Consumers are tethered to their smartphones and increasingly using them as shopping tools. Purchases made with these devices have grown fourfold over the last four years. We now know that digital commerce represents about half of all e-commerce.
Top brands are capitalizing on this market movement by leading their consumer engagement strategies with a mobile-first approach. However, many small and midsize merchants are sitting on the sidelines.
If you are not yet fully taking advantage of mobile commerce, consider the following mobile retail execution use cases and examples as possible starting points. You may also want to consider the mobile retail guide for a systemic implementation approach.
Brick and mortar retailers are using mobile engagement as a concierge service once consumers enter the stores. They offer Wi-Fi access and invite shoppers to join the loyalty program with their devices. They use beacon technology to detect mobile apps or when a loyalty member enters the store and offer personalized greetings, incentives or specials on the member's device.
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 retail loyalty program benefits.
Stores may also offer helpful features such as product search with in-store mapping and quick navigation for 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.
Many retailers are weary of sending push notifications to 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 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 mobile app or even smartphone browser display for in-store consumers, it's important to recognize consumer opt-in and adoption are big challenges. Smart retailers begin their mobile retail execution with design thinking and Voice of the Customer (VoC) analysis. Here's some VoC data we gathered in a prior soft apparel goods project.
Interactive Item Engagement
Once merchandise is found or an item is under consideration, the consumer can scan the QR code with their smart phone. That opens up 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 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 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, Pinterest and Instagram but also on other social networks), and
- Videos showing other consumers using and enjoying 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 trusted social circles the read rate was exceptional.
Other content types which were not 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 these mobile retail execution 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 in store technology and 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 they may send a wine promotion offer to their phone. There are many techniques to improve up-sell of higher margin goods.
We don't believe clienteling is for every store, 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 e-tail and retail shopping.
When associates identify the shopper as a repeat customer or loyalty member, they can apply both CRM and loyalty system data to display the consumer’s purchase history, personal preferences, social graph, 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 he or she 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 they can use Next Best Offer algorithms to suggest the item that is most likely to be positively received by the consumer. Now you are 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 phone) to self-checkout and mobile payment. The end result is offering the best of the online and offline worlds in a way that engages consumers and significantly improves the shopping experience.
The Retail Mobile ROI
No mobile retail execution plan should commence unless the forecasted payback and ROI makes sense.
To forecast and measure the payback, you need to start by understanding how consumers use their smartphones. According to a 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.
Lastly, recognize that successful mobile retail execution is combination of innovative business process and supporting mobile retail technologies.