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How Retailers Can Use Mobile to Improve the In-store Shopping Experience

July 9, 2015

Mobile usage is at an all-time high, as evidenced by the fact that the guy who sells fruit at my nearest traffic light has a cooler phone than I do. Or, if you prefer, the statistics telling us that nearly a quarter of the world’s population is smartphone equipped and that there are currently about as many cell-phone subscriptions as people on earth. eMarketer estimates that by 2018 over a third of worldwide consumers will be using smartphones. While there is fear that mobile expansion may negatively impact in-store spending by encouraging online shopping, savvy retailers are making use of mobile app development services to make mobile trends work for them.

Online Shopping Hammering In-Store Market

‘Showrooming’ is a concept that strikes fear into the hearts of many brick-and-mortar retailers. Bargain-hunters using a store as their personal fitting room and then buying the item online sounds like a pretty great idea, until you consider the fact that the retailer has to pay for that stock, rent the premises, and compensate their in-store staff. While a few benevolent souls may trust in each shopper’s goodness to do the right thing, the wary (read wise) merchant has some tricks up his sleeve.

How to Win Back the Customer

1) In-Store Apps

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A majority of shoppers surveyed have said that they would prefer to use the corresponding retailer’s mobile app when in-store. Providing customers with multiple viewing and purchasing channels means that you get the girl who likes to walk down the street, parading her shopping bags like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, as well as the lazy and/or socially challenged consumers who couldn’t be bothered actually picking the item up, walking to the counter, speaking to a real human being, and making their purchase outside of comfortable, impersonal virtual reality. Geotagging can tie in-app purchases to users currently in-store, so providing a unified online and in-store shopping experience doesn’t have to create unnecessary channel competition. Stores without their own nifty app may find their customers logging onto competitor sites and making their way into the friendly cyberspace of another store.

2) Bargaining Chip

Some stores are making use of mobile offers and coupons – and this can be pretty ingenious. Not only do bargains encourages shoppers to enter the store, but using beacons, some stores are able to track when customers are in-store, and what products they’re considering. A well-timed ‘valid-for-the-next-ten-minutes’ coupon for the shower radio you don’t need but, oh, so want, could be all the push required. A sign really. The universe obviously understands that you do, in fact, need it.

3) Information Overload

QR codes have tickled me right from the get-go. Well, actually, just the barcode scanning app on my phone gets me excited. You mean I can use my phone’s camera to snap up those codes, and then all of the related information pops up on my phone without ever having to ask anyone for help? Yes, please. Providing customers with a little bit of extra information that they’re not Googling for might be all that’s needed to push the sale. It also stops them browsing competitor sites for the very same product. The more user-friendly information, the better – some retailers are adding in-depth information to clearly defined specs, with consumer reviews as an added bonus. There’s nothing like a hundred people gushing about how much they love a product to boost a consumer’s purchase confidence.

4) Find It Fast

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Mobile You-Are-Here boards. Google Maps for stores. There are, of course, many lovely people out there who enjoy chatting to strangers and don’t mind asking for directions, but then there are men. Mobile apps that provide in-store navigation might actually bring down divorce rates. Giving customers quick directions to specific products not only means Steve actually buys what Jill asked for, it means that retailers have additional information on what their consumers are shopping for. This takes us back to marketing, and so when Steve suddenly gets a 10% coupon code for Essie nail varnish, instead of purchasing the cheap no-name brand that looks, sort of, like it might be the same, his retailer does him the favor of keeping him off the couch for the night. Steve will probably never know, but Jill might, and both Steve and Jill will be back in the future.

5) Queue No More!

And how about mobile payment options and door-to-door delivery? Some retailers give their customers the option of paying for what they want from their store via their mobile phone, and having their purchases shipped to their homes. The ultimate in convenience, and likely to pull customers away from competitors who might be just that one step behind. Moreover, by tying loyalty programs into their mobile apps, stores are encouraging their customers to use their apps while shopping in-store, effective both for driving sales and gathering data about customers.

6) Make a Wish…

Now, I’m an online shopper. I am that lazy, socially challenged person who would prefer not being required to wander from aisle to aisle, remember to bring a trolley to carry the items I choose, and make friendly small talk with the sales staff. If I could work it so that I never had to leave my house, I would. For this, my friends and family despair, suggest therapy, and try to make outside activities like hiking and canoeing sound fun. I’m not buying it. But there are a few ingenious mobile applications that have caught even my slothful attention. In-store wish lists – ooh! Sometimes I’m in a bad mood, and don’t feel like stopping to consider whatever’s caught my eye. Or I’m late. Or the queues are long. Oh, the many woes of the outside world. But if I can note it to my wish list, you’ve got me! I’ll probably be back tomorrow because I’ll think about it all night and be desperate to own it by sunrise. Additionally, if there’s an easy little QR code that I can quickly scan for more information and customer reviews, my obsession will have plenty of fodder, thus ensuring I’m not sidetracked by Pinterest.

Success Stories & Inspiration

Speaking of Pinterest, Nordstrom has been tracking pins to spot trends and then using this data to promote trending products in-store. And IKEA is using image-recognition technology to give customers the chance to scan their catalogs on mobile devices and view 360-degree images of their furniture. IKEA mobile users can even ‘virtually’ place furniture in their homes, helping choose product types, colors, and sizes. Staples offers an app where you can buy wholesale products all from the comfort of your phone. Walgreens offers an innovative app that provides prescription refill by scan, QuickPrints for ordering photo prints via smartphone, and in some US states 24-hour access to doctors via smartphone cameras. And Neiman Marcus’ SoLoMo App connects customers with sales staff and provides updates about new products, promotions, and trends. Sales staff benefit because they have access to customer information such as Facebook photos, purchase history, and favorite items, and customers profit from the personalized, individual attention. These innovations provide some pretty tough competition

Go Boldly Forth, and Bring the Customers with You

Be it wish lists or QR codes, coupons or navigation, the benefits that retail mobile app development services can offer retailers are tremendous. Innovative stores are capturing the imaginations of their in-store and virtual customers alike making shopping more fun for the gregarious shopaholics and appealing even to those who would prefer to use only text-based communication and have nothing but unnatural light touch their skin – make sure you’re not left behind! Any day now I’ll be able to tap my fruit and veg order into my mobile and pick it up from the local traffic light hawker in one quick-and-easy drive-by.

How can we help?

YML believes that all retailers need to embrace mobile head on, especially with online & offline experiences. Contact us and we’ll tell you more about we’ve helped large retailers embrace & innovate in mobile.

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