Mobile Technology is Not Just for Shopping
Consumers don’t have to be industry-savvy to know how much mobile technology is affecting the world of retail. Heck, cellular service providers focus their advertising more on how their networks will help you stream music, browse the internet and text friends than they do on telephone connectivity. Smartphones are a computer in your pocket, which means mobile technology can do much more than let you listen to Hip Hop or watch the latest funny pet videos. It can help you run your business and keep customers happy.
Mobile technology is not just for consumers. Professionals in all industries are using it to simplify and improve their processes, and retail is among the most rapidly advancing. In the United States, nearly two-thirds of all website visits are from mobile users.
A new study of 46,000 consumers by Retail Dive shows that 73% of them use “multiple channels” – meaning internet searches, mobile apps and in-store kiosks or browsing – when shopping. The study also shows that these omnichannel consumers spend an average of 4% more when shopping in a store and 10% more when shopping online. Those shoppers also make 23% more repeat visits to those stores within six months of their initial trip.
Top Five Reasons In-Store Shoppers use Mobile Tech:
Read product reviews
Look for coupons or discounts to use in stores
say using mobile helps them make better decisions in a store
Source: Facebook 2017 Holiday Study
While most of mobile technology is consumer focused, showing shoppers how or where they can find the best deals, retailers can use mobile technology tools to help their sales associates do their jobs better and more efficiently. So far, though, it’s an area where the retail trade has fallen short. The 2017 Temkin Employee Engagement Index shows that the retail industry has the highest percentage of disengaged employees among 15 industries studied. That means retail merchants aren’t utilizing technology to improve their sales or business processes.
“Many retailers struggle with engaging and evolving their workforce in today’s digital age,” says Oscar Sachs, co-founder and CEO of Salesfloor, which commissioned the Retail Dive study. “Retailers need to find new ways to leverage their people and adapt and evolve their role to serve the customer, which in turn provides associates with the opportunity to learn how to market their brand and sell products through social media, text, and email anywhere in the world.”
Despite living in an increasingly digital age, 87% of shoppers say their decisions to buy are influenced by store personnel. That means empowering sales associates with mobile technology not only helps them make more sales, it can assist business owners in keeping track of inventory, managing margins, monitoring customer relations and more.
In-store Mobility Improves Customer Service
Mobile technology doesn’t have to leave the store to be a benefit to merchants. Assisted Selling apps can be used in a variety of ways to help store associates move products.
An innovative example is True Value Hardware’s mobile marketing app that allows store associates access to a variety of sales tools. On a mobile device, they can immediately show shoppers comparable or associated products which assists in upselling or cross-selling. They can also check pricing and show customers instructional videos on how to use products by simply scanning a product UPC.
Shoppers already utilize some of this technology. Approximately 80% of them own smartphones and, according to Google, roughly 84% use their phones to search for or research products while they’re in a store. That gives merchants another way to reach out to their shoppers.
Barcode scanning apps are also gaining traction for in-store mobile users. Instead of tracking down a store associate, or searching for a public-use scanner, shoppers can check their own prices with a handy smartphone app.
In-store sales technology such as Bluetooth beacons can alert shoppers about designated items when they are near the product displays. The text messages can feature product information or special pricing alerts.
Similar technology is used to locate potential shoppers outside of a store. Geofencing allows merchants to send marketing messages to people in the vicinity much the same way Google Maps alerts travelers to attractions they are near. It’s mobile technology that allows retailer to pull shoppers into their stores.
Mobile wallets are also gaining popularity. Apple Pay and Google Pay are the best known, but many banks and payment card companies offer mobile payment capabilities, as well. Instead of paying with a company-issued card, banking information is digitally-stored, and shoppers can use their phones to pay for purchases ranging from an afternoon soda to a new car.
Many stores can already accept mobile wallet payments through their point of sale systems thanks to the adoption of EMV-chipped payment card technology. Merchants who have purchased card readers such as Ingenico, Verifone and others that can accept EMV-chipped cards also handle frictionless payments from mobile wallets.
Mobile Point of Sale (mPOS) technology is advancing rapidly, too. According to ABI Research, the global use of mPOS devices will reach 51 million by the end of 2019, which equals 46% of the overall POS terminal market.
“We’ve seen larger U.S. merchants install mPOS solutions, so their staff can take payments from customers while walking around the store. This unchains the staff from the cash (register) and allows them to interact more closely with customers on the sales floor,” says Jordan McKee, senior analyst at 451 Research.
Everything considered, mobile technology allows sales associates to offer faster, more efficient and more personalized customer service.
Not Everything is for Sales
Mobile technology is more than sales, though. Merchants can use it to streamline many processes which not only makes customer service more agile, it makes the job easier, too.
Mobile apps linked through point of sale systems and digital business platforms allow store managers or owners to check stock-on-hand, see daily, monthly or yearly sales of a product, control pricing, schedule deliveries, create sales or promotional signs, and access company-approved sales information.
They are valuable for businesses with outdoor operations such as lumberyards or garden centers. With mobile technology, outdoor sales associates and delivery drivers can provide price quotes, initiate sales transactions, collect customer signatures and schedule deliveries.
Back office operations can also benefit from the flexibility and agility of mobile technology. Inventory control and auditing, supply chain and regulatory compliance can all be viewed through smartphone apps. It can also be used to streamline human relations functions such as payroll, employee scheduling, benefits and internal communications.
The 2018 BRP POS/Customer Engagement Survey shows mobile operations are a growing trend in retail. Approximately 62% plan to increase their use of mobile technology for the point of sale by the end of the year, while 42% will use customer-owned devices as a point of sale within three years.
Push and Pull
Mobile technology is getting more aggressive in recent years, too. The first apps were called “pull-based” meaning users initiated interaction through “Request More Information” buttons, product look-up clicks, or by placing an item in a shopping cart. Now, apps “know” if a shopper is looking for a particular product via past search results, and they send the shopper information about comparable products or pricing updates, et cetera.
“In the future, content, products and services will find you, rather than you having to find them. Puma will let us know to replace our shoes and Marriott will automatically present you room options if you missed your connecting flight,” Dries Buytaert, the founder of Drupal web publishing platform, tells Business.com
Increasing a store’s mobile capabilities through its digital platform allows merchants to merge their online and in-store shopping into a single platform, streamlines and simplifies business operations and creates a more holistic, unified approach to doing business.