Mobile technology can help consumers, brands and retailers connect throughout their journey
Mobile isn’t just about m-commerce or customers using their smartphones to research products away from physical retail; it’s rapidly becoming the ultimate connection between consumers, brands and retailers throughout the customer journey. Rob McKenzie, from brand development agency Judge Gill, takes a look at how smartphones are impacting on the retail experience and how fashion retailers - from chain stores to independents - can capitalise on this trend.
KEY CONSIDERATIONS FOR INCORPORATING SMARTPHONES INTO RETAIL ARE:
– Shopping linked to a social network is quickly becoming integral to the majority of people’s everyday lives and shopping journey, enhanced by web-enabled smartphones
– Smartphones and social commerce deliver an opportunity for brands to build deeper relationships, greater loyalty and effortless sales transactions
– A retail store should be integral to a connected shopping journey, creating a destination where consumers not only experience the brand, but connect into consumer’s digital social habits
– Technology available through smartphones and mobile payments is changing the retail landscape. Store formats will adjust, and the point of purchase will become at the sales decision
– Introducing mobile payment to your store can be delivered in number of ways – via QR tags or Near Field Communication (NFC)
Smartphones are becoming an indispensable shopping tool used throughout the research, decision-making and purchase process. According to Google Research, 79 per cent of smartphone consumers use their phones to help with shopping and 70 per cent use their smartphones while in a store, referencing other channels and checking out what people are saying about products and trends by referencing their trusted social platforms; even broadcasting their own thoughts and images.
And smartphone usage in retail isn’t confined to just the young, cool, hip consumer. Social commerce is a channel open to many age groups and demographics. In fact, women aged 40-plus are becoming one of the biggest users on Facebook as well as keen shoppers.
So what do these connected consumers mean for retailers? Connected consumers’ path to purchase has moved away from being a single, linear journey to one that’s multi-stage, multi-platform and multi-channel. They can access multiple channels through a single device, whether on the go, at home, in daytime or at night.
These “connected consumers” are more informed, influential, powerful and potentially more promiscuous than ever; one of the implications of multi-channel retail is that it is so much easier for shoppers to switch loyalties in search of the best product or the best price. Connected customers expect brands to support their desire for connectivity throughout the customer journey and deliver a consistent, responsive experience, whenever and wherever they come into contact with your brand; and retailers that are in tune with consumers’ changing needs – before, during and after a purchase – are those most likely to retain their custom.
But delivering Connected Retail – a single, seamless retail experience that better meets customers’ expectations – can often require a much wider organisational re-think. Most businesses are set up as vertical structures but, for cohesive multi-channel global delivery, you need to get multiple departments working together on each new project and development.
That entails product, retail, e-communications, marketing, branding and IT all getting out of their boxes and thinking as one – moving together strategically and empathetically. Not easy to achieve if they all have opposing financial incentives.
Smartphone technology and social commerce platforms – delivering greater customer loyalty and sales Smartphones mean that social commerce is now very much part of the customer journey, and over 80 per cent of online shoppers want to share information about their purchases. Capitalising on smartphone technology and social commerce platforms offers brands a number of opportunities to get to know their customers’ preferences, enrich relationships and streamline the customer experience – in-store and beyond –making it more personal and efficient and, ultimately, encouraging purchase.
Social media campaigns allow brands to recognise customers’ likes and dislikes, as well as help build detailed profiles of their customers. Smartphones equipped with Near Field Communication (NFC) and geo-fencing technology provide brands with the opportunity to act on these insights when it matters, by directing relevant offers to customers’ phones as they enter the store, so they actually get them during their shopping trip, when it’s most needed. This response can differ depending on the profile of the customer – a bored male shopper looking for practical advice in a fashion store will present the retailer with specificpromotional opportunities for cross-selling, for instance.
Or further still, if there are other customers in the store that have also expressed a desire to buy the same item via their social networking page/API*, in-store technology can recognise this fact and respond by running a promotional showreel aimed at these customers, to surprise and reward them. Get these targeted promotions right, and that customer will feel cared for, and is more likely to return to the store.
Similarly, loyal customers are more inclined to share and advocate via social channels. The value of creating online communities for brands via social networking platforms is well documented, and there are some great examples of social commerce, such as Levi’s Clothing (worth checking out their Facebook page) who have integrated their online store with Facebook to create a shared shopping experience. But why not put these shoppers in your store, armed with web-enabled smartphones and encourage them to spread the word?
Retailers can create “hero and reward” customer schemes in dedicated areas in-store that encourage customers to actively broadcast, comment and share information about their purchases instantly on their phones, and reward them for doing so; make heroes out of customers, if you will, encouraging them to broadcast their purchases, show off or perform, and reward them for their efforts, building their confidence in the brand.
US department store Macy’s has been recognised as embracing connected retail in its stores, from staff utilising iPads, adapting mobile payment, magic mirrors, AR**, QR*** and so on, all to give its customers an integrated and seamless shopping experience.
Smartphones bring consumers closer to a brand through these channels, and brands need to respond by being honest, open and transparent. They also need to embrace the new rules and give consumers the freedom to express themselves and their views.
Smartphones and payment technology
NFC payment technology and NFC-enabled smartphones mean retailers can streamline the payment process, making it easier for customers to buy; alleviating the practical and emotional pressure points – such as off-putting queues – around the traditional sales desk.
Retailers can use devices to close the sale and make the transactions at the “point-of-decision” wherever that is in the store. But soon customers will, too.
We are also not far off a scenario where consumers can roam a store and get product-related information just by touching an NFC-enabled display with their smartphones. Customers can simply add the product to their virtual shopping basket, and even pay for it there and then, all using their smartphone.
Adapting fitting rooms in line with this thinking is also another fantastic solution, bringing the point of purchase to the sales decision. Selfridges started transforming fitting rooms a number of years ago by offering a personalised shopping service with refreshments and champagne. More recently, we’ve seen Topman and Topshop offer luxurious and well-designed fitting room environments. Fitting rooms have certainly been under-developed for many years. It’s an area that should be an integral part of a shopping experience – many of the independent stores get this right with considered details and touches.
The bigger brands are starting to take notice, and we’re at a stage to complete the shopping experience in the fitting rooms, using mobile payment to complete transactions in an instant. Very similar to the Diesel Cam fitting room, where trying on products and sharing to friends via Facebook to gain approval to purchase the product or not – adding a wireless payment terminal at this point connects the seamless shopping journey.
The convergence and phenomenal growth of social media and mobile commerce is dramatically shifting consumers’ expectations of the brands they shop with and the in-store experience.
Connecting with smartphones in-store can build customer loyalty, and loyal customers are more likely to advocate your brand, talk about you, spread the word about what they like (or dislike), visit your store (again and again) and buy from you rather than the competition.
Connected Retail is here to stay and, to whatever degree retailers can adapt their offer for today’s connected consumer, we’re confident it will help to drive customer loyalty and sales.
Judge Gill is a brand, interactive and retail environment design agency working with some of the world’s leading brands and retailers. For more information, visit www.startjg.com.
*API is an application that allows software to communicate with each other
**AR – Augmented Reality – is a type of virtual reality that aims to duplicate the world’s environment via a computer or a smartphone with a camera
*** QR is a type of barcode that contains data
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