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The Shopkeeper of the Future

The Shopkeeper of the Future

The Shopkeeper of the Future

Paul Skeldon investigates how mobile and location are changing the marketing landscape.

Mobile has many roles to play in retail, not least as part of an omni- channel experience, but one of the key reasons that mobile has been attractive to retailers has been that it can be used as a great way to market to consumers – particularly to drive them into stores and to even perhaps direct them around the store and buy what you want them to buy.

In fact, Deloitte recently predicted that for every £1 spent directly on retail through mobile, £23 would be generated as a direct result of mobile in store. And this immense crossover between the m-retailing world and what it can deliver in store is actually what the oft-discussed mobile marketing is really about.

Initially this mobile marketing thrust involved a bit of banner advertising a la the internet, but as marketing agencies and retailers alike have discovered, having access to the device that everyone has with them all the time is the key way to drive consumers to your business.

Increasingly, however, accepted ways of delivering mobile marketing for retail are coming up short. For many people, popping vouchers to consumers appears to be a sophisticated way of driving people to your shop. “But,” says Ashley Bolser, a mobile commerce consultant, “have you ever seen any great case studies of people doing this? No, because there aren’t any.”


Bolser’s thinking is that discount vouchers are a red herring, with many retailers bemoaning the fact that while they may get people into the shop, they don’t really drive much in the way of revenues. How mobile marketing around retail seems to be evolving is in becoming something more helpful than just messaging, and there is increasingly a groundswell towards seeing mobile and how it can communicate with people becoming something more useful.

“My view,” says Bolser, “is that mobile marketing is really something that should be used as a helper for the shopper, not as just a way to advertise or market to them. Really what mobile marketing – especially in store – needs to centre on is how to enhance the retail experience. It requires a change in thinking.”

Where mobile fits into this is not then so much in messaging in the conventional advertising sense, but more in the areas of helping shoppers do what they want. For example, it has long been discussed how the mobile is the link between the digital and real worlds of shopping: allowing the richness of ecommerce to come into the store. In reality, however, what this really means is that the phone – especially through the retailers app and the push messages therein – is a way of delivering the kind of information the shopper needs there and then. The kind of thing that the shop assistant or the good old shopkeeper used to do.

“In some ways it is a bit like a throw back to old school shopkeepers,” says Phil Gault from mobile technology provider Sponge . “A lot of what mobile marketing should be about in and around stores is about better understanding and responding to customer needs and servicing those needs.”

The kind of things this can do is everything from finding whether goods in a different size are in stock right through to click and collect – which, believes Gault, is the modern equivalent of the store keeping something aside for you for later.

“There is a real need for this approach in store,” says Bolser. “The UK has seen a great deal of deskilling in the retail workforce, so helper apps are the ideal way to plug this gap to improve experience and help get consumers to buy once they are in the store.”


But even though this approach appears to offer both a way to increase sales as well as make for a ‘marketing’ tool the effectiveness of which can be measured, there are some that think that there is still a long way to go to justifying investing in mobile.

“Mobile is used by consumers to find goods, find stores and find the best prices: that’s it,” says Omid Rezvani, Director of M-commerce Solutions at eCommera. “And retailers need to understand that and only spend on doing that right now. Trying to tie all the systems together is just a huge cost against any real ROI.”

According to Rezvani the idea that retailers need to start looking at how to link all their systems and databases together to collect and use data to market what they do and to drive people into stores is not something that is currently feasible cost effectively.

“Much of the data people talk about that you can gather you can get anyway from existing things such as loyalty programmes and online registrations, trying to link all this together with mobile is just a massive infrastructure issue which is very expensive to achieve,” he says.

One upshot of this is that traditional retailers are in danger, however, of being left behind by their purely digital counterparts. “Digital retailers already have much better infrastructure to do this and so it is much more cost efficient,” says Rezvani. “High street retailers are going to find it very hard and very expensive and the return on investment in terms of increased sales just doesn’t stack up right now.”


One of the most undervalued mobile marketing tools could be email, believe some mobile marketing experts. Why? Because that is what many shoppers use themselves to keep tabs on what they do.

Many online, mobile and instore purchases now start out on a different channel to the one they are completed on. The way consumers move the information they need about the purchases is moved from channel to channel using email.

Many consumers often search out what they are looking for online on, say, their work computer at lunchtime, but then email that page or even shopping basket to themselves to complete later at home or on mobile or tablet.

“Yet most retailers don’t accommodate this in their strategy,” says Jim Davidson, Manager of Marketing Resources at Bronto Software. “Brands need to actively facilitate this and help the consumer. It is also something they can do that helps drive people into stores.”

According to Davidson, retailers should be looking at how to firstly make this emailing of pages, shopping baskets and so on easier. They should also just look at how to add incentives to then use that basket and complete – including even heading to a store, using simple promo codes on mobile that can be used for that purchase and taken into the store.

Affiliate Window , which tracks how online, mobile and tablet adverts are acted upon, believes that 41% of mobile emails are opened. The number of self-sent emails that are opened must be far higher, and retailers need to look at how to capitalise on this.

Email marketing is likely to become ever more popular as a direct marketing tool and many businesses are seeing sales online and through mobile increase through emailing out newsletters and other information about special offers and so on. It is also proving to be a great way to control inventory and iron out peaks and troughs in sales through the week and through the days of the week.

With consumers themselves still using email to move their purchase funnel from channel to channel, mobile email is not to be trashed.

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