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Mobile In Retail Operations

How Not to Undervalue the Importance of Mobile in Retail

Mobile is the connective tissue in the omnichannel body. Flexible and strong, it adapts to its environment and holds the pieces together. It brings sensors, gestures, and other features to the retail experience that are simply not available on desktop. It is changing everything about the industry, and the shocking reality is that we have only just begun to discover its potential. Learn how a poor understanding of mobile can cost you customers. Read on...

Do Not Underestimate the Importance of Mobile

Many retailers have failed to keep pace with the demands of modern shoppers. Even as they begin to incorporate mobile into their strategy, they fumble, following outdated habits and inaccurate assumptions, making critical mistakes along the way. 

Mistake 1: Not Taking into Account Smartphone Screen Size

People whose first online experience was desktop sometimes see a smartphone as just a smaller, younger sibling. As such, they use desktop screen proportions on the mobile device. This leads to:

  • Too much text on a page, too small to read, forcing users to pan and scan
  • Forms that do not function well with users’ fingers, and do not submit reliably
  • Graphics and other page items that load slowly, trapped in the bottleneck of device memory and cellular signals
  • Secondary components like social media calls (“Share this on Facebook”) further slowing load time

These inconveniences negatively affect the brand through customer frustration or boredom. Many customers abandon their shopping carts and never return.

Mistake 2: Not Leveraging Location

A smartphone is built for movement. GPS, cellular, accelerometers, maps, and cameras all take advantage of a user’s capacity to move around while holding it. To ignore these dynamic features is like buying a sports car without wheels. Potential is lost.

Forty to sixty percent of mobile searches are location-related. This is true both when a customer is out looking for a place to shop, and when they are in the store looking for items to purchase. Some retailers fail to make the connection. They still see smartphones as nothing more than telephones, unaware of their versatility or – perhaps even more important – the sophistication and expectations of today’s customer.

Location advantage can guide people to stores, factoring in transit and parking directions. Once inside, it can guide shoppers to the location of specific items and to cross-sell opportunities. Retailers can begin by rethinking the entire shopping experience from a customer’s perspective, from start to end, and they should perform this process in the presence of actual customers.

Mistake 3: Not Prioritizing Visual, Native Content

Mobile traffic now accounts for 50 percent of online customer activity, and this number is expected to surge to near 100 percent in the next two years. Retailers must position mobile as a higher priority than desktop.

Mobile content demands native user experiences that fit smaller screens, so graphics and navigation tools become more important. It also requires frequent refreshing, since online customers have come to expect novelty and change.

Content should also be created natively, rather than translated from desktop. WhatsApp, WeChat, and Instagram are examples of native platforms that have surged in popularity as the Web has become increasingly visual and mobile. Retailers are advised to completely abandon the desktop mindset.

Mistake 4: Not Viewing Online Shopping as a Relationship Building Opportunity 

Retailers may tend to view mobile consumers as anonymous browsers, and no effort is made to understand them. This is possibly the greatest mistake of all. Retail success depends on tailored individualized relationships.

The smartphone readily offers the raw material to build relationships, and each action a shopper makes online is available for analysis. This allows everyone, from marketers to sales associates, to create strong personal relationships with customers.

Mistake 5: Not Taking Instant Payment Services Seriously Enough

Instant payment services, such as Apple Pay, will completely change the dynamic of commerce, both online and in store. Instant payment allows customers to pay for each item immediately, eliminating the need for shopping carts, both online and real – and lineups at cash registers. People can pay where they stand, through the app on their phone. 

Retailers who do not embrace instant payment will not be able to offer a shopping experience free from the tedium and frustration of standing in line, nor will they be able to capitalize on impulse purchases. Instant gratification is the mantra of retail shoppers, and they will quickly learn which retailers offer this and which do not. 

Conclusion: Mobile In Retail Operations Is Essential

Undervaluing the importance of mobile in retail operations could seriously undermine the other means by which business is conducted. While those methods may have stood alone in previous years, they no longer can – they are now unequivocally interconnected.

What mobile mistakes have you made? Send me a tweet @SchambachSays.   

This story was originally published on Chain Store Age, November 24, 2015.


Stephan Schambach, Founder & CEO

Stephan is a serial entrepreneur with a proven track record of creating and growing successful tech companies in the United States and Europe. Under his leadership and vision, he brought Intershop and Demandware to IPO's with multi-billion dollar market caps. As Founder and Chief Executive Officer of NewStore, Stephan is setting out to change the market once again. This time by solving the omnichannel problem facing so many retailers and brands.

Topics: mobile retail

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