Mobility is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. It is, without question, one of the hottest topics in retail today. Does it really deserve all the hype? In this post, we’ll explore some of the trends that are influencing today’s retailers to invest in mobile technology.
Social Influence and the Customer Experience
With the exponential growth of social media, consumers now have much greater access to input and feedback from others; be it through on-line reviews, social commentary, or interaction with friends through social media sites. As a result, customer experience is gaining ground in the minds of the consumer, and is fast becoming as critical as price in determining the value of a product or a brand.
While price is still often a key factor in the purchase decision, many other service-related elements have become equally critical to a final decision to buy, and as a result, to the retail organization as a whole. This is no doubt truer in the store than online. A vast majority of sales still take place in the brick and mortar environment, and studies have shown that the average sale in a store still outpaces that of the on-line transaction. There is still no substitute for the tangible hands-on experience the consumer has while in the store.
Unfortunately, technology has been somewhat slow to work its way into the physical store, primarily due to a variety of technical and cost considerations. This can, unfortunately, place the store associate at a disadvantage, as consumers are more connected and even more knowledgeable than some store associates.
In order to change this imbalance, retailers are embracing the notion of providing more tools to the associate to deliver the knowledge of the enterprise to the point of decision. Mobility offers the ideal platform for such initiatives, as tools delivered on mobile devices can provide the right information at the right time, and empower associates to enhance the relationship with their customers, and to deliver superior customer service.
The Connected Consumer
Today’s customers are more and more connected through mobility in their daily lives. They have access to information when and where they want it. In fact, a strong indication of the direction things are heading can be found by looking at the Gen Y consumer: these individuals have a 72% adoption rate of smartphones, and a disproportionate number of them own multiple connected devices.
With this level of connectivity, these consumers have access to information at home, on the go, as well as while in the store. Many use their devices for price comparison when looking at a product, or to access real-time reviews before making a purchase. For instance, 82% of smartphone shoppers use search engines for browsing product information in-store.
As a result of this access to information, reviews, and comparative prices, it is not uncommon for a customer to actually have more information about a product than the in-store associates themselves. This has begun to negatively impact the experience in the store, as consumers expect a level of knowledge from their associates that is superior to their own (or at the very least equal), and in many cases do not find it. Retail mobility can help to empower the store associate by providing the knowledge of the enterprise to the associate at the point of decision. This puts the associate in a position to not just facilitate a sale, but to actually influence the buying decision… and to establish long-term relationships with a customer.
So, what can retailers do to up their game when it comes to customer experience? Empower store associates with mobile solutions to influence buying decisions by building relationships, not only completing transactions.
There’s no question that mobility has an important place in today’s retail ecosystem. Instead, the question retailers should be asking themselves is, “how can I make the most of my mobility investment?” To maximize return on investment in mobile hardware and software, retailers need to extend their thinking outside of the traditional POS box and consider other solutions such as clienteling and inventory management or product browsing.