Since the beginning of brick-and-mortar retail, stores have strived to get their products into shoppers’ hands so they could get an in-person look and feel for their offerings. But now, if you walk into any retail location, odds are consumers’ hands are already full — with their mobile phones.
Mobility is completely transforming the state of retail today. While it’s changing how shoppers are buying products online — mobile devices now account for nearly half of all online revenue, according to Adobe — it’s also proving to be a brand differentiator in-store. Mobile is quickly becoming the go-to tool to help consumers find products in-store, present personalized shopping information and drive up loyalty. Instead of being concerned that any portal to the internet is a way for shoppers to get distracted, or simply buy the same product at a lower price from an online retailer, savvy companies are leveraging mobile technology as a tool to enable their customers. It’s helping them stay up-to-date on what’s happening on their shelves in real time, it’s pointing customers to the exact products they may want most, and it’s providing an easier checkout experience. A recent report measuring how mobile-friendly retailers are addressing the demands of mobile-first, in-store shoppers highlights the areas where brands that excel are focusing.
Using secret shoppers, the report drills down on how retailers are engaging customers in the areas of pricing, inventory, product reviews and advice, personalization, store guidance, and checkout and loyalty. Overall, top retailers are doing best — and have been excelling for at least a year — at the first three of those metrics. However, most retailers are merely at a tactical level of maturity when it comes to personalization, store guidance, and checkout and loyalty.
The retailers doing the best across the board, and overall in this survey, were Lowe’s, followed by Walgreens. The examples of their prowess are highlighted through the report.
Navigating a store as big as Lowe’s would be a challenge … if it weren’t for the company’s mobile strategy. Lowe's provides the best in-store navigation of any company analyzed in the report, allowing consumers to look for products by aisle and then bin number to find exactly what they're looking for. While Walgreens has a smaller store footprint, it has a lot of very small, specific products that make locating them difficult.
Walgreens took the top spot when it comes to inventory. Instead of sending its shoppers out into a sea of SKUs, it has built a new back-end system to address inventory, which is large even by retail standards. If a product is in the store, it displays on the front end in real time the number of units of that product still on the shelf.
Where a lot of the top retailers are still struggling is personalization. With all the hype around personalization, that may seem surprising. Despite the fact that this category was the fastest growing by 64 percent from 2016 to 2017, the metric was also the lowest ranking in the survey.
Personalization is the metric that has the most variables and can interplay with a lot of the other areas in the study, like pricing. While online retailers excel in this area, it’s harder to predictively model for variables in an in-store setting.
Despite the varied maturity of retailers across all the areas measured, 2018 marks the greatest overall improvement year-over-year since the study began. Mobile can no longer be ignored — not just as an e-commerce tool, but as a portal to guide your customers through the perfect in-store experience. In the years to come, it’s likely that customer experiences will grow more meaningful and companies will continue using mobile devices as a main driver of brand loyalty.
Jeremy Gilman is the vice president of strategy at DMI, a global, end-to-end mobility services company.
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