According to a Deal Crunch article, 68 percent of American adults owned a smartphone in 2015, and an additional 45 percent owned a tablet, making mobile shopping just a few finger taps away for a majority of consumers, and indeed they exercised this newfound convenient way to shop – during the 2015 holiday shopping season, 30 percent of customers made purchases online using a mobile device, and a recent study from Javelin Strategy & Research states mobile commerce specifically on smartphones accounts for $7.00 of every $10.00 spent on mobile. It is clear that the customer’s shopping experience is no longer happening just in the retail location, but it is happening anywhere there is a Wi-Fi connection, as more customers “pre-shop,” price-compare and research their purchases before they even leave the house, or even while in another retail store.
Mobile – and smartphone – commerce is becoming so important and essential to commerce in general that many merchants are beginning to investigate how they can incorporate their mobile and retail strategies and further blur the lines between the two. Below are some ways that are being used to merge mobile and retail commerce to give customers a thoroughly modern shopping experience:
Create a seamless shopping experience. Work with your customers to create an in-person shopping experience before they even get to the store. This can be done by allowing them to put items in their digital shopping cart, then having the items ready for them to see and/or try on when they arrive at the store. This feature can also be tied in to store inventory, so the customer will know if that dress she has her eye on is available at your store before she even leaves home. Offering these services can save your customers time and money, resulting in appreciative customers who are likely to come back.
Utilize in-store technology. Placing tablet kiosks in a brick-and-mortar location for customers to review and order out-of-stock items is fairly commonplace and has been around for a while. You can take that a step further by creating a virtual reality kiosk in which the customer can try on products, from make up to clothing, without getting undressed. Furniture retailers like IKEA are utilizing this augmented reality, in which digital layers are added on top of the real world, to help customers visualize how a piece of furniture will look with their current décor. If you’re not quite ready to go that far, consider utilizing beacons, which are small pieces of hidden tech that interact with devices at very short range. They can be programmed to send push messages directly to your customers’ smart phones and tablets as they approach or come in to your store, and reduce the need for a tablet kiosk.
Create a hassle-free checkout experience. The days of the ubiquitous holiday shopping video of 50 people in line with their arms loaded down with purchases may be numbered. Mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) systems allow sales associates, who otherwise would be stuck behind a wrap stand ringing up customers’ purchases, to be on the sales floor, interacting with customers and enabling them to ring up their purchases wherever they are within the store. This virtually eliminates the long lines, saving customers time and frustration in the process. It also frees up your sales associates to work the sales floor, and as a result, sales may increase.
Consider loyalty program integration. Many retailers today have loyalty programs, which give member customers “rewards” in the form of special discounts or coupons they earn each time they shop with the retailer. One of the biggest drawbacks to these loyalty programs is their physical representation – a key tag or membership card – customers must present each time they make a purchase in order to get credit for that purchase. Some retailers allow customers to enter their phone numbers or email addresses into the POS terminal if they don’t have their card or key tag with them, but integrating the loyalty program into the new mobile wallets – Apple Pay, Android Pay or Samsung Pay – will create a more convenient and smooth transaction for the customer. Customers will be able to earn and redeem rewards by tapping their smartphones over the POS terminal at checkout, without having to present a card or tag, which are frequently lost or left behind.
As the boundaries between online and offline commerce continue to blur, merchants must examine their businesses and develop new ways of dealing with the increasingly mobile-savvy online shopper. It is imperative for retail companies to take advantage of existing and emerging technologies to engage with their customers and allow digital and physical shopping experiences to intersect. Mobile commerce is no longer a fad – today’s retail customer demands it, and retailers that don’t adapt may find themselves on the outside looking in.