Why Mobile Integration is the Retail Game Changer

Smartphones and social media can be both a curse and a blessing for the retail industry. However, it is an essential component in this line of business, and those who fail to integrate mobile into their business strategy may fail to compete.

Smartphones and social media can be both a curse and a blessing for the retail industry. However, it is an essential component in this line of business, and those who fail to integrate mobile into their business strategy may fail to compete. For the past few years there have been numerous articles written about The Future of Retail, speculating on the rising importance of mobile technology and how it can be integrated into the brick and mortar shopping experience. As shoppers are progressively using their smartphones to understand what's around them, retailers need to get smarter about altering the offline shopping experience to meet the wants of mobile-empowered consumers.

In the rapidly growing retail market what consumers are looking for is convenience, both in online and offline shopping. Based on a global survey conducted by Capgemini, we now understand what it is we need to achieve ultimate convenience for customers. 16,000 online shoppers from 16 different countries including the US, Brazil, Mexico, China, Germany, Russia, and Turkey were surveyed on consumer expectations and what they thought the eCommerce landscape could look like going forward. This survey was conducted back in 2012, and we can now compare what was expected for the future against the current state of retail technology and see how accurate those predictions were.

Mobile Integration

As mentioned above, mobile integration is and will be an essential component to aid and enhance the shopping experience and to connect the physical and digital stores. Promotions and discounts enabled by targeting locally will be needed to engage consumers in stores. 41% of the survey respondents suggested they want to be identified by their smartphones for the purpose of easing the process for frequent shopper discounts. In addition, 61% of the respondents said they would want the same for the online experience, suggesting the stored would keep the browsing and purchase history to make the shopping experience a lot quicker and a lot more convenient.

How Urban Outfitters Succeeds

Lots of brands have already made an established media and mobile presence such as Marc Jacobs, Rebecca Minkoff, Walgreens, Best Buy and many more. A suitable example would be Urban Outfitters, a clothing store. Their app, Urban On (UO), pushes notifications, email and in-app messages to the consumers at key points (when they are most receptive). Their app consists of many collaborative features which include curated newsfeed, rewards for loyal shoppers, personal gallery and radio listening options. They also integrated a feature that enables shoppers to snap an image of an item showcased in catalog or real life, and the app then searches the retailer's inventory for identical or similar products which customers may easily add to their shopping carts for checkout. They also release a lot of promotions via the app, encouraging people to download and register for it. If competing retailers don't adapt to integrating online and in-store technology, Urban Outfitters may be able to snatch up their customers.

Local Shopping through Mobile

Due to the widespread use of social media and information being available at your fingertips, consumers want immediate access to information. They are looking to make purchases and are using their smartphones to aid them in finding local deals and promotions to relevant products. People use their smartphones to identify what is nearby, and then visit the location to do some comparison shopping. Nonetheless, providing local information to the search engine results won't be the only step to capitalize on the incorporation of mobile. Its essential to optimize your online presence for local search. You have endless opportunities but have to be innovative to come up with creative solutions such as offering quick snapshots of pricing on your mobile landing page or generating a map of the nearest store locations.

Mobile Loyalty Programs

You can go beyond by enabling users to opt-in to receive promos and discounts when they are in a store or a nearby location. Although, a portion of online shoppers are hesitant to share their store location to receive coupons and so forth, there are still other opportunities to engage with your online audience. Mobile loyalty programs will provide retailers with a more detailed account about the purchasing patterns of their customers, which will in turn enable them to make more tailored promotional offerings. In fact The Mercury News conveyed that Safeway, the grocery store chain, saw a 13 percent net income increase in the final three months of 2012 following the launch of a mobile loyalty program. Retailers who are able to recognize, track and reward mobile buyers have the benefit, because by improving their customer's loyalty, there are big chances for retailers to generate more sales.

Retailers should focus more on the sales lost due to their website not being mobile friendly rather than being concerned with a store full of customers doing comparison shopping. Retailers must recognize the shift of the customers' habits and work to tend to these new technological needs. By implementing these new tactics, you will address the needs of online and mobile consumers, and have a higher likelihood of creating customer loyalty, satisfaction, and shopping efficiency.