Due to advanced smartphone technology, today’s consumers have new, expanded access to product information at any time. Faced with the challenges of a more empowered, cross-channel shopper, retailers continuously are creating new ways to improve the in-store shopping experience. A leading strategy, showing a spike in implementations over the last year, is providing store associates with technology-enabled touch points, such as smartphones and tablet devices.
During a recent webinar, presented by Retail TouchPoints, titled “The Road To In-Store Mobile Commerce,” Steve Rowen, Research Managing Partner for RSR Research, shared key findings from the company’s 2011 edition of its annual store benchmark survey. Jerry Rightmer, President of Starmount, a retail solutions provider, also discussed insights from the study; he revealed best practices for retailers planning to upgrade the in-store experience to meet the expectations of mobile-empowered consumers.
RSR survey results indicated the need for brick-and-mortar stores to evolve to meet consumers’ demand for a more relevant in-store shopping experience. Top-line findings emphasized that store managers should focus on training employees more effectively and equipping them with optimal technology that will increase productivity.
A majority (70%) have utilized technology-enabled touch points for store associates for more than a year, a significant increase from 49% in 2010. In addition, 25% of respondents said they now are providing store managers with mobile technology-enabled touch points, up from 14% in 2010. Fewer (22%) said they had no plans to equip their store managers with any kind of mobile technology.
By arming store associates and managers with mobile technology such as smartphones and tablets, retailers can optimize the in-store experience, Rowen noted.
Top benefits include:
- Maintaining and/or improving the customer experience;
- Making employees “smarter” and better informed; and
- Increasing revenue while holding down operational costs.
The increased adoption of mobile technology in-store is attributed primarily to consumers’ active mobile behaviors, according to RSR research. The study showed that 79% of smartphone owners access the Internet for shopping assistance, while 74% of consumers made a purchase via smartphones.
To that end, mobile technology presents a prime opportunity for retailers to increase foot traffic and drive in-store engagement, according to Rowen. A majority (87%) of respondents noted that smartphones add value in driving in-store traffic, a 22% increase from last year’s survey findings.
“Most [73%] retailers said deeper customer engagement that builds loyalty through mobile channels is the most valuable opportunity we have today,” Rowen said. “Trailing behind is the ability to identify innovative mobile use cases that no one else has implemented in stores.”
During the webinar, Rightmer also noted the smartphone’s position as consumers’ “ultimate shopping companion,” and confirmed the need for retailers to leverage smartphone technology to their own advantage. He offered six customer-facing benefits to equipping store associates with mobile devices:
- Personalize sales interaction anywhere on the store floor;
- Access deeper product and customer information;
- Simplify up-sell and cross-sell;
- Drive efficiency on the sales floor;
- Deliver more customer intimacy; and
- Achieve a higher close rate.
Retailers who have followed Apple’s footsteps in fully deploying mobile devices for store associates include Anthropologie, Free People and Urban Outfitters, Rightmer noted. “Thanks to Apple and consumers’ activity on the Internet, as well as the hundreds of thousands of apps available, more customers are expecting mobile technology in the store,” he said. “Retailers who provide it can improve customer engagement and profit from this more seamless customer experience.”
Click here to access an on-demand version of the complete webinar titled, “The Roadmap To In-Store Mobile Commerce.”