According to Gartner, nearly 85 percent of holiday shopping last year took place in brick-and-mortar stores. One key advantage of a brick-and-mortar store is the ability for shoppers to physically interact with and test products prior to purchase, while also being able to leave the store immediately with merchandise. However, during the holidays, increased foot traffic in stores also means challenges such as longer lines, limited employee resources and product availability.
This is where mobile can play an important part of retailers’ strategies for offering a personalized shopping concierge.
We expect this holiday season to be a pivotal moment for mobile, with time spent in shopping apps in the two weeks surrounding Black Friday poised to grow 25 percent year-over-year. As people in the U.S. spend an average of 2.5 hours per day on mobile, some ways retailers can create a unique and efficient in-store experience include the following:
1. Provide assistive resources.
As shoppers work their way through crowded aisles, mobile can be a useful tool for navigating the store and finding the best gifts. For example, Target’s interactive store maps use advanced mapping technology to help consumers find the best deals and guide them toward items on their shopping lists. Similarly, Walmart’s augmented reality mobile features allow users to scan a shelf with their mobile device to view deals, product reviews and compare similar products on display.
During the holidays, product availability is another challenge for retailers. Stores can help shoppers by providing a mobile feature that allows them to check product availability, as well as the ability to order online or find the closest store with the product if an item is out of stock.
2. Extend app exclusive and loyalty benefits.
One way to encourage more downloads and drive traffic to mobile applications is by offering app exclusive and loyalty benefits. Mobile is a great tool for notifications, including geo-based push notifications. This is especially true for retailers that offer exclusives and flash deals to drive more foot traffic.
Mobile provides an additional channel for shoppers to engage with a brand, and an omnichannel approach also helps build brand recognition and loyalty. Loyalty programs can be key for retailers looking to increase engagement and ensure shoppers return after the holidays.
For example, Nordstrom’s Nordy Club uses a tiered points system to reward increased engagement. Within the retailer’s mobile app, shoppers gain access to more personalized services and exclusive early access to deals and events. Nordstrom has also expanded the availability of its loyalty perks by removing the need for a store credit card to participate. Kohl’s also has a popular loyalty program that offers in-app coupons and exclusive deals.
In November 2017, the volume of searches for the term “Black Friday” jumped 115 percent, indicating shoppers are increasingly turning to mobile for their holiday shopping. Therefore, it’s important to offer unique deals and loyalty benefits to keep shoppers returning long after the new year.
3. Offer in-store mobile checkout.
Almost $38 billion is lost every year due to long checkout lines. As lines get longer in brick-and-mortar stores during the holidays, offering mobile checkout options — away from the register — becomes increasingly popular among retailers managing crowd control and expediting the checkout process.
This year, Walmart is launching a "check out with me" program to help shoppers avoid lines and pay for items with associates armed with mobile devices throughout the store.
While this concept isn't new (Nordstrom launched its mobile point of sale in 2011), we’re seeing this become an increasingly popular trend as it maintains the personalized experience of interacting with an associate while removing the need to wait in long lines.
As major retailers compete with the likes of Amazon.com, mobile checkout and payment features like Apple Pay will become industry standards for retailers looking to drive sales and deter weary customers from abandoning their baskets and never coming back.
With 70 percent of all mobile sales coming from within apps, retailers need to leverage the benefits of mobile and deliver low-friction, high-value consumer experiences to drive a successful holiday season and lasting customer loyalty.
Danielle Levitas is the executive vice president of market insights at App Annie, a mobile data and analytics platform.