And The Winner For Best Mobile In-Store Experience Is...

Wait, what? This envelope is empty. 

That's right. My quest to find a truly great mobile enhanced retail experience is as yet unfulfilled. This is despite the fact that it has been the “year of mobile,” every year since 2012. Admittedly, there have been many steps forward:

  • Sephora shows all your purchases in their app, whether purchased online or in-store, so you never have to wonder exactly what shade/brand you bought last. They were an early adopter and promoter of Passbook, making their loyalty card always at hand.
  • Target has the best easy-to-redeem mobile coupons, applied to your purchase with just one scan.
  • Best Buy puts a wealth of product information at your fingertips, including highly desirable ratings and reviews.  They also have designated premium parking spaces for in-store pick-up of online orders.
  • Kohl’s puts all your coupons, offers and cash into their loyalty focused app.
  • Walgreens location-based notifications remind you to use your loyalty card.

But I want it all. Is that too much to ask? Apparently I am not alone. Customers’ expectations of mobile experiences far outpace the state of the art. Way back in Q1 of 2011 (2011!), North American Technographics Retail Online Survey by Forrester Research revealed the desire for “a seamless experience across touchpoints,” including inventory, purchase history, product information and offers.

A more recent study by Inmar, the coupon giant, shows that consumers want deals to be frictionless. A whopping 78% want coupons to be redeemed automatically. 

Yet we still see:

  • Retailers that require you to scan every product to see whether there is an offer available. Yes, I shop with my phone, but that doesn't mean I want to use it every second.
  • Online coupons that only offer an option to print. Why go from digital to physical? We want to email or text them to ourselves or add them to Passbook or Google Wallet for easy retrieval.
  • Apps that require email address and password access every time. Can you imagine holding up the line at checkout line while you attempt to enter 30+ characters accurately in order to get to your offer or loyalty card?
  • Location-based notifications that serve up expired offers.
  • In-store app mode that requires you to log into the store's WiFi, lacks connectivity, or does not deliver an optimized experience
  • Push and SMS messaging that is 100% impersonal and not tied to my purchase history

There are no small hurdles in the path to a great in-store experience, chief among them are silos -- both data and organizational. But as Gibu Thomas pointed out when Walmart was named Mobile Retailer of the Year in 2012:

“Almost every facet of our lives has been transformed by a smartphone, but when you walk into a store -- and that’s where over 90 percent of retail happens -- your shopping experience is still very much what it was 10 or 20 years ago.”

We have come a long way since 2012, but not far enough.  Come on retailers, who will be the first to have a truly great mobile in-store experience?


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