Why Mobile May Be the Best Technology for Your Retail Stores
When making a grocery shopping list online, do you ever get frustrated with your grocer’s online sales flyer — the one that’s simply a digital image of the printed version that arrives in your mail each week? Then, even when your online list is complete, depending on which app you use, it can be hard to share it with another family member who has offered to do the shopping. And once you are in the store, there is no way to organize your list in order of where items are stocked — unless you have the store layout memorized.
Grocery shopping is a retail experience ready for improvement. Customers often visit the physical space, but frequently do their planning ahead of time on digital devices — whether reviewing recipes for meal planning, finding sale items, gathering coupons, or making shopping lists. In an attempt to show how current technology can help bridge the divide between online and offline retail experiences, Adobe partnered with global digital agency Valtech to create a proof-of-concept demo.
For shoppers, mobile is a massive part of the retail experience. People check mobile devices, on average, 85 times per day, but desktops still boast 75 percent of online revenue. Further, while retailers still struggle to convert mobile views or interactions to sales, physical retail locations struggle to maintain foot traffic due to the success of online shopping. Given this scenario, mobile interaction becomes a critical component for boosting loyalty and enhancing the overall customer experience, as it allows shoppers to move seamlessly back and forth between digital and physical experiences.
Mobile Devices Help Deliver the Complete Experience.
The grocery example looks at many small ways to change the relationships between customers and grocers so loyalty can be built. This loyalty comes from the value customers receive when grocers or brands help them make the best decisions through various interactions throughout their entire shopping journeys.
“If marketers don’t offer a fluid shopping experience across digital and physical worlds, their customers will go to competitors that do,” says Michael Klein, director of industry strategy for retail at Adobe.
Consider these additional mobile experiences that are helping retailers provide fluidity and value, as customers move between online and offline spaces.
1. Help Customers Locate Items.
Finding specific items in a grocery store can become a very long, drawn-out process for novice and veteran shoppers alike. Similarly, finding just the right pipe-fitting in a big-box store like The Home Depot can be a frustrating experience. Basic digital features can help direct in-store shoppers to items they are searching for as well as suggest related additional items they may overlook — whether for a new recipe, a weekend DIY project, or anything in between.
With The Home Depot’s mobile app, shoppers will notice a subtle, automatic switch once they enter a store. The “in-store” mode helps customers quickly identify items they need and then provides the exact aisles and bays in which they can be found among 35,000 other items. Because no two stores have the exact same layout, the mobile app uses location services to identify which store a customer is in and then access that store’s layout.
2. Provide Consumers With Consulting Services.
The Home Depot also uses mobile technology to provide consumers with input regarding purchase decisions. According to The Home Depot, about three-fourths of customers decide to forgo a paint project and purchase, because they can’t decide on a color. By leveraging mobile devices and their cameras, the retailer created an app that lets people take pictures of hopeful painting projects and then change the colors to see how different colors will actually look. The app uses mobile technology to connect customers’ homes with the paint selections found in-store, taking some of the guesswork and anxiety out of a basic decision with a major obstacle.
3. Simplify the Checkout Process.
While most retailers have adopted mobile payment systems, others are pushing the boundaries by eliminating the checkout process altogether. Amazon — which has a handful of brick-and-mortar stores, despite the decreased-foot-traffic trend — is testing its system at Amazon Go, Amazon’s grocery store in Seattle. Shoppers, currently limited to Amazon employees, scan their phones upon entering the store, do their shopping, and then walk right out without needing to stop to pay at registers or kiosks. Each shopper’s Amazon account is simply charged for the items taken, which are identified through a combination of artificial intelligence (AI), computer vision, and data pulled from multiple sensors.
Another retailer, Walmart, is rolling out its Scan & Go app, which will allow you to scan items with your smartphone as you put them into your cart, total the purchase on your phone, and generate a receipt. Ultimately, shoppers can bypass the checkout line and exit the store hassle-free.
Says Michael, “When the items to be purchased are charged to an app on the shopper’s phone — through a variety of technologies — this is a great example of bridging the mobile, the digital, the online, and the offline into a seamless customer experience.”
Retailers Gain Big Benefits, Too.
The retail examples above are designed to provide fluid, exceptional experiences for retail customers. However, retailers should also be careful not to miss out on the benefits they stand to gain. Following are a few ways to do that.
1. Attract Customers to Stores.
Joshua Young, vice president of global partner alliance and strategies for Valtech, explains that their ideas for the grocery app aren’t designed to keep people away from grocery stores, but rather, to drive them into them, while also easing their experiences as they walk through the aisles. “We want to leverage mobile technology that shoppers are already using, to help them easily find all the products in the store that they want to receive,” Joshua says.
Other retailers are focusing on the benefits of merging online and offline experiences too. Nordstrom, for example, has a variety of online and offline brands, including HauteLook and Trunk Club, which allow the cross-branding of services. For example, if a customer makes an online purchase with HauteLook, he or she can return that item to a Nordstrom or Nordstrom Rack store. Michael explains the benefits, “This is an online to offline experience that is positive because it allows shoppers to have instant gratification in terms of getting a return back to the retailer and then getting the credit. When I made a return in this way, I actually purchased additional items while I was in the physical store. It was a win-win for both the brand and me.”
Nordstrom is also connecting digital and physical experiences with value-add services. Michael explains that Trunk Club directs customers to take selected purchases to a Nordstrom store for desired alterations. The cost for alterations is based on Nordstrom’s rewards program — and it’s complimentary for the most-loyal customers.
2. Sell More Items.
Getting customers into stores is a great opportunity for additional sales. However, Valtech’s grocery app also gives retailers chances to increase total purchases by upselling in ways that are relevant and personalized, given the contexts of their experiences at any given time.
“We want to improve the opportunity for grocers to suggest additional products in a very logical way, based on things that we know about the shopper,” says Joshua. “By using the context of their experience — past purchase history, dietary preferences, planned meals, health concerns, and even where they are in the store — we can personalize product suggestions in a helpful, non-intrusive way.”
3. Capture Data From Physical — Not Just Digital — Experiences.
It can be difficult to capture data from shoppers during in-store interactions, but with mobile, you have a way to deliver better information for both of you. Grocery loyalty programs already store a wealth of historical data that is necessary for providing the context needed for relevant and personalized experiences as mentioned above. But mobile interactions can continue to feed those databases new and expanded information for richer customer profiles that will only lead to better understandings of what customers want.
Another mobile technology with the ability to capture data is Bluetooth low energy (BLE). It was quite the rage a few years ago but never really took off as a tool for push marketing. “Apparently, shoppers weren’t interested in getting pinged endlessly as they walked through stores,” says Michael. “However, we are seeing the value of BLE in collecting data and other more operational items like understanding traffic patterns and dwell time in certain locations.”
Holistic Retail Experiences Generate Win-Win Situations.
In an industry that has long been fractured by competition between the online and offline worlds, mobile devices are proving to be the technology that can connect the two for holistic, fluid shopper experiences and valuable feedback and contextual marketing opportunities for retailers.
For more insights into the ways in which retailers are adopting new technologies for more personal customer experiences, read more from our digital marketing retail series.