Is mobile the saviour for retail?

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Is mobile the saviour for retail?

There was a time, not so long ago, when retailers eyed the internet with suspicion. Some embraced the technology, others didn’t, and what followed was the biggest shake-up the sector’s ever seen. Now mobile is under the same scrutiny, with some claiming that the second retail revolution’s already begun…

“The pace of change in retail has been speedy, but in the future it will be breath-taking, so we need to adapt now,” Tesco’s Chief Information Officer Mike McNamara said recently. “We're adapting to advances in technology in three key areas – in stores, on PCs, and increasingly on mobile and tablets.”

According to data from the IMRG Capgemini Quarterly Bench Marketing, 2012 was the year that “mobile truly arrived” as sales in the UK using mobile devices grew by 300% to £7.5 billion.

This indicates that just being online is no longer enough. Retailers need to embrace mobile through their business both in marketing and communication as well as customer experience. Mobile is absolutely critical. 

And this extends into the store. As is already apparent shoppers are increasingly using their mobile phones in-store to compare prices or seek out additional product information. Some retailers, like the US giant Target, are encouraging that behaviour, giving shoppers gift cards and other rewards for checking in and scanning merchandise. Whilst others are reported to be stripping products of their barcodes to prevent comparison or “showrooming”.

However, according to a recent report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau in the US, prevention tactics in “showrooming” might be counterproductive. This suggests that consumers who actively used their mobile in-store for product research were more likely to make a purchase than those that didn’t. What’s more, the total value of purchases made following this process was more likely to be greater.

How can retailers benefit from mobile?

Whether consumers shop online or in-store it’s clear that mobile’s role is going to be central to a retailer’s success. This needs to not only encompass an ability to communicate and make relevant offers, as well as enable mobile ecommerce transactions, but also aid the customer in-store.

An understanding of how consumers utilise mobile within their shopping behaviour is starting to transform how retailers engage and communicate, not just through mobile but across all the channels. For example, as mobile is a very immediate technology consumers often respond more instantaneously to advertising; such as scanning a QR code or responding to an advert while watching TV. This level of response is changing the way that retailers use and measure media and when combined with other online, transactional and social data can provide renewed richness to customer insight. 

Matthew Harrop of emnos comments:  “mobile provides a retailer with an unrivalled opportunity to communicate intimately with customers and enhance its ability to grow revenues. However, with such a personal medium a failure to be pinpoint relevant will create dissatisfaction and damage brand value. Success will only be secured through customer insight derived from multiple data sources that enable a retailer to demonstrate that they know what a consumer wants”

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