What Does The Future Hold For Mobile And The Retail Shopping Experience?

Author

Steve Olenski, Contributor

October 3, 2014

Not long ago, on September 26th to be precise, I wrote a piece which spoke to the ongoing “battle” marketers are having when it comes to the topic of mobile marketing. I use the word “battle” for it is very much a battle marketers face in trying to get their hands around something that is obviously vital to their long term success.

The aforementioned article, Email Marketing Most Effective, Mobile Marketing Most Difficult, spoke to the large number of marketers who, when surveyed, identified mobile marketing as being “most difficult.”

One company that has been helping retail marketers and retail brands in their “battle” is Point Inside.

Since 2010 they have worked for some of the biggest retailers in the world such as Lowe’s to provide the complete range of services retailers need to engage their offline shoppers with the level of context and personalization that shoppers expect in the omnichannel environment.

Their platform lets shoppers quickly find what they are looking for in-store while also helping retailers make smarter merchandising, inventory and loyalty program decisions for customers based on large-scale analysis of millions of different engagements with the app.

Integration is key in today’s world for consumers who want a seamless shopping experience and this point is not lost of Point Inside CEO and co-founder Josh Marti. “In the last couple years, the rise of digital has provided tremendous opportunities for retailers to engage with consumers across multiple touch points.”

Looking Back/Looking Ahead

I caught up with Josh not long ago to get his take on not only where the future lies for retailers when it comes to mobile marketing but also to take a quick look back to see how much things have changed.

Steve Olenski: How has the mobile shopping experience changed over the past 2-3 years?

Josh Marti: I’ve seen in-store mobile shopping transform dramatically over these past two to three years. A couple of years ago, there was pretty much nothing at all in this space. Then we went through a period of time where showrooming was over-hyped, with everyone predicting the death of the physical store. Showrooming has been around all along, but retailers during this time became instantly threatened by mobile instead of embracing it. Next we saw a brief time where retailers thought social media was going to be the answer to everything in-store and online.

Only recently have high expectations come about for retailers to offer in-store mobile services that fit the brand experience. One good example of this is the physical Apple Store experience—from the lighting to the layout, the experience is consistent and memorable. Naturally, Apple’s use of iBeacon technology is effective, providing both general notifications as you walk in the door and more targeted notifications in certain sections (for example, a notice to upgrade when you are in the iPhone section).

The in-store shopping experience is something that we have been focused on all along—long before Apple announced iBeacons. It’s exciting to see the light bulbs turn on for even more retailers this year and to take part in transforming the in-store mobile experience with them. Retail is a big category, with business dynamics differing among individual segments, and those differences need to be considered in order to provide the best possible mobile experience for shoppers.

If retailers are in apparel, for example, selection and direct ordering are important. For grocery retailers, speed and money count. For retailers that average five visits or less a year per shopper, the in-store mobile experience needs to demystify the store and help with recommendations.

Olenski: What does the future hold for mobile and the retail shopping experience?

Marti: The future of retail is personalization, increased engagement, improved customer service and more informed retailers. The smartphone is being integrated into all parts of the shopping journey, from research to shopping to payment to follow-up. We see smartphones being used at home 70 percent of the time to plan a shopping trip, and that number is only going up.

The other piece is that more and more retailers will use indoor location technologies in their mobile apps until it becomes table stakes. Right now, many retailers are in the investigation or pilot stage of looking at how these technologies can improve engagement and drive sales. We’ll start to see more implementations and more retailers using shopper location (or “blue dot”) technologies.

Tracking fidelity will bring a new experience to shopping, which means no more searching for associates or randomly digging for deals through mountains of offers. More opportunities will exist for more passive types of pull marketing campaigns that are in the flow of the shopping experience. For example, while standing next to a product, you could say “Tell me more about…,” or ask a question, and instantly receive more information.

Customer service will improve now that retailers can detect when a shopper is in-store and engaged. An individual shopper’s interactions provide powerful information about the intent to purchase. This is a huge, new signal that feeds back into the merchandising department, ultimately quantifying in-store shopper demand.

For example, retailers are now set to track every product a shopper searches for in-store and whether it was fulfilled or out of stock. This in turn informs merchandising and stocking decisions, so retailers know exactly what products should go in their stores. For the first time, retailers have access to powerful data about what’s going on in-store and can use it to inform all of their planning and execution.

We’re only at the beginning of what’s possible in-store, and are on the brink of a retail smartphone revolution. In five years, shopping will have changed as we know it, and we’re excited to be a part of it.

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