The idea that all retailers must be able to sell to customers on their mobile phones first is not news. But, according to the world’s first Mobile Retail Report — a comprehensive study (conducted by my team at NewStore) of the mobile capabilities of more than 100 of the world’s top luxury, lifestyle, and fashion retail brands — data shows many brands are stuck in the stone age when it comes to providing customers with the fully integrated mobile capabilities that all retailers need, in order to capitalize on compelling (and expensive) in-store experiences and drive a significant increase in sales.
In drawing these conclusions, researchers did way more than simply study a few variables. In fact, they conducted real-time research by using their own mobile devices. They bought and returned items online and offline. They performed extensive analyses of web apps and native apps across hundreds of variables. And they got a first-hand look at mobile technology capabilities of 112 of the most well-known retail stores in New York City and Boston.
First off, the team found that despite strong data showing the value of native apps that utilize mobile tech to improve conversion and raise customer engagement, most brands don’t even have a native app. When retailers do offer a native app, only about half allow consumers to actually make a purchase on it. Even worse, hardly any retailers promote their apps among customers and store associates. Basically, many brands are sabotaging their chances of mobile success before they even begin.
However, researchers also found that some brands, such as Under Armour and a few others, are on the right track when it comes to native apps. For instance, Under Armour’s app allows customers to optimize and personalize their mobile experience by choosing what they’re looking for (men’s, women’s, boys’ or girls’ items), what sports they’re interested in and which celebrities and athletes they like. The app’s interface is engaging and easy to use. Finding a specific item is a breeze. Since data shows that most purchases start with some form of digital research, the app does a great job of providing detailed product information, plus the ability to easily share product information and providing suggestions for additional products customers might like.
Data also shows that Under Armour’s mobile capabilities are not the norm. In fact, 78% of the brands studied don’t even offer a mobile app. And of the brands that do, only 64% use in-app push notifications for promotions and other content, and only 4% of brands promote their app in their store.
The ability of customers to search and share quickly and seamlessly is another benefit of mobile web sites and native apps that has been proven to drive sales. On mobile, search is even more important because of the limited screen real estate. Data also shows in-store shoppers are strongly influenced about which store to visit based on what appears to be in stock.
However, researchers found that among the retailers that have native apps, only 24% display real-time inventory; and only 22% of brands with mobile web sites offer any inventory visibility at all! This fact also highlights the severe disconnect between mobile apps and the mobile web. Retailers are treating these two mediums as different technologies with different customer paths, when they should be applied to the same journey and used in tandem to drive more sales.
While many brands are playing catch up when it comes to search, the Barneys New York app does a great job of opening with branded photographs linking consumers to keep up with what is current — such as the upcoming season’s products, or to shop what has been seen on the runway at NY Fashion Week. Scroll down a little further and customers see the latest fashion stories that have been posted to the app in addition to featured categories.
Barneys has made their app the place to connect with their customers, and they execute well on the basics. Shoppers can find what they want, add an item to a favorites list for later and see related products — all on an attractive and easy-to-use platform. It’s the luxury experience customers want and it also moves seamlessly with them as they walk into Barneys on Madison Avenue.
Barneys may lead the way in some of the mobile criteria studied, but according to the data, only 24% of the brands studied provide any inventory info; only 18% of in store associates have inventory info on their mobile phones; and only 2% allow customers to share their purchases via social media.
As the data shows, a few high-end retailers have done a pretty good job of “mobilizing” their in-store experiences, but there are several areas where significant improvement is needed. The most obvious area that will lead directly to increased sales is for brands to first provide, and then streamline, their mobile “path to purchase.” Remarkably, of all the brands that were studied, only 14% even offer mobile POS capabilities, and of those that do, customers must navigate an average of 21 fields before completing their purchase!
While this is only a sliver of the information from the report, it does show that today’s e-Commerce paradigm has yet to fully embrace the radical shift toward mobile. This means there are tremendous opportunities for brands that can provide the mobile experience that delivers a continuous brand experience, increased loyalty, greater satisfaction and most importantly, more purchases, more often.
This article originally appeared in Retail Touchpoints.