Vanessa Walmsley, Managing Director, Qmatic UK shows how mobile can help to reduce friction for shoppers in-store.
Brick-and-mortar retailers may have felt their spirits lift on reading the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics. As the shift towards online sales continues, mobile technology offers a way for high street retailers to unite the online and brick-and-mortar experience and create a genuinely omnichannel retail offering, improving the customer experience, reducing in-store friction and ultimately increasing sales.
In-store friction such as queues, product, staff and service availability is one of the factors driving shoppers to online alternatives. Retailers are starting to make efforts to reduce friction in their stores by implementing solutions such as self-service checkouts. The checkout experience can be a source of significant frustration for consumers, either forcing them to wait for a long time to be served manually, or the dreaded “unexpected item in bagging area” issues with self-service checkouts.
Major retailers such as Sainsbury’s [IRDX RSBR] and Tesco [IRDX RTSC] have recently announced that they are trialling technology which will enable customers to scan items with their mobile phones and pay automatically. This enables customers to leave the store without going through a traditional checkout process.
Mobile technology may be a fantastic option for customers happy to use a smartphone, but there may be other customers who prefer to use manned or self-service checkouts. Older shoppers, for example, may prefer human interaction when they reach the checkout. After all, a five-star customer experience means different things to different people. Retailers aiming to reduce friction and improve the customer experience should focus on giving people the opportunity to shop as they like, integrating mobile technology as part of a holistic checkout offering that caters to the preferences of customers and gives them the choice of how to proceed with their shopping.
Checkouts are just one area where mobile technology can be used as part of a broader customer journey management strategy to reduce friction and improve the customer experience. Qmatic conducted research with 100 major UK retailers that reveals that 70% of retailers are seeing a growth in the trend of customers researching a product online before buying it in store. The opposite is also the case, with 87% of retailers frequently seeing customers trying or researching items in-store before buying them online. Clearly, the in-store environment forms a crucial element of the omnichannel experience, however, there is an imbalance in the investment dedicated to certain channels and this counteracts an agnostic approach across all channels. Qmatic’s research revealed that more than half of retailers (53%) agree that there’s a disconnect between the online and in-store customer experience.
Retailers need to focus on using mobile technology to create extreme cross-channel convenience through services such as on-demand appointment booking for expert help, click and collect services, and the reduction of waiting times for services. Dedicated mobile apps can even provide access to vouchers and special deals, and way-finding to help customers locate a product in larger stores.
Retailers should also be optimising the in-store environment for today’s mobile user and leveraging data to improve the experience. Mobile technology enables customers and employees to move around the retail environment, either while they await their service interaction or as they are engaged in the interaction itself. Retailers can offer a personalised experience – via a mobile app on a tablet for example – understanding and processing the customers’ needs as they walk in the door.
Mobile technology also enables store staff to better serve their customers. As staff are relieved from being tied to the checkout, retail staff can be equipped with tablets to meet customers at the door, triaging their needs and walk the floor of the store, making them better able to assist customers with their enquiries and give them full product details. Advanced customer journey management technology can enable these “floor walkers” to guide customers through the complete sales process, from understanding their specific needs, finding products that suit these needs and then enabling customers to either pay them directly or continue browsing and pay at a checkout.
Customers are increasingly demanding a seamless experience across a retailer’s physical stores and online platforms. Mobile technology can help to create this connected experience, and offer a wide range of other benefits such as the ability to access expert advice and the convenience of checkout-less technology. Integrating mobile technology into an innovative customer journey management strategy, supported by a core solution to connect customer touchpoints, can help retailers to offer a better, more personalised service to their customers, ultimately increasing brand loyalty and sales.