Retailers have come to realize the absolute necessity for mobile. They have recognized mobile apps as a powerful tool for connecting with their customers, offering deals, sharing new products, and making payments easy. From this perspective, it’s a game-changing technology for customer engagement.
Yet, this viewpoint only represents a fraction of what’s possible with mobile apps . Looking beyond push notifications and deals, retailers planning their tech strategy for the next five years to 10 years must account for what a phone now functions as: a projection of one’s self in the digital world.
The first mobile revolution allowed users access the world while on the go, but the second mobile revolution is proving to be about consumers letting the world access them them – with their consent, of course. If retailers can build consumer trust, these technological shifts will allow them to build a vastly superior, individualized retail experience for their customers, while being rewarded with efficiencies, customer loyalty and increased sales.
Here are three changes retailers should prepare for:
1. The Point of Sale Will Disappear
Right now, GPS accuracy is limited by satellites in orbit, but as phones develop more advanced artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, they'll be able to incorporate tools such as Wi-Fi mapping and inertial sensors to exactly calculate a person’s position. For retailers with access to customers’ mobile devices, they won’t just know when the customer is in-store, they’ll know where in the store they are located.
Because of this, it will eventually become irrelevant for retailers to have a place to pay at all, not even an NFC reader to tap your phone. If a retailer knows a customer is in the store, and if a mobile device knows a customer’s payment information, payment can become a software function, allowing retailers to bypass the problems currently stymying the touch-to-pay rollout. Combined with sensors in stores, checkout will be obsolete - Amazon is already testing this, employing Scan & Go checkout technology for customers simply find and scan products and leave.
Currently, retail brands communicate most directly with their customers at the point of sale (POS). Without a checkout, stores can be redesigned to focus on the shopper journey, with added experiences and special services that cater to shoppers. These redesigns will transform the retail experience, which will become much more varied, and much more engaging.
2. Retailers Will Know Every Detail About the Customer
Historically, personalized service came at the hyper local level – the hometown bookstore cashier who always has the suggestion for what book you’d like next; the deli owner who knows your name and sandwich order; the hardware store employee who helped you through your DIY project. Personalized service has always been the holy grail of customer experience and a hook for lifelong brand loyalty. In a tech-enabled age it’s more accessible for national – even global – retailers, not just the mom and pop shops on main street.
Mobile phones are becoming a repository for their owner’s identity, knowing their preferences, interests, finances, habits and needs. Retailers who earn this customer data can offer unmatched customer service, providing deeper personalization that, in turn, streamlines the shopping experience and makes it much more enjoyable.
In one store, a customer may walk in, be identified by name by an employee, and have their weekly groceries already packed and ready to go. In another, a customer may have the digital display surrounding a set of products change to offer them personalized recommendations. In a third, a customer may be guided to the clothing they’ll need for their beach vacation.
To add another layer of sophistication, mobile phones will be able to act as a tool to tap consumer mood and sentiment, beyond preferences and tendencies. As phones use AI to interpret their sensors, potential retailer insights will only become more detailed, interpreting user moods based on their gait, determining if they’re hungry, and more.
3. Relationship With Customers Will Leave the Store
It’s no longer enough for retailers to anticipate what shoppers want when they’re shopping in-store or online. Thanks to mobile, retailers have an opportunity to meet shoppers wherever they are, leading them to products they need before they even realize they do.
The boom in mobile data, combined with retail apps, will allow retailers the insight to recognize a customer’s moment of necessity and the ability to reach him or her. A retailer might be able to guess that a customer is out of shaving cream based on time since their last purchase and remind them via voice assistant when they’re going to drive past the store heading home from work. Another, knowing it has rained in a particular shopper’s location, could tell a shopper umbrellas are available a block away.
What Should Retailers Be Doing Now
These superior personalization and customer service benefits are only available to retailers that can move their customers to opt in and share access to their mobile devices. Even in a time of heightened privacy concerns, it’s not impossible to do. Customers have shown a willingness to share their data with first-party retailers whom they trust, when in turn receiving valuable recommendations, insights, and convenience.
Retailers must build trust with their customers, while also proving, by installing these apps, they will encounter a seamless and personalized shopping experience. Adoption of this tech is increasingly working to retailers’ advantage. Mobile retail apps are no longer a foreign platform for shoppers any longer. In fact, Synchrony’s 2018 Retail Study showed that retail apps have exploded in the last year, with the number of retail apps the average U.S. customer uses doubling from two to four.
With each mobile revolution, retailers gain access to tools that deepen the relationship with their customers, regardless of channel. Mobile isn’t slowing down and retailers must be ready to both support and convert mobile shoppers. If they don’t, they lose the incredible opportunity to not only meet but anticipate consumer needs across every aspect of the shopping journey.
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