January 17, 2017

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Driving In-Store Traffic and Conversions with Mobile Technologies

How retailers can leverage mobile technologies to effectively orchestrate the customer journey, thereby boosting in-store traffic and conversions, as well as customer experience, and in turn, strengthen loyalty

As ecommerce continues to push the envelope in customer experience, and grab more market share, brick and mortar retailers face an existential crisis of sorts today. U.S. store sales fell 11% on an 11.4% decline in store traffic for the retail calendar month ended in November, while Thanksgiving and Black Friday online sales were $5.27 billion, up 18% from a year earlier.

Clearly, the conventional playbook will no longer suffice for offline store operators like you grappling with intense competition and suboptimal asset utilization.

And the going is only getting tougher by the day as e-retailers lure away customers by creating convenient and highly attractive online store profiles, some even replete with augmented and virtual reality features.

How can you then reverse this trend and get the zing back into your stores? The answer lies in better understanding rapidly changing customer behavior, as reflected in the omnipresence of smartphones, which have become an intrinsic part of consumers’ lives.

By harnessing mobile technologies effectively, you can offer greater value to customers, and deliver a truly differentiated, superior brand experience. This, in turn, would drive increased in-store traffic and conversions, resulting in higher cross-selling and upselling, as well as enhanced customer loyalty.

Why tap into mobile?

  • Stores are amongst the top 3 places where people use mobiles, with 80% of smartphone shoppers using their devices in store to help with shopping
  • Mobile-influenced physical store sales reached $1 trillion in 2015 and is expected to clock $1.4 trillion in 2016

Orchestrating the buyer journey with mobile

Cracking the mobility code in retail is all about reaching buyers at the right moments and locations in their shopping cycle, when they are open to influence. Leveraging your robust mobile app features in tandem with the modern-day AR/VR & location-based technologies could actually work wonders for you. Therefore, integration of mobile technologies with store initiatives should be designed and implemented differently for the three stages of the purchase journey.

Pre-purchase – Here, you can attract more traffic by incentivizing the customers to visit your stores using a variety of features.

  • Push notifications: Alerting customers about his stocks running out based on buying history; Sending personalized promotions on his preferred products; Intimating about attractive inaugural deals at a new nearby store
  • Stock checker: Allowing customers to check the availability of a particular product at stores; Enabling Buy Online Pickup In Store option to avoid queues and last-minute stock-outs
  • Store locator: Indicating nearest store where a specific product is available; Assistance with route navigation using GPS
  • Geo-fencing alerts: Inviting customer to visit when he is in close proximity to a store leveraging GPS; Tempting him with promo-codes redeemable upon check-in

During Purchase – You can smartly influence customers’ decisions during this phase to reduce cart abandonments and walkouts, thus boosting conversions and basket size by capturing cross-selling and upselling opportunities.

  • Digital advisor: Bot-enabled live chat for discounts, product info & recommendations; In-store concierge service request; Endless aisle feature showcasing products that are not displayed on shelves; Trial room booking & queue tracking
  • Store navigator: Floor plan with direction guidance using Wi-Fi; Product locator feature
  • Beacon alerts: In-aisle personalized offers through push messages; Check-in bonus for new visitors; Gamification features enabling treasure-hunting scenarios for shoppers
  • Code scanner: QR/barcode scanning to check product reviews online; Online price comparison allowing retailer to match any difference; Self-checkout feature; Product tagging using NFC; Adding products to online carts & registries; Requesting for products at trial rooms
  • Chat integrations: Sharing product information & seeking recommendations from friends
  • Augmented reality: Visualizing look & feel of the product through simulations; Superimposing product image on subject using AR/VR
  • Mobile payments: Integrations with cards, e-wallets & loyalty accounts; Ability to split payment between different modes; Hands-free payments through NFC, Wi-Fi & BLE solutions; E-bills on mobile app

Post-purchase – Once the customer has bought from your store, you can use mobile technologies to cement the relationship through steady, personalized engagement. This would go a long way in fostering loyalty, and driving increased positive word of mouth among your target audience.

  • Customer Engagement: Actively seeking feedback on store experience; Follow-up on aborted purchases & abandoned carts with attractive offers
  • Social integrations: Ability to add product reviews & ratings; Sharing store experience tagging the retailer in return of reward points
  • Customer service: Invoice & warranty integrations on mobile app; Hotline customer care
  • Reward programs: Referral benefits; Sharing loyalty points with family; Gift card purchases through mobile

Gaining the mobile advantage: Examples

Here are some real-world use cases of how retailers have used mobile technologies to increase footfalls and in-store conversions, thereby growing revenues:-

  • Urban Outfitters uses its native app – Urban On – to send notifications to shoppers at various phases of their buying journey. Customers can login through their preferred social media channels, and personalize the store visit. The retailer also encourages buyers trying out clothes in dressing rooms to share the outfits with their friends on social media, and win discounts and promotional deals in exchange.
  • Best Buy’s native mobile app comes with an “If This Then That” feature that allows shoppers to create their own unique preferences for enhanced in-store experiences. It lets buyer opt for immediate push notifications regarding price or stock availability for products of their choice.
  • Fashion brand Rebecca Minkoff, in partnership with eBay, has launched an innovative connected wall and digital fitting room at its flagship store in New York. Shoppers can watch videos from the runway, browse through product inventories, and request items to a fitting room, while on the showroom floor. Inside the fitting room, they can adjust the lighting, scan clothing tags to receive recommendations, and easily checkout using their mobile device.

Conclusion

Mobile devices are no longer just a price comparison vehicle. Consumers are increasingly using smartphones to help with purchase decisions, and also to influence their social circles with their opinions on brand experiences. Accordingly, you need to leverage these channels innovatively to lure customers back into your stores, and sustain relevance in a cutthroat business landscape.

The author can be contacted via soumyajyoti.s@hcl.com