Retailers, marketers, and service providers are at an ideal point to capitalize on a massive opportunity to elevate the classic brick-and-mortar shopper experience.

With a comprehensive, intelligent, and customizable mobile solution, all stakeholders—from the retailer to the service provider to the consumer—can realize major, measurable benefits from embracing emerging mobile technologies.

But implementing a major technical rollout of a mobile shopping solution can be overwhelming, time-consuming, and cost-prohibitive for retailers.

Supporting the wide variety of devices and platforms on the market today, as well as developing a comparable experience for customers who do not have smartphones, can add further complexity and challenges.

Moreover, applications that are not deployed effectively or that have inherent flaws can create a massive backlash by the social-media community.

Nevertheless, the opportunity is too great to pass up. And it's not as daunting as it sounds.

A Massive Market Opportunity

Integrated mobile technology is nearly nonexistent in the brick-and-mortar retail world, although 79% of shoppers use Web or mobile phones to get product help before buying in­store, according to the Wall Street Journal. Bringing those users real-time information while they are physically in the retail environment opens up vast new opportunities for targeted promotions, upselling, and an improved customer experience.

According to the Wall Street Journal, 24% of retailers' revenue is lost because customers can't find what they came to buy. To solve that problem, shoppers need to be engaged prior to, during, and after the shopping experience.

Some 83% of consumers have trouble finding what they are looking for in stores, while 67% say they would take advantage of mobile technologies if made available in the stores they shop. (National Consumer Research, Bryles Research study, 12/08)

Mobile technologies can transform customer experiences by offering product searches, in-store navigation, digital shopping lists, in-store coupons, reviews, and much more, all in one place. Those solutions would make shopping easier, faster, and more enjoyable. The potential is limitless.

The Customer Experience

As the industry begins to engage with the new world of mobile retail, it's important to step back and consider how we can add personalization and a human touch to the experience. Creating a customized experience is one of those critical emotional ties to technology and shopping that keeps users coming back time and again.

Integration with social media can instantly broaden the reach of those mobile initiatives. Loyalty and reward programs encourage consumers to regularly interact with their favorite brands.

Giving users a compelling reason to follow a brand remains the greatest challenge; however, some brands have been very successful by offering combinations of badges, cash, and prizes to their most-dedicated followers, which, in turn, presents the brand to the user's vast network of contacts who can then be brought on board.

In a social setting, users typically have a close and trusted connection with those in their social network. By leveraging those social settings and enabling users to share something positive that they've experienced with a particular retailer or brand, retailers and brands can raise the credibility and trust level of the communication associated with that retailer or brand.

Social networks such as Facebook, combined with the rapidly increasing mobility of people and technology, make connecting physical things and environments easier than any of us could have imagined five years ago.

An Unexpected Reward for All

Mobile technologies can offer additional value for retailers and advertisers by providing unique business intelligence. Consumer shopping metrics, including insights at point of decision, unique shopper segmentation analytics, and a consumer footprint across retail segments, can be aggregated and delivered to retailers, providing an unprecedented level of detailed information that was previously inaccessible.

Understanding those hypertargeted shopper metrics allows retailers and brands to connect with consumers outside the store and better influence consumers to go the store.

For example, push notifications, emails, and text messaging can be combined with more-sophisticated shopping applications to reach out to shoppers with extreme time and context relevance. Special offers can be digitally redeemed through digital wallets, shopping loyalty cards, and retail point-of-sales systems.

The convergence of those technologies can complete the purchase cycle with digital coupon redemption and tracking. Those processes also help reduce coupon fraud concerns by monitoring coupon distribution and redemption activity in real time.

By combining utility and fun, engaging solutions for shoppers, an array of mobile opportunities within retail stores becomes possible and allows the following benefits to be realized:

  1. Address real, reoccurring shopper pain points.
  2. Integrate mobile into the physical retail space through location-based information.
  3. Tie relevant customer-centric promotional offers to a user's wants and immediate needs.
  4. Create fun and engaging experiences through social gaming and sharing.
  5. Generate valuable shopper insights that create better user experiences over time.
  6. Allow brands to truly connect with a consumer in the store at the moment of truth, creating an immediate, positive impact on purchase decisions.

* * *

With the exponential expansion of the mobile-retail ecosystem, many stakeholders are deploying mobile technology to evolve the customer experience, increase customer satisfaction, and boost profitability.

As you are developing your marketing program and integrating social media and mobility, evaluate the various new avenues that are available to reach your customers with those unprecedented technologies.

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Evolving the Customer Experience With Mobile Technology

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Nathan Pettyjohn is the founder and CEO of aisle411.