“In the mid of chaos there is also an opportunity. Opportunities multiply as they are seized” – Sun Tzu, Chinese military general, Strategist and Philosopher
The Mobile Retail Growth
Retail companies have been living in the world of continuous disruption for last fifteen years. There is a tectonic business change, which started with e-commerce in the early 2000 to the digital disruption, which started with the advent of smartphone in late 2000. Digital technologies, in the form of smartphones, are changing the face of the world. The availability of high speed internet, social media, smart wearable, tablets, IoT, Big Data is impacting the retail business world. The customers, employees, partners, business models and operations; everything is being affected or will be, by digital technologies.
With the double digit yearly growth of e-commerce/m-commerce and, even more important, the change, which has been happening in the customer behavior, it has become imperative for retail companies to enhance the in-store experience. They are experimenting with numerous applications to enhance the customer’s experience in the store.
According to 451 Research, in the U.S., 27% of purchases happened via retail mobile applications. There is lot more than, product branding or creating demand. The customers are enjoying the fact that they do not need to move around in the store, looking for products, waiting in long queues to purchase the product, searching for a sales executive, especially in the large stores. These applications are more acknowledged than ever and are sure to leave an indelible mark in the market.
What’s in it for Sales Associates and Customers?
In-store retail applications are considered to be an essential means to communicate with the potential consumers. It facilitates the sales processes and ensures customer satisfaction.
Some of the in-store retail applications sends alerts to the consumers, while at the store, to inform them about the upcoming sales promotions, special discounts, and, also, assists them by reminding them of the purchases that needs to be done. These applications are built and offer various features to enhance the in-store experience. The customer service applications ensure that the customers have a useful and enjoyable store visit.
There are many use cases which provide us an idea about the features and benefits of the In-Store retail applications and they can be characterized as follows:
- Retail Store Catalogs: These catalogs include much more detailed information, specifications, pictures of the product and the location of aisle in which the product is placed, in the store. They are, essentially, digital product brochures, and have proved to be effective for the targeted community that accesses them. It increases customers shopping experience, making the shopping trip convenient, quick and easy by making product information easily accessible. The catalogs let us find the right products.
- Video Product Catalogs: In addition to the digital images catalogue option, some applications are built with more creative concept in mind. Customers can view the videos of the products. This marketing strategy is used by the sales executives in the store to show a detailed demonstration of the product to the customers who are visiting the store. This is an effective tool for driving sales and also, liked by the customers.
- Customer Feedback: Sometimes, it becomes a little difficult to judge about how good or bad a customer’s shopping experience has been at the store. The customer feedback application provides ratings and reviews component that allow the users to provide their thoughts on the overall shopping experience. This is useful for the retailers, to provide better customer service and to retain customers.
- Staff Training: These applications are used by the retailers to train their staff on new products. And, also test their knowledge about the store he/she is handling. This can be made interesting by setting up the application in the form of quiz and questionnaires.
- Barcode Scanning: Barcode scanning is an application that makes use of a smartphone’s ability to scan product codes and provide easy accessibility to product information. This helps the customer to find the details of the product and compare them, easily, with similar products or products of different brands. With this application, the customer can scan QR codes in the store to obtain product reviews and also, compare the product specifications. It has been observed by retailers that customers, usually, would like to get more information regarding the product through user reviews and product specifications, before the purchase.
- Self-Checkout: The customers are able to take control of their shopping experience by scanning the various items as they shop and checking out (buying) the product at the store, from any location. This way, it eliminates the customers to wait in long queues at the billing counter. This option ensures that there is no delay at the store and the customer’s shopping is expedited.
- Store Finder (Within a Mall): Some applications are built based on GPS (map) technology, to locate a specific store, as per the requirement of the customer, situated in a particular mall. This is specially, useful in large malls, and helps customers to locate the store easily.
- Interactive Catalog/ In-Store Innovations: Some applications have different features, too. These applications help to turn a catalog into an interactive experience. With these applications, customers can build their own outfits, explore various trends and check out videos from the trendsetters. They are able to create shopping lists, check out various stylish looks and, also, receive exclusive offers on their phones.
- Coupons/ Loyalty Program: Many people get attracted to discounts and special offers. Retail store applications are built for the customers to avail discounts, coupons, offers and deals. Certain applications provide the customers with good deals and special offers. As soon as the customer walks in, into a retail store, he/she gets push notifications which inform them about the latest deals and offers for the day. They offer mobile coupons to the customers and provide reward points, too.
Demand for In-Store Solutions
In-Store applications have turned out to be a boon for both, the customers and retailers. They are, indeed, effective communication tools for establishing a brand, maintaining its reputation and driving sales. It was developed by keeping in mind the effectiveness in generating demand and ability to nurture relationships with the loyal customers. These applications are highly effective when they are coordinated with good promotional advertising and apt product information.
Well-developed digital catalogues can result into immediate direct sale. If the in-store apps are used effectively and consistently, then the retailers can enjoy repeat business and good revenue. Creating an alluring In-Store application is considered to be an art. Designing and formatting an in-store retail application, requires careful planning and incorporating meticulous details. If the application is built thoughtfully, then it becomes a viral marketing piece that assists both the potential customer and sales individual.
Large Retailers like Apple Store, Walmart, Target, Home Depot and many more, have built innovative in-store solutions for their customers. Retail stores that ignore the changing in-store shopping experience, risk losing customers but opportunities exist for those who implement solutions to complement the digital with brick & mortar to provide omni-channel experience.
Avinash Thakur, Practice Head – Business Consulting & Nairita Goswami, Market Research, RapidValue Solutions