Immersive experiences are leading the new mobile revolution in retail

Paul Butcher explains how new technologies can enable retailers to move beyond apps to create immersive mobile experiences

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By Guest on 25 April 2014
Immersive  experiences are leading the new mobile revolution in retail

This article was first published in the Summer 2014 issue of Speak

Recently I was discussing mobility with a very successful worldwide brand when the marketing manager said to me: “Paul, we’re just a product company, not a technology or a mobile company.” I was so shocked that I could barely respond. There is a convincing body of evidence that tells us that we can’t afford not to be mobile companies. The mobile device is becoming the aggregation hub for our fitness brands, foot pods and sleep tracking apps and more. At the NRF this year, eBay shared that a third of its transactions started on the mobile device (Mobile Innovation as a Roadmap for Customer Success, presentation by Healy Cypher, head of retail innovation, Ebay).

The mobile device is, and will remain for some time, the ‘First Screen’. It is the screen which society views most often but is also the portal through which we manage our lives. According to a Cisco report entitled Digital Shopping Behavior in an ‘Internet of Everything’ World, more than 70% of ‘Über-Digital’ shoppers regularly begin their shopping journeys online via their mobile phone or their PC. Meanwhile, the number of shoppers who regularly use their smartphones for their shopping decision-making has nearly doubled to 18% of the sampled population.

As Jon Stine, director, retail industry at Cisco Consulting Services and co-author of the report, says: “The bottom line is that the smart, converged device is now the remote control for daily life, which includes shopping. This is where an increasing number (a higher percentage the younger you go) of shoppers now live and this is where the future customers live, and will be won.”

It is unusual these days to encounter a retailer who isn’t exploring or fully engaged in mobility solutions. Just a few years ago, the rush to mobility meant developing an app for a smartphone. But these apps frequently failed to catch consumer attention. During phase one, many retailers simply force fit their online catalogue into an app. These early approaches did nothing to engage customers. We learned that app success during phase one required a different approach than the PC screen. Those solutions that were optimised for touch/screen size, designed for simplicity and intersected repetitive behaviours were more likely to be embraced by consumers.

But now the next mobile revolution is taking place and innovation is coming at us faster than ever. Terms such as ‘internet of things’, wearables, beacons, Bluetooth Low Energy, mobile wallets and mPOS are as common to our retail vocabulary as are category management and basket uplift. Sensors are allowing retailers to engage with consumers with meaningful location-based offers. Wearable technologies such as fitness bands, foot pods and even instrumentation on bicycles feed increasing amounts of data about individual behaviour and preference to corporations.

These innovations are exposing new privacy concerns but we can’t ignore their implications for our approaches to market intelligence, discovery of purchase intent, message relevance, customer relationship management, loyalty programmes, brand preference engines, incentives, rewards and more. Instead of delivering a static one-way dialogue, they allow retailers to identify themes and provide a complete shopping experience. Imagine the connected coffee customer, able to walk into a shop with their favourite drink and pastry paid for and prepared the moment they arrive. This is where we can start to meaningfully intersect behaviours important to our customers and create real value, which differentiates our brand.

In the second mobility phase, there are four new key design concepts that retailers must deliver against if they want to harvest this opportunity and become relevant to the mobile shopper:

1. The mobile solution must intersect a meaningful behaviour and, in some way, add value to that experience. It can’t simply be motivated by something the retailer wants the customer to do.
2. The solution must offer a psychological reward immediately. It’s not the size of the reward but the proximity to customer behaviour that contributes to a successful mobile experience. If an app is offering coupons or points, these rewards must be paired as closely to the current session as possible, not days later.
3. The solution must be designed to inform a store floor mobile device held by a sales associate; so that if the customer chooses, the associate can truly delight the customer.
4. The solution must be informed and integrated with one or more of the sensors, which customers choose to utilise in their life

The mobile device has not only become a tool for communication over distances, but is also just as essential to express ideas while we stand next to one another. Consider the number of times at lunch with associates or in our homes that we share ideas side by side using a mobile device. Any sales associate not equipped with a customer informed mobile device is being limited in their ability to satisfy and delight their customers.

Paul Butcher is retail strategist at Intel

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