Without a doubt the biggest challenge retailers have heading into this “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” is how to deal with are the challenges / opportunities mobile devices pose. 2007’s launch of the iPhone changed the way shopping would be done in the future.
Today the iPhone has spurred on a smartphone industry that includes; iPhones, Android and Microsoft devises and even Blackberry is making a comeback. We see consumers carrying both phone and tablet technology into retail spaces, but maybe even more importantly they are using these devises to shop from, home, the office, the car and even while walking. Smartphone sales have even overtaken the sales of PC’s.
According to Nielsen’s “”Who is the mobile shopper” report, as of Q1 2013, 84 percent of mobile consumers have used their devices to shop within the past month, which is up by 5 percent compared to the same quarter from last year. Some of these mobile shoppers even stated that they do their online shopping mostly on their mobile devices than on their PCs.
There are a myriad of studies that will point to growth of smartphone sales or increases in mobile transactions, which is all to point out that retailers and product marketers need to be studying, planning and developing plans around the mobile consumer. There are many challenges that face the mobile marketer today. What is the role of this technology to your business or how do you learn and capitalize on the features within the phone?
The first question that needs to be addressed is how do we balance in-store sales with digital sales. In a report from Business Insider, it was stated that brick-and-mortar stores are in danger because of “showrooming”. Showrooming is consumer going to brick and mortar location to see a product then going online to buy that product. And not necessarily from the retailers digital location.
Last year, JC Penny reported a 32 percent decline in same-store sales because of showrooming, and it is expected that the numbers would just get worse as more people embrace mobile shopping.
Why is this happening?
1. Digital is open 24/7/365
2. Online price comparisons
Rest assured all is not lost. There are a few trends that will allow for marketers to be in the mobile game.
Trend 1 – Geofencing & NFC (Near Field Communications)
Geofencing technology allows for the real-time delivery of promotions to consumers right on their mobile devices when they are in the vincinity of a retailers location. Consumers just have to be at the right spot, like a few feet away from a retail store, to receive relevant notifications. To get the discount or free item, they just need to present the promo code or the message they received from their phone. This technology will get people back in retail stores, hopefully enticing people to buy more items from the shop.
Near-Field Communication (NFC), is also rocketing into the mainstream. This technology allows mobile users to transfer information from their mobile devices to card readers in a store that supports NFC which will allow customers to pay with their mobile phones. Experts expects NFC to be the most widely used mobile payment solution by 2015.
Trend 2 – Price Comparison Will Become Automated, Reviews Will Be Centralized
Shoppers want to know that they are getting the best possible price before they make a purchase. Already there are dozens of mobile apps that help shoppers make price comparisons. Look for future applications to use information about a person’s tastes or buying habits to automate price comparison.
After price comparisons, mobile shoppers are likely to look for user reviews before making a buying decision regardless of whether they are planning to order online or pick up an item from a brick-and-mortar store.
Look for review sites that consolidate reviews to emerge. This will offer shoppers the option to see product or vendor reviews from a number of sources through a single interface on their phone.
Trend 3 – Social Media Via Mobile
Consumers need advise, opinion, research and help with decision-making on their purchases. They are doing this through social media. Social media integration and intelligent assistants like Apple’s Siri on mobile devices are expected to offer the same user experience as home computers. Consumers are taking pictures in your locations, they are posting, they are looking for reviews and they are asking opinion.
It is the marketers responsibility to have an active social media presence and provide the information the consumers is looking for in a easy to find, accurate, no-frills, none selling manner. Have a social footprint on all social channels and treat those channels as a sales associate.
Trend 4 – Mobile As Point-Of-Sale
Consumers are already using their mobile devices to research products and compare prices. So, mobile transactions are an obvious next requirement from the mobile consumer. Mobile must become a part of point-of-sale for brick-and-mortar stores, improving customers’ in-store shopping experience.
Major retailers are planning to offer mobile POS soon that will allow customers to find what they are looking for, to get more information about the product, and to make cashless purchases from their phones.
Trend 5 – QR Code Revolution
QR codes are not this writers favorite tactic, but research shows a resurgence. Quick Response (QR) codes are already being used by quite a few brands, but 2013 will be the year that most companies start creating and offering the smartphone-scannable tech to shoppers. The codes can provide offers in-store and online, as well as offer additional product information from the Internet about the products.
Trend 6 – Augmented Reality
Augmented reality (AR) is another exciting mobile technology trend. Marketers can create AR applications that let customers to point their mobile cameras at products to obtain relevant information about the products, such as reviews and discounts.
Mobile shopping is in its infancy, but rest assured it is not going away and it is transforming the shopping experience. The key for marketers and businesses it to embrace the changes that mobile brings you. Understand early, that the consumer owns your brand and it’s your job to supply the consumer with the brand experience they want. Lastly, remember mobile is just another channel and that technology unto itself does nothing!