In 2015, for the first time ever, smartphones overtook laptops as the UK’s most widely-used internet-enabled devices with two thirds of households now containing at least one. The dominant platform of choice for users, and technologically capable of meeting the industry's biggest challenges, mobile is the perfect medium for retailers to boost sales and deliver better in-store customer experiences.
SessionM research shows that 90% of American shoppers will use their devices while in-store, but with 44% of the world’s leading retailers still not offering an iPhone app, there remains an enormous opportunity for stores to take better advantage of mobile.
An experience built around consumers’ needs
We benefit from an online shopping experience built around our needs and preferences, thanks to saved baskets, customer accounts, and suggestions based on our browsing and purchase history. Walk into a physical store, however, and more often than not we’re unrecognised by store assistants and have no way of bringing the information that retailers already have about us into our “offline” experience.
With the introduction of a mobile app and the smart implementation of beacon technology, customers could benefit from a more intelligent and contextual in-store shopping experience. The app would serve as the bridge to all of a customer’s information, such as favourite items and purchasing history, while beacons would represent a way to make that information relevant by delivering services at the optimal time within the store.
Using app and beacon technology, a retailer knowing Mrs Jones regularly purchases hats (in-store and online) could send her a personalised notification when she arrives, saying that new headwear lines arrived last week. It’s marketing that’s relevant, timely, and more likely to result in a purchase. In fact, Deloitte research showed that in-store conversion rates are up to 21% higher for those using a retailer’s dedicated app.
And, even at the level below tailored push notifications, mobile’s still a great way to augment the in-store browsing experience. Scannable barcodes or beacons next to certain products could give customers one-tap access to product reviews and additional information, adding greater value to the in-store visit.
Increasing in-store efficiency
Alongside their customers, retailers can themselves gain a great deal from implementing mobile into their in-store strategy. Knowing more about shoppers’ interests and purchasing patterns helps develop smarter marketing suggestions, with valuable insight into how customers break down by gender, age, average purchase value, and more.
Those beacons that allow Mrs Jones to be made aware of new hats would also help retailers better understand their store operations. When placed around an entire location, the technology can generate heat maps that indicate popular areas of the store and show how customers travel around it. Combined with the data that customers willingly provide about their purchasing history by virtue of having an account, stores are given a powerful tool to help deliver campaigns, promotions, and merchandising layouts that customers are more receptive to and as a result generate higher conversion rates.
Store staff could additionally be equipped with custom mobile devices of their own, enabling faster access to stock levels and price comparisons while also acting as a concierge app for appointments with frequent/high-profile customers. One of the biggest pulls for customers to use e-commerce over a physical visit is a clearer understanding of stock availability, so giving staff an easy-to-access sales tool ensures the customer leaves the store satisfied and having made a purchase either way.
Clearly, there are several exciting ways in which mobile and beacon tech can help to really enrich the consumer experience in physical retail. A unified service offering across channels gives customers more touch points through which they can access relevant offers and products, while there are strong advantages for retailers in terms of operations, sales, and marketing.
Managing Director Adam Croxen joined the Future Platforms team in late 2012, bringing almost two decades of expertise with him. Leading all aspects of the company from strategy to new business acquisition, Adam drives Future Platforms to new heights in the digital space, and after winning numerous industry awards has gained a reputation as one of mobile and digital's sharpest thinkers.