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GUEST OPINION How retailers can become more mobile friendly

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Shoppers are mobile so how do you tap into that right now? Andy Payne, Director Retail Global Solution Management at NCR outlines some basics that retailers need to put in place today to be mobile friendly

With more options available to customers than ever before, today’s consumers are more empowered to shop wherever and however they wish, whether online, on mobile or in-store. This means retailers will have to improve their technological capabilities in order to meet customers where they want to shop, and deliver the high levels of service customers are expecting across all channels

One area that retailers will need to improve is mobile commerce. Sales through the channel are already responsible for one third of online Ecommerce sales, with that expected to rise to 56% in 2021. However, with conversion rates still significantly lower on smartphones when compared to the desktop channel, there is work to be done by retailers to become more mobile friendly and take advantage of missed sales

A mobile retailing strategy

How to best implement a mobile strategy for retail is a key dilemma that many of today’s retailers must face. On one hand, today’s consumers want to expedite their shopping visit, moving quickly and efficiently through the store and then having a very easy, speedy time during checkout.

On the other hand, many consumers want a personalised experience that makes them feel special. They expect store associates to provide inventory or sizing assistance, help them find items and even guide them to specials and promotional items.

So, a contradiction exists between the need for speed and the desire to be catered for individually. And that’s where retailers can leverage mobile technology – enterprise and consumer – to help achieve a real balance to customer experience.

If you wait to engage your customers when they near the end of their shopping visit or at checkout, you have already lost the opportunity to truly tap into the available revenue potential. Retailers must reach them before they even step in the store or visit your website. This comes by exploiting analytics and delivering personalised mobile offers, coupons and promotions based on buying patterns, socioeconomic data, loyalty programme histories, and so forth.

Use all the data available to you to create targeted programmes that entice and encourage, and make sure those tactics are easily and quickly actionable. A recent study among UK customers found that 74% remained loyal to a brand as a result of receiving targeted, relevant offers. Therein lies the answer

What comes next?

Today’s consumers are always connected, constantly on the go, and crossing between channels without a second thought. The blending of physical and digital realms doesn’t cross their minds because they don’t think in terms of “channels”. Mobile is a large driver for this change in consumer behaviour and it’s only the beginning: Nearly one third of the holiday shopping revenue in 2017 in the US came from mobile. We believe there’s a similar trend in Europe.

As smartphones have become ubiquitous, the influence and impact of social media on sales has increased dramatically. Simply posting photos or updates to a branded social profile won’t cut it anymore. Retailers will need to up their social media game and use social networks and apps to tell stories and engage with fans in real time.

The first step is to empower their associates with the use of mobile devices. According to a survey by IHL among US and UK retailers in 2017, retailers that invested in mobile for associates were seeing an average 77% higher sales growth rates compared with those that did not. Mobile for associates includes hardware and software tools for sales assist, clientele, and inventory lookup. This means that associates can consult customers side by side, provide additional information and help in problem-solving. If the mobile devices are used as mobile POS systems, the purchase can be completed directly on the floor.

There is one major caution, however, when it comes to associates using mobile devices in the consumer interaction in any way. That is that the devices cannot get in the way of the face-to-face interaction with the customers. No one wants someone in front of them looking down at a device, so retailers have to train their staff effectively.

For retailers, being able to deliver a seamless, consistent experience is essential, and now most important is the mobile channel. Mobile is everywhere, and in everyone’s hands. Retailers need to ensure they are engaged with shoppers through their mobile devices, wherever the shopper is. This can include mobile shopping lists that can be made at home or in the office, personalised offers delivered to shoppers over their smartphones or tablets as they walk the aisles of a store, or mobile coupons that can be scanned at checkout. The conversation must be targeted, immediate and convenient, with consumers quickly and easily able to take action. This will allow retailers to become a partner in the shopping experience of this mobile-connected and empowered consumer.

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