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GUEST OPINION More than just apps – developing a mobile strategy for today’s ‘always on’ retail environment

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If you think having a mobile retail strategy is about having in app then think again. Today its about everything playing together. And that’s exciting rather than difficult, says Dan Mortimer, CEO at Red Ant

The prevailing opinion of a number of retail brands – who really should know better – is that all you need to do to engage -the UK’s 30 million-plus smartphone users and get them to buy your merchandise is sign up one of the myriad app developers listed on Google, throw one together, and get it out there – job done.

Of course, it’s nowhere near that simple. As is so often the case with disruptive technology, jumping on the nearest bandwagon without having a good look at why and how you’re doing it is a sure fire way to get the worst of both worlds – a mobile presence which does nothing for the customer and brings no sales to the retailer.

Apps should be just one string to the mobile bow – there’s a lot more to consider before retailers can call themselves truly mobile-enabled.

Fortunately, mobile development and user experience is an exciting and inspiring area for innovation, which has the power to change the way we shop forever. Retailers are in an ideal position to benefit from this and develop a full mobile experience which encompasses:

•mobile-enabled in-store activity

• BYOD and sales staff empowerment

•personalisation and customer-centric user journeys

•seamless integration with their legacy systems and existing platforms.

Mobile enabled in-store activity

Today’s customers have a great deal of choice about where, when and how they make their purchases. What goes on behind the scenes doesn’t matter to them, they simply want to buy something in a way which suits their needs at the time – their requirements should be central to any retail strategy.

Mobile is the ultimate connecting device – according to Google’s ‘Our mobile planet’, 98% of smartphone owners have them on their person at all times, and 70% actively use a mobile device while shopping – so it’s vital to have a mobile strategy which complements existing customer behaviour, meeting their needs and giving them a superior experience.

There are a wealth of mobile-enabled activities which, when adopted as part of an overall mobile strategy, make it easier/better for them to shop in store, including:

•Fully transactional, event- and location- based interactivity and special offers, optimised catalogues for bad connections, stock and inventory management

• Mobile brand experience integrated into physical stores

• Mobile payments

• Barcode scanning and NFC or other mobile tagging (60% of QR code scanning in-store leads to a purchase)

• Indoor location using BLE technology such as iBeacons

•Mobile ePoint of Sale and interactive free-standing display units

• Customising the in-store environment (e.g. voting on in-store music)

•Tablet kiosks

• Out of hours shopping via window displays

Thanks to advances in mobile technology, these activities can transform the retail experience without the need for costly and time-consuming replatforming, opening up opportunities for businesses of all shapes, sizes and budgets.

BYOD and sales staff empowerment

Key to the delivery of a seamless, superior customer experience enabled by mobile is strategic recognition that sales staff are a vital asset who should be at least as well-informed and connected as their customers. Allowing sales staff to bring their own device to work and equipping them with mobile-based customer information, real-time updates and integrated communications gives businesses the opportunity to implement mobile technology for in-store staff swiftly and cost-effectively. Rationale for using employee owned technology in this way includes:

• comfort and familiarity with owned mobile devices allows for adoption of mobile retail technology with minimal disruption

• research shows that positivity among employees trusted to use their own devices could increase by as much as 74%

• empowered employees are equipped to provide a personalised service at each step of the customer journey.

Important employee-specific features include:

• Access to the same information from apps and web as customers

• Ability to identify customers in-store, check stock availability, see personal wishlists etc

• Ability to process payments and bust queues via roaming checkouts and mobile payments

• Access to customer service history and social interactions, with the ability to identify high spenders and premium loyalty members.

These features enable sales staff to interact with customers and give them what they want in a whole new way, one which improves customer satisfaction, staff performance and morale as well as increasing sales.

Personalisation and customer-centric user journeys

When it comes to customer experience, the difference between ‘good’ and ‘great’ comes down to the judicious and sensitive use of data to provide a personalised journey with the customer at its heart. There’s a fine line between ‘clienteling’ (where in-store staff and ecommerce sites have access to customers’ wishlists, previous orders, product reviews and preferences, allowing them to act as a personal shopper) and intrusion (where knowing too much personal detail could be seen as a little too ‘big brother’).

It’s all about relevance – according to the IAB, personalised time- and location-sensitive offers delivered by mobile are redeemed by 57% of users on the spot, proving that people don’t see use of their data as intrusive as long as it’s personally relevant. Sales staff empowered with all-round knowledge about the customer’s wants and needs as well as stock availability and product information are able to provide exactly the right level of service, from online ordering in-store to upselling appropriate products to using beacons to identify and prepare for click and collect customers as soon as they enter the store.

Retailers who place the customer firmly at the centre of their mobile retail strategy and recognise the importance of delivering a ‘joined-up’ retail experience facilitated by mobile are likely to see a rapid change for the better. Increased commercial opportunities which take advantage of inherent mobile user behaviour, improved sales and promotional opportunities via increased consumer touchpoints and superior service thanks to sales staff equipped to meet the cross-channel demands of every customer are just some of the benefits.

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