Take a picture in any location and it is likely to include someone using a smartphone. Unless you’re one of life’s dumpers who keeps misplacing your keys, phone, wallet and so on, you will know exactly where your phone is at all times. There will also be at least one network or app which knows exactly where you are, too. Emma Herrod examines how location is changing the mobile world.
Location is just one of the many attributes of a smartphone which retailers are utilising to market to consumers or give them a better shopping experience. These range from geofencing to send the right messaging to a consumer when they are within a certain radius of a store, to helping a shopper locate the product they are looking for in a supermarket.
Back in the summer of 2015, Magnum and Tesco teamed up to test beacon technology to market to consumers within a specific distance of a Tesco Express store. When someone who had downloaded the Mpulse app – and therefore given their consent – walked within the set radius of one of 270 stores, they were sent a push notification offering a discount on a black or pink Magnum ice cream.
Other individual stores and shopping malls have been using beacons to send messages to shoppers’ phones or simply to track the effectiveness of marketing campaigns designed to increase footfall. Retailers believe technology will give them the edge they need to drive further footfall in-store, according to a recent study by VoucherCodes.
Some 67% of European retailers surveyed confirmed that they are already using geofence technology to connect online shopping to the high street, while a further 33% are planning to do so within the next five years. In all, 43% of survey respondents had invested in geofencing in the past 12 months, while 48% had invested in beacon technology.
Location can do more than send a customer to a store though. By incorporating other details about the customer, their behaviour, a store or products, retailers can give a more personalised experience.
Shoe retailer Schuh, for example, is planning to take geofencing one step further next year to deliver a more personalised omnichannel experience to people browsing its website on a mobile phone. Using each person’s location, the retailer will link messaging on the site to their location as well as to information about the closest physical store.
This could be by pushing one of its click and collect services and notifying the customer that they can pick up an online order from a specified store close to them in 30 minutes, explains the firm’s Director of eCommerce and Customer Experience, Sean McKee.
Schuh knows stock availability in every store so would be able to link the customer’s location with their nearest store, the shoes they are browsing online and the best way to fulfil an order, whether that’s through reserving it online and picking it up in a short time or collecting next day, with fulfilment from a central distribution centre if it’s not available in the store. The messaging radius for each store is different, says McKee. For example, the London Oxford Street store would be set at half a mile, while the Inverness store, as a regional hub, would be up to 30 miles.
hoppers want further assistance from their mobile too. And this is particularly true of millennials. The majority would love to navigate, get information and pay using their phone in store, according to I-Am’s The Convergence Continuum report.
“Retail has become a continuous chain reaction of movements, events, experiences and motives. Shopping has become relative – relative to context, person and place – and has moulded into the four dimensions of space and time. Shopping is no longer about the what and where, but the how and when,” says Pete Champion, Group Partner, I-Am.
Target’s next-generation stores in the US are a prime example of this. These have two entrances, each with the aim of appealing to different customers: one opens to displays of exclusive brands and inspiring seasonal moments for shoppers who want to browse and be inspired by the retailer; the other is for those wanting to collect online orders or groceries quickly, while also having easy access to groceries, an off-licence and self-checkout lanes. Dedicated parking enables online orders to be delivered to a shopper’s car.
Mobile location can further enhance the shopping journey in-store via an app or push notifications to the shopper’s own phone. How often have you been into a store which you don’t visit very often and want to quickly pick up one item, such as screen wash in Halfords or toothpaste in Boots. There are signs but many shoppers end up wandering up and down the different aisles until they find what they are looking for.
In the way that pick-to-light systems in warehouses show the location of the item pickers need to select next for an order, what’s stopping a smartphone app showing a shopper the location of the item they are looking for? Supermarket Budgens’ Taste Club app does exactly this. It rearranges a customer’s shopping list into a format that helps them to navigate the store in the easiest way.
It also saves previous shopping lists so customers can plan, track and review previous shops, and has full ‘scan and go’ capabilities.
Using the scanner in the app, Budgens shoppers can scan the barcode on items as they take them off the shelf or as they weigh loose items. Dietary and allergy information is flagged up as they shop, too. The app also keeps a running total of the spend and loyalty points.
Once they’ve completed their shop, the customer simply taps their smartphone on a payment point and leaves the supermarket. There’s no need to unload items onto a conveyor belt, rescan purchases or queue at the checkout. The company says that the in-app payment halves the time that a customer spends in-store.
The app is a white label development from Ubamarket and Budgens has rolled it out to 20 of its stores across the Cotswolds following a successful trial in its Moreton-in-Marsh shop. It has also launched it in a store in Islington, London, while Londis is testing it in one of its shops in Southampton.
As the Taste Club app rolled out to additional stores across Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire, Guy Warner, MD of Warner’s Budgens Supermarkets, commented that he was “delighted” that it was the first store in the world to offer a completely white-labelled version of Ubamarket to customers.
“I feel that the revolutionary Taste Club app will effectively bridge the gap between online convenience and the in-store experience that Warner’s Budgens shoppers enjoy. We’ve already seen fantastic results in our Moreton store and are now excited to offer it to all Warner’s Budgens customers,” he said.
According to Ubamarket’s CEO and Founder Will Broome, its driving focus revolves around the behaviours and habits that keep consumers happily in-store. Consequently, it has ensured that every facet of the app is geared to customers’ exact desires and challenges for their entire shopping journey – from being a handy tool for writing their shopping list and a real-time in-store sat nav, to receiving personalised offers, automatically collecting loyalty points and enabling them to skip the queue by paying in-app.
Mobile can also take the store to the customer in more than an m-commerce sense. In South Korea, space is at a premium in cities, so vehicle manufacturer Chevrolet sends sales agents to visit potential customers away from showrooms and talk them through brochures.
Augmented reality has been introduced via the V-Showroom app, so that they can ‘take’ a vehicle with them and show the customer around it outside and inside as well as explaining technical aspects using these visuals.
The vehicle can be shown in any size, so it could be ‘parked’ on the road in full size or displayed on a table in a cafe. The combination of the sales person and the V-Showroom app has been so successful that this method is now being used to help sell 4 different car models from 110 showrooms in the country as well in the US, Australia and the Middle East.
While location links all of the applications showing how retailers are taking the next steps with mobile, it is the disconnect of content and data from siloed systems that is making them possible. Mobile is more than a phone, a camera, a GPS or any of its constituent parts. It is a new way of looking at retail. Combining the different parts with cloud-based data, be that content or location, will bring a new experience to everyone.
Alexander Bartholomew, Managing Director, Performance Cycling, Halfords, believes that there is a clear trajectory towards unshackled data and services provided by cloud computing, smart phones and other mobile devices, and customers’ insatiable desire to access anything they want, either real or virtual, wherever and whenever.
Customer demand is increasing hugely, he explains, and the expectations of the youngest generations are sky high. In order to be able to satisfy those needs, businesses need to move to cloud-based solutions. “Headless infrastructure is a necessity,” he says, so that data can be surfaced where it’s needed. And, of course, everything has to be able to move fast enough, and that extends to the networks outside of retailers’ remits.
He explains that if you look at the apps which people use the most and find the most useful, they are the ones that use the abilities of the mobile device to provide a better experience, such as the Strava cycling app, which uses GPS to track, evaluate and record a rider’s route and their progress. “There is much more that we could do in that space,” he says. “As well as guiding customers through the purchasing process, which can be complicated when it comes to performance cycling, we are wanting to help riders to engage with their passion.”
When it comes to mobile apps, the best solutions are ones that either give the customer some utility that they didn’t know they needed and have come to rely on or it’s an existing problem and the app offers a better way of solving it, a comment from Bartholomew which highlights the direction in which mobile and headless commerce are taking the retail industry.