While it may seem early, it's almost becoming too late if you're not prepared for this holiday season's onslaught of mobile@retail tactics.
We'll be able to glimpse the future of the customer journey, with brick-and-mortar stores and mobile commerce intersecting in new ways during the crucial fourth quarter when the majority of annual brand revenue is on the line …and everyone puts their best foot forward.
Last season, eMarketer reported that 20-25% of sales were executed on mobile devices, and comScore estimated online sales grew 10%... lower than expected. And according to the Associated Press, while retail sales rose 2.7% to $266 billion, store visits declined 14.6%, as many consumers now research merchandise online before going into (fewer) stores to consummate the purchase.
What's going on here is that consumer shopping behavior can no longer be viewed as either in-store or online. The smartest brands and retailers are looking at how mobile and retail can work together, seamlessly, to create a better customer experience to get shoppers back into stores with services they can't get online.
Here are five descriptions of the top mobile@retail tactics you’ll encounter this year.
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As customers often originate their shopping searches online, it's important to consider how to best transition these interactions into in-store transactions. A requirement for most of the exciting new mobile@retail apps is for the consumer to opt-in to a customized mobile app, so you'll be seeing a lot more aggressive on-site communications to both promote and offer on-the-spot downloads. Touchscreens allow for immediate participation as well as for visual presentation of how the new media technologies work. Mobile apps are even now being promoted on the signature screens of many credit card readers. Once downloaded, these apps open up automatically when a consumer enters the store. Think and act in accordance with how you would like to be catered to when shopping during the holidays. How about integrating your plan-a-gram for store layout, so your patrons can be guided to the appropriate isle and then be presented with relevant and timely coupons based on proximity?
Look for much improved and more consistent presentation of text and graphics with all handheld devices using the newest “Responsive Design” protocols. As content is presented across a growing array of channels, providing an optimized viewing experience means simplifying navigation and presenting text for easy readability by minimizing resizing, scrolling, and panning. Adapting a layout to a specific viewing environment involves "media queries" to determine device specs so flexible images and fluid grids size correctly to fit the screen. Not only do responsively designed online sites and mobile apps create a better customer experience, they also provide optimized search results and build consumer confidence in the brand.
Touchscreen kiosks are becoming the norm rather than exception. However, creating kiosk-like experiences that can be transferred or emulated on a mobile device are more optimal for consumer retention. This allows for immediate in-store participation, along with the opportunity for the consumer to simultaneously connect with the outside/online world to continue the conversation with your brand and share socially with friends. Shoppers are already holding in their hands the easiest to use and most familiar touchscreens we’ve ever seen, and with mobile display screens becoming larger and larger, marketers will have more physical (creative) space to use.
Geofencing outside, with Proximity Wifi and low-energy Bluetooth (BLE) inside, will create “promo zones” capable of a wide variety of personalized services including cross-selling and limited-time discount couponing redeemable via onscreen barcode. The customer benefits with rewards and incentives and the retailer benefits by increased analysis of consumer usage and real-time shopper behavior. New proximity products being tested in the marketplace include PowaTag (from Powa technologies), akin to an EZPass for shopping; Presence Zones (from IBM), which allow for salespeople to monitor shopper behavior and intercede at the optimal moment; and Blix, providing real-time retail space metrics. Once the consumer is in the zone, offers can be delivered throughout the store via beacons, such as Apple iBeacon technology.
We now live in a world of radical transparency where consumers are either your best marketers or your worst nightmare. Providing a seamless experience from the virtual world onto the retail floor is paramount and we’re finding new ways to engage. Many shoppers don’t even look for a sales clerk anymore and when they find one, the associate is often less informed about a product than what one can find within seconds on a smartphone. In the same way Yelp has revolutionized opinion-making about local products and services, various forms of social media are creating a new universe of mobile marketing and shopping experiences. Also, retailers have long-recognized the impact of cause-related buying, such as Walgreens commitment to support a child’s life through a donation to Vitamin Angels or a gift of virtual currency and achievement from Kiip? Brand marketers still need to ensure positive reviews are out there, and seed the social ecosystem with relevant offers, but making a real, emotional connection with your consumer fan base is what really matters.
These mobile@retail tactics not only provide support at the brick-and-mortar store level, but are also designed to develop long-term relationships with a shopper over time by integrating other mobile behavioral data for future use and through ongoing loyalty programs.
Warning: this may be the first year where the incredible power of this new set of technologies causes an outcry among some consumers over privacy invasion. Let’s face it -- downloading an app that will now follow you around with intrusive messaging that brings this to your attention represents a whole new level of behavioral tracking. Benefits will clearly have to outweigh privacy tradeoffs for these to be successful, which is why pro developers -- with a proven consumer marketing perspective ---are key to shortening the learning curve.
And that’s what it’s about this year: learning how mobile@retail tactics operate before, during and after an omnichannel holiday. So get started on something…now.