers provide additional information that improves the store experience such as store maps, product advice and personalized suggestions based on shopping history. Once in the store, customers can research products by scanning product barcodes with a smartphone camera to compare prices, read reviews, add items to a wishlist, or share items with friends via social networks. Customers will be able to interact with promotional signage in stores by scanning quick response (QR) codes to create a more interactive store experience; customers can enter contests, obtain style/gear advice, access news and media to further engage with the store.
Additionally, QR codes can provide invaluable customer preference insights that can be used to deliver personalized and relevant campaigns. Barcode scanning grants customers access to extended product information allowing for more informed purchasing decisions—this convergence between mobile and the in-store channels is a core element of the multi-channel retail strategy. Incorporating mobile in stores enables customers to have a highly personalized, distinctive, relevant and fun shopping experience – while the retailer seamlessly integrates multiple channels.
Retailers that enable customers to make payments with a mobile device will make the check-out experience quick, convenient and easy. Currently there are numerous mobile payment options and the solution that retailers offer will depend on the type of retail segment and resources available. Many retailers are implementing mobile app scanners or NFC devices at registers to allow customers to pay quickly with their phones.
Mobile POS devices can eliminate slow-moving check-out lines, poor customer service and missed selling opportunities. Importantly, linking inventory to a mobile POS device can dramatically decrease distribution and labor costs as well as allow for employees to be more knowledgeable and helpful to customers. Home Depot recently made a $64 million investment in the largest mobile POS roll-out to date. The newly launched Home Depot First Phone is a phone, mobile POS, receipt printer, inventory tracker and walkie-talkie and allows employees to quickly provide valuable information to customers. Despite the large investment, Home Depot claims the labor savings realized through this implementation will cover the cost within the first year of roll out.