The world of retail is changing.
But the reason isn’t as obvious as it may seem. While online shopping has impacted retail, 90% of revenue still comes from physical stores, and 85% of consumers say they prefer buying things in person.1 Most people still want to sample, try on, see and engage with the item they’re interested in. The store, dismissed by some as a relic from a bygone era, is still relevant.
What’s actually changed is this: today’s consumers, once operating at the mercy of retailers, now have far more power. Long before purchasing, consumers conduct research — reading reviews, watching videos, comparing prices and viewing side-by-side comparisons. They learn about products and services from other consumers as often as they hear from the brands themselves. And with an unprecedented amount of mobility, they’re able to obtain all this information at the swipe of a finger, even from inside a store. Today’s consumers are empowered because they are connected — and, as a result, they’ve disarmed retailers who relied on controlling the narratives behind their sales.
The traditional business model of physical retail stores is dead. But brick and mortar doesn’t have to be — not if retailers actively cater to the next-generation method of shopping. Just as companies have adapted their online approaches to the connected consumer by growing their Internet presence and making web sites more accessible, they must now adapt their in-store approaches to the connected consumer by embracing digital practices and new technologies.
Across the board, there are three mobile-first tactics that every retailer — big or small, upscale or discount — can implement to address the evolving demands of the connected consumer: mobile inventory management, assistive selling and mobile POS.
Mobile Inventory Management
With mobile inventory management, retailers can replicate a key aspect of the online shopping experience in stores: an accurate understanding of what is and isn’t in stock. If a product is in stock, there should be no lag time in getting it into a consumer’s hands. And, likewise, if the product is out of stock, store associates should know this information quickly, and be able to easily order it from the manufacturer or another store. The best retailers are replacing the practice of “checking the back room” with the ability to check inventory via mobile phone, tablet or wearable.
Whether for major or minor purchases, mobile inventory management rewards connected consumers and retailers by giving them insight into which products are most popular, selling fast and need to be restocked — even before they fully sell out. With a mobile inventory platform made easily accessible with smart devices, the in-store shopping experience will improve for everyone involved.
Real-time inventory data isn’t the only information connected consumers would benefit from. Constantly bombarded with online information — price comparisons, blog reviews, advertisements and more — consumers want to be able to look to a trusted representative when they enter a store, someone to help cut through the noise and provide them with relevant guidance. After all, we know that knowledge impacts buying, and people are more likely to buy from knowledgeable associates.2
This is where assistive selling through digital methods is key. Using smartphones or tablets, salespeople and employees can serve as experts on a given product, whether it be a sink in a hardware store or a jacket in an apparel boutique. By equipping employees with the right mobile device and application, todays in-store associates can deliver valuable information that ultimately helps facilitate and close a sale.
Lastly, the in-store customer journey needs to be efficient from start to finish. And too often, the finish is where stores fall short with lengthy checkout lines. In today’s digital age, spending an extra 10 or 20 minutes in a store waiting to pay can be a deal-breaker for connected consumers. However, this doesn’t mean retailers should resort to outdated replacement devices like purpose-built scanners on counters and card machines — which can add unnecessary time to the customer journey.
Instead, retailers should turn to secure, preconfiguredmobile devices — offered at lower price points and built with more diverse functionalities — to provide a point of sale for processing transactions and setting up deliveries. Whether it’s an all-in-one tablet or a plug-and-play for cell phones, transforming an already useful mobile phone into a scanner (through the right application) or POS device is a game changer. Not only are these seamless mobile checkout strategies a more cost-effective approach to mobile assets; they can even help retailers retain customers.
Now is the era of the connected consumer — and retailers that don’t keep up will eventually get left behind. Research shows that 59% of shoppers walk away after several bad experiences, and 17% walk away after just one.3 By implementing mobile inventory management, assistive selling strategies and mobile POS, retailers can adapt their stores to the connected consumer — and, as a result, create a more rewarding customer journey that fosters loyalty and expands business.
Ian Hutchinson leads Samsung’s Business Development efforts for the retail vertical, with a focus on digital and go-to-market strategies. He is passionate about enabling enterprises to move the needle with their customers by applying unique technology solutions and Hutchinson holds multiple U.S. and international patents in the field of interactive spaces. When he is not helping retailers implement new technology solutions, he is a lead facilitator in the Mobile Innovation Workshops for Samsung enterprise customers.
 https://www.retailtechnologyreview.com/articles/2017/10/17/why-90-percent-of-sales-still-happen-in-brick-and-mortar-stores/ ; https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/topics/shopper-experience/85-of-consumers-prefer-to-shop-in-physical-stores