Understanding modern digital consumers is a tricky task and with their ever-changing changing expectations and demands, retailers are left with no other choice but to scale up and give customers what they want – an exceptional customer journey. Invariably they turn to technology to achieve this feat.
In fact, leading retailers are amongst the most innovative in their adoption of technology and have been making significant investments in tech to further tailor their customer experience. Walmart for instance spent more than $ 10.5 billion on IT in 2015, topping the list of the world’s biggest technology spenders (Source: IDC research).
In such a scenario, the ubiquitous mobile phone has become an indispensable part of the retail equation. Various studies suggest that an average adult spends anywhere between 2 to 4 hours a day on his/her mobile phone. It is not uncommon for consumers to rely on wireless devices, be it mobile phones or tablets, for product research and comparison or have shopping lists in their mobile phones instead of jotting it down on a piece of paper.
Such customers quite naturally prefer to use their mobile devices wherever possible, and if retailers can gauge this need for convenience and fill in the gaps, then Voila! There’s your brownie point! That said, mobile devices empower store employees just as much, and consequently, provide corporations with the optimal platform to engage with their two most important stakeholders.
Let us look at some typical use cases of how mobility plays out in retail:
Mobile POS – According to a survey by TimeTrade, an average person is not willing to wait in line more than 10 minutes. This is probably the reason why leading retailers such as Walmart and Sephora have realised the importance of ‘line busting’, i.e. equipping sales associates across the store with mobile POS devices that can complete transactions away from the traditional register. Optimizing the “waiting system” contributes to a great in-store experience, which in turn incentivizes customers to revisit stores.
However, line busting is just one part of the picture; mobile POS has a much larger value proposition. Most mobile POS systems can sync the sales data with the store’s inventory system, thereby giving employees a clear visibility of what’s in stock and order that item on the spot if needed. Not just that, mPOS empowers employees with all the information that they would need to provide excellent customer service. They can instantly answer customer queries about the product, check product availability, search for coupons and promotional codes, find online reviews, compare prices between stores, and even order online to ship directly to the customer’s doorstep.
Mobile commerce – Mobile commerce is growing by leaps and bounds! Emarketer expects mCommerce to make up for 72.9% of digital sales by 2021. Mobile commerce is a critical element of a true omni-channel experience and offers customers the one thing they always seek for – convenience at their fingertips. This in turn ensures a high conversion rate and ROI.
Mobile apps – Retailers having shopping apps is commonplace, but quite a few retailers use mobile apps to engage with their customers in a highly personalised manner and thus drive customer loyalty. These apps are integrated to the retailer’s CRM and POS, and some are even powered by Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. They drive an omnichannel experience by connecting customers to a brand across all touch points seamlessly. Not only do these apps help retailers to put in place a comprehensive and effective rewards program, but also enable targeted, personalised marketing campaigns and communications, social engagement, customer feedback capture and best-in-class customer service.
Customers can maintain their shopping lists in the app, and based on the shopping list, be navigated through the store to the listed items. Beacon interface allows sending ads to the mobile app based on the customer’s location. Some retailers have scaled up from the conventional mobile app and have complemented it with augmented reality to enhance the shopping experience. IKEA for instance launched an augmented reality app in 2014 as part of their catalogue, that allowed users to virtually place and view IKEA furniture in their homes.
It goes without saying that technology and retail are inseparable. Not only are there positive implications from enhanced customer experience, but also significant ROI implications from returning and loyal clientele. That said, the potential of mobility in retail remains untapped to a large extent, and retailers have a long way to go in their adoption of mobile technology.