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Mobile in the Retail Industry: A 2-for-1 Deal

Out of the top 300 retailers surveyed this past fall (2012), 47% have a mobile site and app. Nearly half …hmmm …that is not exactly as stunning a statistic as I was expecting. However, that 47% represents a 161% year-over-year increase – now that is an impressive jump!

It is pretty easy to identify some uses of mobile in the retail space. You can shop and purchase right on an app, scan QR or bar codes for pricing and product information in the store, look up store hours, reserve items to pick up, put together new outfits for your wish list, and even receive the inside scoop on promotions and sales within the store. For example, Nordstrom allows app users to build a style profile, locate a store, access a calendar of store events, as well as search, browse, purchase, or simply drool over items.

Retailers are also taking steps to increase brand recognition and trust by creating applications that, although they are relevant to their product, have little or nothing to do with actually purchasing their items. Teavanna has created an application that features a timer to steep different types of tea, playing music and displaying visuals while you wait. The app also provides information to make your tea experience the best possible, like preparation instructions and blending suggestions.

Despite what you may think, mobile is not just used to engage consumers outside of the company walls. Mobile is infiltrating companies’ internal networks, helping to boost performance with tools for their training and marketing departments – the back and front office.

Training on the floor It seems strange that typical training sessions take place in the backroom, a space where customers are not allowed, and tools used on the floor, such as a cash register, do not reside. With mobile you are able to train employees in the exact environment they will be using those skills; mobile brings on-the-job scenarios to life. 

Enhance in-store experience to drive sales What happens when you arrive at a store and have questions about if a shirt comes in different colors or what the ingredients are in these organic ginger snaps? Normally, you ask someone wearing a nametag. With a mobile application, that staff member can be equipped with any and all information from anywhere in the store. It is just-in-time information that they may or may not know off the top of their head, which makes for a hassle-free, enjoyable, and speedy shopping experience.  

Convenient learning – pace, time, and place Training is not a one and done type of process – especially in the retail world when things are constantly changing. It takes some time to commit sales elements to memory, and it is a constant battle to absorb the latest cyclical product or promotional information. Mobile allows employees to brush up on information before, during, or after interacting with customers, on the job or at home, quickly running through the material or sitting down to study. Instead of compartmentalizing the time employees spend learning, why not integrate it into their day and take the stress off of unnecessary memorization or exercise learning during down times?

Dual product training Product offerings change. Instead of placing high importance on knowing everything about the product, take time to make sure employees know everything about the tools they are given. A well-designed mobile tool that the employee can use with confidence to guide a customer through material will be much more valuable than the shaky sales pitch an employee is trying to nail word for word. Plus, due to smart design, your employees may investigate and play around on the app enough that they memorize the information by default! Sounds like a 2 for 1 deal!

Silent Salesman Consumers love to interact with technology. Why not put the technology by the products and let the app do the selling? Perhaps at a clothing store you scan the barcode of an item and interact with associated information – where the materials came from, what other items pair well with it, etc.

There are certainly many more examples of mobile tools in retail, from a mobile POS to inventory management tools. The bottom line is that mobile is critical because shoppers are also on their mobile devices, “so they need to be engaged with the brand and buying rather than using their mobile to find alternatives or better pricing through competitors.”  Unless there is an additional experience the customers get when going to the store, brick & mortar operations are going to struggle.

Retail leaders know that “brands can be both innovative and effective by using mobile.” There is certainly more to come for mobile tools in the retail space, benefiting corporation’s external and internal audiences.


Sydney Hill

Not to mention refreshing, positive and downright invigorating. Should we expect anything less from a personality that absolutely bubbles…

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