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Smartphone shopping in-store – connecting digital commerce with bricks and mortar / Dan Hartveld, Red Ant

by on April 16, 2013 in Advertising, Apps, Apps & Software, Best advertising story, Ecommerce, Email Marketing, FaceBook, Gadgets, Google, iPhone, Latest News, Lead story, LinkedIn, Media, Metrics, Mobile, Mobile Marketing, Mobile/Tablet, Nuggets, Online Advertising, Online Video, Pinterest, QR Codes, Research, Retail News, Search Marketing, Social Media, Twitter, Websites

Dan Hartveld, Red Ant’s technical director writes  ..  As mobile continues to be a hot topic for everyone – tech pundits, brands and industry mavens – there’s still a question over exactly how consumers use their smartphones when they’re out shopping. We all think they’re doing it, we feel in our collective gut that they’re going to do more of it as digital commerce and multichannel experiences get better.

But are consumers actually getting out their smartphones in-store and using them to compare, share and buy?

The short answer is yes, they are – but it’s currently a fringe activity which has yet to realise its full potential as a revenue driver.

When we look at the current popular retail behaviours among smartphone users, it’s evident that they primarily use their phones for:

    • Price comparison with online retailers or competitors
    • Spontaneous sharing through social networks, text and email
    • ‘Showrooming’ (physically checking out products in-store then going on to get the best deals and make the purchase online)
    • Looking up product reviews (usually on Amazon rather than on the retailer’s specific site)
    • Finding local businesses and stock checking
    • Click and collect
    • Mobile vouchering (Orange Wednesday is probably the most successful voucher scheme of all time)

Most of these are ‘emergent’ behaviours –activities that users have come up with themselves using the tools they already have, because they have clear returns. Successful retailer-led activities reflect these behaviours – they have obvious, tangible benefits, universal reach, and are easy to understand.

Making the most of smartphones in a retail setting

The question is where can we go from here, given the ubiquity of smartphones and users’ increasing comfort with using them in a retail setting? Developments in mobile have gathered pace over the last couple of years or so, and they show no signs of slowing. There are a number of applications for new technology which have the potential to provide the consumer with an immersive, enriched shopping experience, with mobile as the central connecting device:

    • Augmented reality, bringing products to life with added information and illustrations
    • Mobile payments
    • Barcode scanning and NFC or other mobile tagging
    • Indoor location
    • Mobile ePoint of Sale and interactive free-standing display units using Kinect
    • Personalisation using mobile as ID
    • Customising the in-store environment (eg voting on in-store music)
    • Tablet kiosks
    • Virtual customer assistance and internal/staff management systems with the same polish as consumer apps
    • Out of hours shopping via window displays

Barriers to opportunity…

The potential for development in the mobile retail arena is clear – but as with all technology, barriers to implementation exist, and there are a number of challenges to consider alongside the opportunities:

  • Out of date back end infrastructures struggle to support mobile access (though this is changing as retailers replatform)
  • Poor in-store advertising and lack of in-store WiFi
  • Lack of visible direct benefits to users, and lingering concerns over privacy
  • Poor handset support for technology like NFC, and therefore low customer recognition
  • No single responsibility: internal barriers still exist between retail/ecommerce/digital/HR/ops departments and there’s a persistent worry about ‘cannibilisation’ of targets
  • Retailer ignorance of or resistance to emergent behaviours  – for example, some bury their heads in the sand about showrooming rather than embracing it
  • Brick and mortar focus on competing on price (a losing battle against online, as recent high street closures have shown) rather than competing on experience
  • Risk aversion in a recession environment

… and how to overcome them

Fortunately, there are practical steps to be taken to mitigate and overcome these challenges, some of which require more commitment than others, but all of which will help to open the door to mobile commerce and the opportunities it offers for increased and improved retail business:

    • Replatform to a product with good API support
    • Appoint multichannel champions with cross-department remit
    • Don’t do things for the sole benefit of the marketing or PR department
    • Pay attention to what is technically feasible and what will bring revenue and positive experiences, not what is currently ‘cool’ (Tweet mirrors spring to mind)
    • Use your consumer mobile apps as a base to move in-store
    • Look at internal user experiences with the same rigour you look at customer-facing ones – employees are consumers, too
    • Train staff to promote mobile
    • Remember customers see brands, not channels

The key point to bear in mind in all of this – one which will make sure brands don’t go too far off track in realising mobile’s full retail capabilities – is to keep the customer profile at the heart of whatever they do. It should all be for consumers and driven by them – a retailer’s aim should always be to make it easier/better for them to shop wherever and however they choose.

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