It was only a matter of time before the ‘selfie’, the most modern of all art forms, became a part of the shopping experience. Yes, I wasn’t surprised when I saw the news that Mastercard will soon allow online shoppers the option to take a selfie to verify their identity for payments. This is just one example of how innovation in mobile technology is transforming the retail experience for customers. It’s only right that retailers are paying so much attention to the service they can offer via mobile. According to comScore, nearly 60% of mobile shoppers in the UK who made purchases online in 2015 did so via a mobile app. So, what can marketers learn from retailers’ mobile innovation?

Make the app experience a good one  

With thousands of retail apps available, customers have high expectations and are selective about which apps they want to invest in. Functionality and ease of use is absolutely crucial to the customer experience. Research by ARC found that what customers desire most from retail apps is simple transaction flows, elegantly-designed product discoverability, personalised experiences and social engagement. Unsurprisingly, what customers really don’t like is apps which are slow, freeze and have limited payment options. This is a lesson which marketers in any industry can learn from: make the customer experience the best it can be.

In the retail industry, an app needs to be an extension from the physical shop or website which complements the overall customer experience. Of course, the retailers born online have an advantage over high-street retailers which have had to transition from bricks and mortar to the new digital age. A good example of an e-tailer getting it right is Asos, which was voted the most popular retail app in the UK by customers. With no major bricks and mortar high street brands even in the top 50, it’s clear there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Make mobile useful

I think where retailers will really succeed in their mobile app development is where they can offer more than just a browsing and ordering function but something more. Our Unfaithful Consumer research found that over 50% of consumers view convenience as the top priority when it comes to shopping. The grocery sector in particular is responding to this and thinking about how to make the whole shopping experience quicker and easier through mobile innovation.

Earlier this year, Tesco trialled its Payqwiq app, which allows customers to pay for their shopping and collect Clubcard points with a single swipe of their mobile phone. The app is now set for a full rollout by the end of 2016. This merging of mobile wallet and loyalty scheme is a significant step forward and will no doubt become an increasing trend across retailers. I should also mention Starbucks, which has long been an innovative leader in its field and was recently voted third in our Digital Innovations Retail Report for its Mobile Order & Pay app.

The move from bricks and mortar to mobile

The acceleration of e-commerce over the past decade means shopping is now experienced both inside and outside the home. Although the majority of shopping is still done on the high street, the rising role of m-commerce cannot be underestimated. Our Mobile Consumer research forecasted that the mobile channel will be worth the equivalent of over 30,000 physical stores by 2020. With retailers feeling the profit squeeze between maintaining physical shops and all the associated overheads, as well as investing in ecommerce and fulfilment, it’s a challenging time.

However, the on-and-offline retail experience should not be seen as distinct. In fact, the merging of the two channels offers exciting potential for retailers. Our research uncovered the new customer behaviour of ‘showrooming’. This refers to customers seeing the in-store retail experience as a tangible way to see and view products, with the actual purchase then likely to be later via a mobile or tablet.

Geo-location technology offers huge potential for retailers to connect with their customers when out and about. The phenomenal success of Pokémon Go this summer is set to pave the way for retailers providing a more immersive mobile experience. (Although hopefully not too immersive – I seemed to spend the whole of July jumping out of the way of Pokémon-crazed followers).

The marketing potential offered by this kind of technology will no doubt continue to be a key focus for retailers as they try to predict and respond to their consumers’ behaviour. Marketers across all industries can be inspired by this to make the mobile experience not just functional but fun and engaging.

What’s next for mobile in retail?

With customers shopping from their living rooms, ‘on the go’ and on the high street, there is lots of potential for retailers to connect with their customers. I expect to see increasingly sophisticated apps from retailers which offer a genuinely engaging customer experience. Mobile innovation in retail is constantly evolving and I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops in the coming years.


By Guy Chiswick, managing director of Webloyalty


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