Mobile Musings: Creating a Mobile Connection
Although e-commerce sales are growing at double-digit rates, the majority of retail sales still take place in stores. Savvy retailers know their physical stores can be a killer asset in today’s omnichannel world by providing a new realm that fuses online and offline shopping to court the most valuable type of consumer — the omnichannel customer. Omnichannel customers spend an average of 4 percent more on every shopping occasion in-store and 10 percent more online than single-channel customers.
For years, mobility has played a role in reshaping retail. However, to date its use has mostly been relegated to transactional execution via mobile point of sale (POS). While mobile POS has enabled retailers to better monetize store footprints, free up space for merchandising, reduce hardware and deployment costs, and enable personnel to roam the floor for more personal service, this is just the tip of the opportunity iceberg for today’s omnichannel retailers.
Omnichannel retailing is where mobile shines. Digital and physical combine to foster in-store experiences that create emotional connections and real-time relevance.
Bringing Mobile In-Store
Equipped with a mobile device, store associates have a wealth of information at their fingertips about products, orders and customers. With this data, associates can provide value-added assisted selling, resulting in upselling and cross-selling for higher conversion rates and larger basket sizes.
In a digital-first world where user interface is critical, mobility also becomes invaluable in surfacing information and reducing complexity. These are key to empowering workforces and removing barriers between customers and associates.
Mobile excels in facilitating next-gen omnichannel customer engagement, where the associate is essentially building the basket for the customer in the aisle. When an extensive amount of customer data must be captured, real-time inventory inquiries made, loyalty status perks (e.g., same-day delivery) applied, and various transactions executed, the interaction enabled via an associate’s mobile device ensures a seamless experience to the customer — despite the fact the order is a mix of ship-to-home and cash-and-carry items, each with different governing taxes, rules and logistics.
It should be noted that it takes more than mobility to make the above scenario work and deliver the Holy Grail of omnichannel retailing — one swipe of the credit card and a process that’s seamless and painless to both customer and associate. To achieve this, it’s necessary to have enterprise order management embedded in the POS solution. Otherwise, while associates may have mobile access, they end up having to juggle two or even three devices in-store — hardly a seamless or practical process!
Mobile devices are some of the most valuable items retailers can have on hand when it comes to inventory.
For many retailers, having less inventory in-store can be more efficient and cost effective than having more. In these scenarios, tablets can open up an “endless aisle” of inventory that lies out of sight but can still be made top of mind with shoppers via the associate-assisted sale. In this way, the sale can be made and fulfilled from a centralized warehouse, where the cost of fulfillment is most economical.
Selling Experiences, Not Just Products
Mobile also plays a role in enabling shoppers to customize products. In recent years, advances in digital and manufacturing technology have opened up new opportunities for customers to personalize items online or in-store. They’re becoming co-creators in developing products that reflect their unique needs and tastes.
For example, Nike recently debuted an augmented reality-enabled customization service in-store. The unique, interactive experience appeals to consumers who eschew wearing the same pair of sneakers that someone else has on their feet.
This leads to a broader dialogue of the importance of mobile technology in the realm of customer engagement. Unique, innovative and experiential engagement models such as the Nike example are purpose-built to motivate consumers to come to the store to take part in an experience that they simply can’t get from a competitor.
Today’s retailers are selling experiences just as much as they’re selling products. Mobile technology enables retailers to deploy more persistent personalization throughout their stores, whether the personalization stems from shoppers being assisted by associates using smartphones or by shoppers interacting with merchandise displays.
The in-store experience holds tremendous opportunity to create emotional connections and demonstrate real-time relevance to enhance and personalize the customer journey, giving retailers new ways to engage and differentiate their brands.
In bringing the physical and digital retail worlds together, mobile is making the store the cornerstone of omnichannel retail, enabling inspired experiences that revolve around the consumer.
Mike Hughes is vice president, singular commerce strategy at Aptos, a retail technology solutions provider.