Retail is going mobile. Are you, Mr. CEO, ready for it?

9 April 2013

Barry Moles

Barry Moles


Those with a few more gray hairs than they would like to admit can likely remember the introduction and growth of the credit card within the retail world. Barclays issued the UK's first credit card on June 29th 1966.  However it wasn't until 10 years later that credit cards became widely accepted by retailers. In many ways, the same can be said of shopping with mobile devices - whilst some retailers have adopted technology, and incorporated it into their strategies, many chief executives have yet to take the plunge.  

Mobile use within retail today

The danger of waiting before adoption of mobile is simple: you are giving competitive advantage (and customers!) to the competition. The use of mobile shopping is growing fast. According to Experian Hitwise, there were 2.8 billion visits to retail sites in the UK in December 2012, up 30% vs. 2011. 

Percentage of internet traffic from a mobile device


How and what are people doing when they visit retail sites online? 

Mobify, a technology company, estimates that 31% of online shoppers are accessing retail sites from a mobile device.

Research by Foresee also reveals that although 40% of mobile owners use their mobile phone while in a retail store, 74% of these potential customers are accessing the company's own website or visiting price comparison sites. That is right. These are savvy shoppers.

It could be that some customers are show-rooming, or that they couldn't find the information they wanted in store so they decided to go elsewhere online. Irrespectively of the reasons, mobile devices are now part of retail shopping experience and retailers need to offer an adequate solution or risk losing sales opportunities. 

What customers used their mobiles for whilst shopping in-store


Mobile isn't a new trend by any means. Companies have acknowledged that some of their customers are coming to the store to look at the merchandise (the "showroom") but then shop online (often via mobile) to get a better price through a competitor.  There is a growing view that to combat 'show-rooming', retailers can use handheld technology to empower sales associates by giving employees access to the same information shoppers posses at the touch of a screen.  This can be used to compare and match prices on the Internet or by locating a product in another store location. If adopted, mobile technology can help retail sales..

Most customers, according to research carried out by Foresee, use mobile devices in-store to check prices (51%).  However, 32% use it to compare different products, 28% to check product specifications, and 19% to read product reviews. Mobiles are the new tool for shoppers, helping them in their purchasing decisions.

There are some good mobile solutions on the market today to enable the in-store team to check inventory, complete sales and wirelessly print or email receipts without ever having to leave a customer alone.  For example, they can scan a product, check stock and have a runner bring the product to the customer.  This ability to deliver fast, personalized service and eliminate the need to wait in checkout lines results in a higher quality, higher touch experience which boosts customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Getting up close and personal                                                                                                               

MobileInRetail(3)The adoption of mobile can make your retail offer personalised and totally seamless.  A retailer can, for example, use mobile coupons to drive customers in-store, by offering an incentive to visit.  Moreover, with the correct customer opt-in, mobile coupons give retailers the ability to collect data that can be used to build better CRM databases. This then can be used to deliver the type of personalised, relevant offers and communications that will enhance the consumer experience and drive customer loyalty.  This approach allows retailers to measure campaign performance in real-time, to enable an instant marketing campaign to drive sales volumes and potentially impact positively on footfall in stores.

Are you ready for mobile?

Customers want to shop 24/7 through the channel of their choice with mobile devices increasingly becoming the preferred choice. They  are not only used for shopping, but researching and comparing products and prices.  The question is mobile retail has arrived but are you ready for it?  

By embracing mobile technology, retailers can increase profits and re-establish their place on the high street.  In fact, mobile could be the savior of retail. To learn more about the future of retail, check out a recent paper I wrote titled, "The New Retailer's Survival Guide in a Digital Age of Personalisation."



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About the author

Barry Moles


I am a retail expert, having spent more than 20 years in numerous managerial and operational roles including merchandise, supply chain, finance and marketing.

I bring a unique hands-on perspective to advising clients having worked in every retail category (food, electrical, clothing, telecoms, pharmacy, charity) across all consumer channels (out of town, online, shopping centres, department stores, concessions and outlet villages) for major retailers in the United Kingdom.

My passion, amongst many hot topics facing retailers, is helping senior executives and their teams plan and run omni-channel retail strategies.

When I am not with a client, I can either be found on the high street or travelling the world with my family.

Bluefin and SAP S/4HANA - welcome to the one horse race

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