Mobile shopping, convenient for customer and store

shutterstock_177915329Product information, price comparisons, social network reviews, e-vouchers, and payments. These are just some of the consumer-based offerings that smart phone and tablets can keep customers engaged with on behalf of retailers.

With smartphones now an everyday item for most people, retailers are catching on to the fact that without mobile technology they are in danger of losing business and bringing in less sales.

Importantly new research has shown that mobile alone is not enough, and that retailers need to combine the benefits of mobile with in store to achieve the best results. Apparently high street / multichannel retailers with a physical store presence delivered stronger growth in m-commerce sales during the first half of 2014 compared with their online-only counterparts. According to the latest research by IMRG and Capgemini, m-commerce delivers stronger growth for multichannel retailers than online-only merchants. The multichannel merchants recorded 79% year-on-year growth in sales via smartphones and tablet devices in the period January to June this year, while the online-only / catalogue retailers saw annual growth reach 59% during the same period.

Key things customers are using mobile for when shopping include:

  • Mobile shopping is extending traditional shopping hours with customers making purchases from home after they return from shopping or after the store has closed.
  • Mobile is being used in store to check prices, take a photo, find product details, find nearby sellers or check for deals.
  • Shoppers have stopped an in-shop purchase as a result of using their device because they have found it cheaper elsewhere.
  • Mobile shoppers are making online purchases while in a shop saving them from the hassle of queuing or carrying the item home, but also allowing them to try before they buy – also known as ‘Showrooming’.
  • Customers are paying for products via mobile payment apps which are much quicker than traditional till payments.
  • Customers are claiming special offers via digital vouchers sent to them by email or text message.

Not only are mobiles answering the call for regular convenience when shopping, they are also driving the option for consumers to use mobile for urgent and impulse transactions based on circumstance. Highlighting the importance of having a fully optimised website for such scenarios, Tina Spooner, Chief Information Officer at IMRG, said: “While both the pureplay and multichannel merchants appear to be on a level playing field in terms of overall online growth, we do know that the latter group are ahead in terms of mobile adoption. Around three-quarters of multichannel merchants now have a mobile-optimised website, compared with just over half of online-only/catalogue brands.

In line with this thinking, Sainsbury’s is planning to re-launch its website so that it can offer both food groceries and non-food items together in order to meet with customer expectation, simplify the shopper experience and improve convenience. The retailer is also hoping to replicate the in store success of its non-food items online, while also keeping costs down by combining its fulfilment and distribution models and achieving more profitable sales growth.

Alex Smith-Bingham, Vice President, Digital Services Leader, Capgemini, commented: “The value of a fully optimised mobile platform cannot be overstated. In driving traffic, encouraging brand loyalty and most importantly, growing revenues, m-commerce is more important to the retail sector today than it has ever been. We saw earlier this year that a third of online retail sales are now made on a mobile device and the figure is only set to rise as the technology becomes increasingly more sophisticated. He continued: “It would appear that the multichannel retailers, which have been investing in their mobile platforms, have a larger opportunity than their pureplay counterparts as mobile is not only an additional sales channel but can also drive greater engagement and sales in-store.”

Retailers are also realising that it’s not just about engaging customers through their own personal smartphone or tablet, to compete with online competitors and drive traffic into stores. Mobile devices can also be utilised as electronic point of sale (EPoS) hardware to take payments at the till or anywhere in store, thanks to their cheaper (cloud based) running costs and portable nature.

This crossover into EPoS is a great feat for mobile which was never really intended for such use, and not only has it managed to sell itself into two opposed markets, according to Pay Pal mobile is also driving additional hardware innovation such as Bluetooth-connected handheld barcode scanners, discreet in-store sensors to identify customers, on-cart customer tracking and checkout devices. Additionally mobile app developers are primed to build new EPoS and retail based apps that are set to improve the shopping experience in terms of product information, payment and promotions.

Carphone Warehouse has included portable tablets in its new digital concept store that will be used by all in-store sales assistants as a sales tool to help them to guide the customer through what tariff and phone works best for them. It is expected that eventually Carphone Warehouse will opt to complete the entire transaction on the tablet which would go on to assist the company in the move to create smaller sized stores that have no traditional desktop tills at all.

Meanwhile Co-Op food stores are trialling customer facing tablets on trolleys as a means to get consumer feedback. Customers will be asked questions about the store layout, the ranges carried and products stocked as they move through the store as well as feedback on “societal issues” including sustainable food, youth unemployment and localism. Andrew Mann, customer director at The Co-operative Food, said: “The high-tech trollies not only make it easy for customers to tell us about their shopping experience but because the information is collated digitally we can access what they say almost instantly.”