Survey Offers Traditional Retailers a Mobile Blueprint for Survival
October 29, 2016 | Contributed by: Greg Sterling
During the Place Conference there was a session called “Retail 2.0: Using Location Intelligence to Beat Amazon.” At the end there was a debate about whether digital technology could improve the in-store experience and increase customer loyalty.
Opinions were split, with Mark Marinacci of Swirl representing a more bullish view about technology and Placed’s David Shim expressing skepticism about whether technology could truly solve what ails retail. Both are right: there are some fundamental issues but smartphone technology can play a significant role in improving the in-store user experience.
A new report from Euclid Analytics explicitly and impliedly offers some compelling recommendations for retailers. The report is based on a survey of 1,500 US smartphone owners, which asked about their use of smartphones during shopping.
More than 90% of respondents said they shopped in stores at least once a week, while only 49% shopped online once a week. However 83% used their smartphones as part of in-store shopping; only 17% said they didn’t use their smartphones in stores.
The survey explored what people liked and disliked about in-store shopping. As you might expect, people went to stores to touch, feel and see products before buying (67%). They also said they enjoyed browsing in stores (51%) and not having to wait for products to be shipped and delivered (51%).
The main reasons people didn’t like shopping in stores included waiting in line (45%), physically traveling to stores (33%) and more limited inventory choices than online (26%). Two out of three of these complaints can be addressed via smartphone apps and digital technology.
In what ways do you use your smartphone in stores?
Asked about which mobile apps consumers used in store, the survey found the following:
- Texting/messaging apps
- Retailers/store app
It went on to explore the capabilities and content that consumers want via their phones during the in-store experience:
- Access the store’s best deals/sales
- Loyalty program information
- Inventory counts
- Store maps
- A more personalized shopping experience
- Ability to request attention of store associate
The survey also asked how these shoppers wanted to be “engaged” by retailers on smartphones while in the store:
- Provided with store coupons/discounts
- Product information
- In-store inventory search
- Personalized recommendations
- “Alert me about products in the store that I’ve previously looked for online”
- Speak to a store associate
Taken together these findings represent a kind of blueprint for retailers (mostly for app development). And while retailers have had trouble getting consumers to download and retain their apps, there are multiple ways to get them to do so. However, once downloaded the app needs to deliver for consumers, who are asking for “digital assistance” in the store through their phones.
Retailer apps (or websites) should enable people to pay with their phones/apps or otherwise avoid long checkout lines (a shorter TSA pre-like line could be established for app users). They should also provide in-store and online inventory search, in-depth product information including reviews, store maps, loyalty information, availability of discounts, as well as other tools (e.g., shopping lists) to help consumers in store. Consumers also want to be able to summon store associates using their phones.
The lists above are pretty comprehensive.
Retailers could also encourage a signed-in experience by linking online browsing and search activity to the in-store mobile experience (app or site) and show “products recently viewed” and personalized recommendations based on prior online browsing. A signed-in experience (or check-in) also potentially provides valuable store-visit/attribution metrics.
In addition to these ideas, there are numerous things retailers can do to deliver a better “omnichannel” shopping experience, if they really think about helping the customer and look at the world from the customer’s perspective.
Beyond this, retailers need to think about the online and in-store experiences as linked but substantially different. The scenarios and lists above provide strong advice for how to create a better in-store experience and how to increase the loyalty of consumers. There are also implications about Facebook and potentially Google advertising, coming from the above findings.
None of this is easy to pull off in practice and many traditional retailers are slow and conservative. However they must offer better in-store experiences — stores are really their competitive advantage over Amazon — and smartphone technology is one way to do that. They simply can’t stand still and expect to survive.