It is now an established fact that today mobile plays a major role in the overall retail customer experience. Meanwhile the opportunities being created by smartphones in the retail world are expanding all the time.
Mobile is transforming the retail landscape both for online commerce and at physical points of sale. Representatives of the world’s technology giants underlined this at the first-ever Shoptalk trade fair, focusing entirely on the future of mass retail, which was held in Las Vegas last week. The event, organised by the founders of the annual Money 20/20 conference, brought mass retail giants, investors and tech startups together on to the same debating platform with the aim of sketching out a picture of tomorrow’s retail world.
Mobile is now a real meeting point between the physical and digital worlds and brands use mobile channels for a variety of different purposes – acquiring customers, generating in-store traffic, giving information, providing a means of payment and creating a personalised relationship with the customer. And the starting point for the switch to mobile is of course the consumer, who spends ever more time online and whose needs and expectations are now more precise and demanding.
Mobile in mass retail: the state of play
Everyone at the Shoptalk event – especially the Google, Facebook and Pinterest representatives – underlined the importance of the user experience on mobile. Pinterest President Tim Kendall pointed out that the photo sharing service now has some 25,000 merchants and over 50 million products on its platform. The company is now making further investments so as to enable site users to make purchases directly via the ‘Pin’ button.
It appears that a real shift is taking place in the way we shop for goods. Jonathan Alferness, Vice President of Product Management, Shopping at Google, says that in the United States 34% of all online purchases are now carried out on mobile. Nicolas Franchet, Director, Global Vertical Strategy at Facebook, underlined that “Mobile isn’t just a technology; it’s a new customer behaviour.” Reminding the audience of his company’s extraordinary statistics, he pointed out that 45% of all customer journeys include the use of mobile; and this proportion rises to 57% when it comes to products and services destined for members of the Millennial generation.
The ‘mobile experience’: more than just a fashionable expression…
Today consumers use their smartphones to do such things as scanning barcodes, geolocating products inside bricks and mortar stores, and accessing special deals and loyalty programmes. To help take this approach to the next level, sales assistants at the checkout are also equipped with mobile devices so as to be able to personalise the in-store customer experience. This interaction is underpinned by technologies such as WiFi, NFC and RFID, which Mary Beth Laughton, Senior Vice President/GM, E-commerce and Digital Marketing at cosmetics brand Sephora, sees as a highly promising technology in this sphere. She stressed just how useful it is to have product tags at the checkout. Sephora is following recognised best practice in incorporating mobile into the customer journey, to such effect that mobile has played a role in 75% of all recent in-store purchases, Beth Laughton told the audience.
Retail merchants at the Shoptalk event all agreed that in addition to providing a streamlined overall experience, it is now a ‘must’ to be able to manage customer loyalty on mobile devices. In order to respond to this new imperative, the US department store chain Kohl’s has now incorporated its Yes2You Rewards loyalty programme into the Apple Pay mobile electronic wallet – one more step towards boosting customer engagement with the brand.
In short, mobile has become a trusted tool for consumers, which gives them a kind of power. Meanwhile most large retailers now realise that mobile is having a decisive influence on the buying journey and they have also got the message that a customer’s smartphone constitutes not simply a distribution channel but a relationship in itself.