How many phones have you owned over the past five years? My guess is that it is more than one. Actually, my guess is probably more than five. It is for me at least.

Did you know that consumers engage with their mobile devices between 150 and 200 times each day. That adds up to over 30 billion mobile moments each day in the US alone.

In the mobile age in which we live, the ever-connected customer is swamped with retailers vying for their attention, and they can become fickle. So, how do you grab the attention of potential customers and engage existing ones?

Customers are engaging with brands across an increasing number of touch points – websites, social media, in-store, mobile and tablets. At each touch point, customers expect a customised and personalised experience optimised specifically for them.

The new levels of flexibility and convenience that improve their experience are great for the customer, but the increased customer expectation continues to be a challenge for businesses, which have to manipulate enormous amounts of data to try to understand how to effectively engage each individual.

Neither can the influence of mobile technology in retail be understated. We are all becoming mobile connected consumers with the majority of purchases in retail now happening on mobile. We are seeing mobile technology take a huge leap forward as consumer adoption increases. Furthermore, retail businesses are embracing apps even more to connect with their valued customers.

Retail businesses are using mobile to enable staff with tablets to help engage with products and customers on the shop floor. We are seeing new mobile usage in-store for things like mobile payments collected via tablets also. The influence is sparking a trend from 'mobile first' to 'mobile only'.

We are still on the curve, further adoption by all demographics will increase the development of the industry. Retailers are still learning how to engage the 'connected consumer', but different strategies need to be introduced to create a wider reach. Millennials who understand 'mobile only' will help the industry develop even quicker.

We have seen new innovation in mobile within retail, where mobile has helped the connected consumer find, engage and execute the content they really want, at the time they want it and in their current location. This means that adoption has improved as the content is more personal to the user, ultimately improving purchase decisions.

We see leading brands now delivering personalised discounts and vouchers to their users' smartphones while they are in-store, and cinema chains sending personal notifications to movie-goers once they have left the cinema - "Rate the X-Men movie and we will enter you in a competition to win free cinema tickets."

Above all consumers want to receive the right content across all the channels they choose to subscribe to. This could be online, tablets, mobile desktop, social media and apps; they should all be connected. The information and content we receive across these channels can be delivered by the retailers in a seamless way.

This means a piece of content should be posted once and remain available to the consumer across all these channels while creating the same experience and reaction. People are time poor, especially when shopping - if we can send a more personal message at the right time to a consumer, they are more likely to purchase the product or service.

New technology and innovation come and go, the retail pioneers who embrace this culture represent the test bed for what becomes mainstream. This could be using new marketing technology like beacons or augmented reality (AR). The business will drive the need to use this technology and the consumer will be the one to experience this new engagement.

Businesses should not be scared of technology innovation. If you do not try then you risk falling behind; it's far harder to win back a customer who has moved to another brand because the rival brand trialled a beacon in-store campaign.

I see many businesses that wait for others to trial new technology and see what the results are first before committing. However, these days is it much easier, cheaper and quicker to get a trial of mobile innovation rolled out to customers. You only need to test a small audience to evaluate what a bigger strategy would look like.

Technology and social media are changing things rapidly in the retail environment. Businesses can see this as a huge challenge to overcome or they can see it as a huge opportunity that they can embrace. By embracing change and catering to the needs of their customers, companies will be seen as relevant and their messages will resonate with the people they are trying to reach.

You can discover how in a new webinar from SmartFocus & Forrester Research. Save your space here.

Kym Reynolds is Head of Mobile Marketing for SmartFocus. SmartFocus is an innovator in messaging and communications, enabling the world's largest brands – including Nestlé, Mercedes-Benz and House of Fraser – to understand and connect more closely with today's connected consumers; whether that be via web, mobile, email or social channels. 

Through The Message Cloud solution, SmartFocus genuinely listens to and learns from customers using patented algorithms and unique location-based marketing tools. Using The Message Cloud, SmartFocus customers have the rich data, intelligence and the tools for contextually unique engagements, through any digital channel.


by Kym Reynolds, Head of Mobile Marketing at SmartFocus

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