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How can retailers harness mobile technology effectively?

Posted by Karen Wallis

April 21, 2016 at 3:30 AM

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The in-store interaction is an integral part of the entire shopper experience. Almost two thirds (60.1%) of shoppers are willing to buy more merchandise from a retailer that they believe provides better customer service. So it’s vital that retailers get it right, especially when you consider that consumers are using smart phones to gain information on products and pricing before, during and after the in-store visit.

Using mobile devices in-store

Zebra’s recent European Shopper Survey revealed that customers want a mobile in-store experience. 42.1% of respondents said they have a better experience when staff use the latest technology to assist them. In particular, customers felt their experience is improved when mobile computers are used by staff to check stock availability (55.6%) and to take payments anywhere in store (46.5%) – a view I share.

Given the significance of getting the in-store experience right, retailers should be looking at how they can deploy this technology. Especially since, as the way we shop continues to evolve, the use of mobile devices will eventually be considered the norm and instead retailers will be expected to invest in beacon technology, automated sales processes and personalised displays.

Capitalising on showrooming

Mobile technology has led to a huge shift in the way we shop. As online retailers are typically perceived to offer products at a lower price compared to their brick and mortar counterparts, the practice of showrooming is becoming increasingly popular and mobile devices only make the process easier. Retailers therefore need to look at ways in which they can embrace this new method of shopping.

I am pleased to see that retailers are beginning to capitalise on the phenomenon of reverse showrooming; by perfecting the integration between offline and digital channels, retailers are beating e-commerce competitors on convenience. Knowledgeable sales staff, in-store pick-up and smartphone discounts are all being used to bring and keep showroomers in-store. However, I would like to see more retailers offering customers real-time marketing offers while they are in-store looking at products to give customers a reason not to purchase online.

Mobile loyalty schemes

We as customers are inundated with communications from brands and with their being little incentive for us to remain loyal, retailers need to find new ways to use loyalty schemes to build strong customer relationships.  App-based loyalty schemes enable real-time, location based offers so that brands can stop bombarding their customers and instead provide us with offers and incentives when we actually want them. The same app can also deliver a whole array of other services to customers such as product location, origin and even in some cases such as Starbucks act as stored value for easy payment.

Loyalty programmes offer retailers an excellent opportunity to gain in-depth customer insights that can be used to personalise the experience, build better customer relationships and discourage showrooming. However, our survey revealed that only 38.9% of shoppers have downloaded a shopping-related app and just 9.7% use a smartphone loyalty scheme. Retailers need to target this large potential customer group to download their apps to ensure they can capitalise on loyalty schemes moving forwards.

All in all, mobile technology is already playing a key role in the development of retail and will only become more integral both to the sector and the way we as consumers wish to shop in the future. As sales processes are automated mobile devices will become essential, the threat of showrooming will have to be reversed through the use of mobile technology and customer loyalty will need to be far more timely and location based as it too becomes mobile.

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To read the full survey and learn more about why mobile technology was one of the key trends of 2015, click the button below:

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Topics: Retail, EMEA, mobile devices