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What is the best in-store mobile shopping strategy?

June 22, 2012

Mobile is transforming in-store shopping by enabling consumers to use their smartphones to compare prices and make purchase decisions. However, showrooming is just one small part of how mobile will impact in-store shopping, with apps, coupons, push notifications and mobile point-of-sale systems increasingly being used to drive foot traffic.

Most retailers are still in the test-and-learn phase when it comes to using mobile to engage shoppers while they are in the store. However, there is evidence that mobile in-store engagements at scale are coming, with Target recently broadening its use of location-based rewards app shopkick to all stores nationwide following a successful test.

“A whopping 60 percent of consumers report using mobile while shopping in retail stores,” said Wilson Kerr, vice president of business development and sales at Unbound Commerce, Boston. “The connected consumer is finding locations, reading reviews, and, most significantly, checking for better pricing elsewhere.

“Mobile has changed the retail landscape and this is just the beginning – resistance is futile,” he said.

“Smart retailers will find ways to engage and provide mobile solutions that make shopping easier.”

Personalized interactions
Mobile enables retailers to have a personalized interaction with shoppers while they are in the store, which is something that most retailers cannot turn away from.

Mobile can also help drive in-store sales, which is why it is imperative for merchants to have an integrated mobile commerce site. This can help insure that interested consumers do not walk out the door because the competition has a mobile site.

Savvy retailers are also using mobile to drive in-store activity by delivering special offers via social media and allowing in-store mobile redemption, enabling them to track store traffic that originated via mobile.

The shopkick app

The beginning
However, retailers have barely scratched the surface when it comes to using mobile in their stores.

“I don’t think we’ve really even gotten started yet,” said Nikki Baird, managing partner at RSR Research, Miami.

“There was a video making the rounds a while ago, of a future shopping experience inside a Target, where the shopper is using her mobile phone as part of that experience,” she said. “We haven’t even gotten to that point yet.

“So there is definitely a long way to go. What if your phone could interact with products? Or display screens or kiosks? We’re still only scratching the surface.”

The goal is to have mobile act as a guided selling assistant as shoppers walk through the store that would provide offers, recommendations, up-sell and cross-sell opportunities as well as in-depth product information.

Mobile also offers the opportunity to make it easier for consumers to keep track of loyalty cards and points. Many are experimenting in this area but no one has figured it out yet.

Per Ms. Baird, a retailer’s app is positioned to drive most of these kinds of experiences.

“It’s the best way to know who the customer is and be able to provide personalized, relevant communications to them,” Ms. Baird said.

“It’s the natural holding place for loyalty data. It keeps a customer logged in so they don’t have to do that unwieldy kind of activity as they’re walking in the store. “

At the top
One of the reasons why mobile in-store engagements are not further along is because of the need to get buy-in for the concept from the top levels of management since effective mobile programs tend to be integrated across many different departments, from IT and merchandising to finance and marketing.

“There is a lag time between the bright idea of ‘Hey, let’s institute in-store mobile engagements,’ and the ripple effect of evaluating how  it touches the various systems,” said Stephen Burke, vice president of the mobile practice at Resource Interactive, Columbus, OH.

“It isn’t hard to do in terms of being complex – it is hard to do in terms of aligning the internal teams.”

Examples of best-in-class retailers who are using mobile effectively in store include Rockport, which has rolled out an API-integrated mobile site, a Facebook store and using QR codes linked to custom, commerce enabled landing pages.

Another example is Best Buy, which has been aggressive about putting QR codes on products, providing free WiFi in their stores and offering a strong mobile app that provides access to its loyalty program, product information and a product comparison tool.

Other retailers that are doing in interesting things with mobile in-store engagements include Macy’s, which has used augmented reality in its stores, and Sephora, which is equipping store associates with mobile point-of-sale devices.

“On a scale of one to ten, I would say that mobile has changed the in-store shopping experience at a two so far,” Mr. Burke said. “So there is much more to come, such as rolling out in-store mobile offers and flash offers.”

“Right now, personalization is the nut that needs to be cracked in a way that respects customers’ privacy but rewards them in a way that addresses their prior purchase history,” he said. “Two years from now, I expect every retailer to be able to maintain a customer’s identity across channels and also enable them to credit whichever touch point delivered the sale.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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