Is mobile killing the physical store? If you are a retail brand, right now you are probably trying to find an answer to the most critical question of our times: “How can I overcome the challenge of thousands of digital competitors in a global arena?”
Mobile shopping is not just a trend that we might or might not see in the near future. It is a reality that customers live every single day. Retailers must embrace this reality as soon as possible. The smartphone, however, does not inevitably have to be an enemy: it can help you to connect the online experience with the physical store.
The mobile shift has changed our life as human beings and is constantly redefining our behaviors as customers. Whether you are a small local shop or a big company competing against the whole world, you need to acknowledge this (r)evolution and start from there to renew your digital strategy.
Under the pressure of the Internet (before) and mobile devices (after), there is no doubt that the retail industry is undergoing its deepest transformation, somehow stuck between the fall of traditional certainties and the urge to replace them with innovative approaches.
At the core of the discussion, we find the new role of customers (always connected, empowered and extremely demanding), and the influence of technology in reshaping the connection between organizations and people. For their nature, retail businesses are in the forefront in this change.
We are at the dawn of what Gartner has called “Digital Commerce”: it generates from the combination of online and offline transactions; it involves both mobile and traditional relationships, and it might end up in a digital or in-store purchase.
What is really vital is the value you create for customers during the stages of the transaction, where ‘value’ is built through different elements: the customer experience, the ease of use, the quality of the retail journey in addition to the traditional price and quality of the product.
The smartphone is not the only technology that has (or will soon have) a huge effect on the retail customer experience. We have virtual and augmented reality, beacons and geo-fencing, the Internet of Things, wearable technology, machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, and smart data platforms just to cite a few.
What makes smartphones so important is that they can act as a connector for all the technologies above, and - even more important - they never leave us alone. According to Google:
- 68 percent of users say they check their phone within 15 minutes of waking up in the morning;
- 87 percent of millennials always have their smartphone at their side, day and night;
- On average, we check our phones 150 times a day (177 minutes per day).
We do not simply use the smartphone and then put it back on the bedside. We live in connectivity; we are online 24/7. If this influences our daily life, it also revolutionizes our behaviors as customers. And, as a consequence, the business strategy of retailers.
Few more statistics confirm that mobile devices beat the rhythm of our entire existence, and reshape the shopping experience:
- 60 percent of customers use a smartphone while they visit a store;
- 50 percent of customers use a smartphone on their way to the shop;
- 46 percent of customers use a smartphone to look up prices online before going to the store;
- 82 percent of customers say they consult the phone on purchases they are about to make in a store;
- 91 percent of customers turn to their phones for ideas in the middle of a task.
All in all, more than half users have discovered a new company or product when conducting a search on their smartphones. You need to be there when it matters most: since customers can buy using mobile, showing up will ultimately get your brand to be chosen, not just seen.
Google recently sent out a report, confirming that the smartphone shopping has reached a new remarkable milestone in 2015: Mobile shopping-related searches increased 120 percent in one year. What does this growth mean? It could be the sign that people want to buy, in the exact moment that their needs or desires show up.
This may seem the end for physical stores. If you combine the previous trend with another percentage, however, the real truth comes out: 47 percent of customers use a smartphone to search for local information. The ‘Near Me’ searches have grown 2x in the past year alone.
“Our digital lives connect us to our physical world”, to say it with Google. The traditional shopping experience is not destined to disappear anytime soon, as mobile plays a critical role in driving people to the store.
As a business, you just need to recognize the importance of the micro moments, and match your contents with signals of intent and context. In other words, you need to understand how to engage and monetize digital customers, delivering meaningful experiences in every kind of moment of truth (crucially, I-want-to-buy).
In the same report, Google has selected five ways to engage customers in these critical moments, using mobile to connect the customer to the store (online and offline).
MOBILE AS FRONT DOOR TO THE STORE
“Smartphone shopping has created a new front door to the store.” The retail giant started to use this phrase after learning that three-fourth of its guests start their shopping journey on mobile, and that one-third of guests who click on a mobile search ad take a trip to a Target store. An optimized mobile experience (website, app, e-commerce) can open huge opportunities for brick-and-mortars.
CUSTOMERS WANT LOCAL INFORMATION
Mobile devices enable different approaches to old problems. Local information, for example. As said, we have seen a twofold increase in local searches last year. Customers want local info, and they want them quick: more than one-third are in a hurry searching for local business on their smartphone. If you can engage them, you will have enormous benefits: 50 percent of those customers visit a store within a day.
LOCAL INVENTORY ADS DRIVE CUSTOMERS
Recent researches found that online ads that show local inventory have become an important driver of in-store traffic. One in four people who avoid stores say it is because they do not know if a product is in stock. Customers do not want to waste their time looking for unavailable products. Showing them that you have that product in stock is critical, whether you have an e-store or not.
SMARTPHONE AS IN-STORE ADVISOR
Even when they enter the store, it does not mean that customers are willing to make a purchase. What happens while they are there will ultimately decide whether they will take action or not. And, again, the smartphone becomes critical, this time as in-store research advisor. Be careful: Nearly one in four shoppers say they have changed their minds while in a checkout line after looking up details on a smartphone.
OMNI-CHANNEL CUSTOMERS SPEND MORE
Customers that use the smartphone as shopping companion spend more - also in store - compared with those that only use one channel. If you are still skeptical about the importance of an omni-channel strategy (mobile first), think again: customers who shop both online and off with a specific retailer buy 250 percent more on average (Mastercard); omni-channel shoppers are 8x more valuable than those who shop in a single channel (Macy’s).
If you want more insights to improve your strategy, check The Future Of Retail 2016 and how to reinvent the customer experience.
To help you provide a strategic advantage to your organization, Neosperience has crafted the first DCX 7-Steps Checklist, with requirements and insights for a successful digital transformation. Download the free guide here: