June 1, 2015

Mobility ties contexts within shopping experiences

Antti Matikainen

Sales Director, Tieto

Mobility has fundamentally changed how customer experiences are created in retail. Mobility brings together digital shopping, physical environments and consumers. This association opens up new opportunities in areas such as personalization, retailer-consumer dialogue, consumer understanding and effective operations.

Mobile devices are here to stay. They are the primary way we manage our daily lives, including shopping and every related activity. We use them to manage shopping lists, search for solutions to problems and find more information about products or retailers even while shopping. Mobile devices open up novel possibilities that add real value for consumers and provide opportunities for retailers to engage with customers in entirely new ways.

Retailers across the Western world have noticed this, and there are few retailers that have not yet made forays into mobile services. Initially, it was a branding initiative. Then mobile services were developed for information sharing and loyalty programs, and also increasingly as a commerce channel. Currently, the main purpose of mobile strategies for western retailers is to drive shoppers to stores (see the RSR Research study, "Mobile Retail Finds New Purpose", January 2015).

In this blog I discuss the opportunities mobility presents both to tie contexts to the shopping experience and to personalize these contextual experiences. As a frame, I use three dimensions: physical shopping location, digital content and consumers within these contexts. My aim is to demonstrate that mobility provides a chance to bring all of these elements together in a way that permits them to not just supplement each other but create totally new opportunities of experience creation, dialogues and consumer value.

role of mobility in omnichannel customer experience

Mobility enhances physical shopping experiences with digital content and services

As we take smart phones everywhere and use them to manage our daily lives and entertainment, they have also become the most natural shopping aid. When in a physical store, consumers use mobile devices to access shopping lists, search for product information, review product blogs, make price comparisons or just browse social media for inspiration.

To drive consumers to use their services, most retailers have created their own mobile services. These services focus on providing consumers with a range of benefits:

  • Information: Mobile applications are a convenient way to display enhanced information about products or services. A simple means for this is QR-codes—just point and press a button, and you are taken to a site with more information. To lock consumers into their services, some retailers even provide information about their competition such as competitor prices. Consumers have much lower thresholds to making purchases if they feel that all the information is at their fingertips.
  • Assistance: With enhanced information, consumers can already perform functions that would otherwise be handled by an employee. Mobile solutions can also transcend information accessibility. Self-scanning solutions allow customers to scan items with their mobile phone cameras while selecting products. Such systems can even streamline checking out by acquiring digital payment methods before the POS.
  • Better value: By using mobile applications, consumers can check if they are entitled to a special offer or price. Alternatively, a retailer can contextually offer a special price, bundle or similar additional benefit— similarly as many retailers extend promotions at eCommerce sites.
  • Access to digital processes: In the future, digital and physical ordering will be combined. Through mobile devices, users in stores can select products to be delivered home, or choose an alternate color, size or style that is not available in local stock.

Mobility brings the physical context of consumers to digital shopping

Location technology is becoming precise enough—even indoors—to determine the aisle in which a consumer is currently shopping. This provides an opportunity to understand consumers' contexts in several areas:

  • Consumers may receive digital information that is relevant to their locations. For example, if a consumer is standing in front of a shelf that contains woodworking tools, an application could provide information pertaining to those products, links to videos showing how to use these tools and offers that might be relevant for the assumed use of the products.
  • With information about consumers' movements, a retailer can perform a heatmap analysis to determine where consumers spend the most time. But when a specific consumer can be recognized through a mobile application, this analysis can also be linked to real purchases along those routes, which may be important information for improving store layouts.
  • Consumer behaviour in stores can reveal which products and services are the most appealing. With this information, a retailer can design personalized offers that are more likely to get a consumer's attention—similarly as eCommerce vendors often have campaigns for products in abandoned shopping carts.

Many eCommerce sites have already taken these sorts of measures as online behavior data is quite easy to gather. The increasing penetration of retailer mobile applications can yield similar insight from physical world behaviour. Eventually, this will be implemented to offer the same personalization, make the same recommendations and provide comparable analyses. Soon, the practices of the best eCommerce vendors will be emulated by all retailers in the physical shopping environment.

Mobility links consumers to their physical and digital behaviour and history

Mobility allows us to understand aspects of consumers' physical world behaviour just as we can learn from their web behaviour. It doesn't end here, though. With mobility data, we can connect consumer behaviour in the digital and physical worlds.

For example, the behaviour of consumers in the digital world can allow us to more concretely understand their intentions and needs in brick-and-mortar stores. By joining web and physical world behaviour together with actual purchase data, we obtain a truer and more complete picture of intentions and wishes as well as their linkage to actual actions such as movements and purchases.

Also, mobile applications can allow a store to identify who is visiting the store in real time. In addition to enhanced analytic opportunities, this also enables much more targeted sales and service. Availability of previously acquired consumer information reduces many steps in the early phase of sales discussions. Additionally, retailers can provide consumers added value services:

  • Location-based services can help consumers navigate stores. In addition to locating individual products, an optimal picking path can be created based on a shopping list; this can make store visits remarkably easier. Simultaneously, retailers can provide messages such as special offers based on consumers' past purchases or needs while they walk by promotional product locations (e.g. "The aisle to your right contains a special value pack deal of cereals you often buy from us...")
  • Consumers can request help. This is especially valuable in large stores with few employees. Accordingly, consumers don't need to leave the product they are considering, and they can get assurance that someone is coming to help. Also, locating the customers who need help can be remarkable easier.
  • With the right sales tools, store assistants can see whom they are going to serve, know their history with the store or just receive notifications when one of their most valued customers has walked in.
  • Mobility increases the speed at which consumers interact with a brand. It is already rather obvious that mobile services have increased the clock speed for many companies. Therefore it is pivotal to make appropriate mobility decisions in a way that enables these new types of interactions and dialogues.

Mobility and location-based services open up many possibilities to create personalized and contextualized customer experiences. I am certain that no-one utilizes this opportunity to its fullest. Those firms that utilize mobile services best will continue to earn the respect and trust of their consumers. They will benefit from gaining loyal customers that feel a personal connection with them, which will ultimately increase customer satisfaction, sales and retention.

Digital customer experience management in retail

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