Armed with their digital devices, consumers are increasingly curating, or customizing, their own shopping experiences. This new way of shopping means customers are expecting — and even demanding— deeper interaction with stores and brands.
It also means that retailers must quickly adjust to this shifting landscape to meet customer expectations while actively competing to win new customers. Digital, and specifically mobile, present the biggest and best new opportunities for retailers to engage with these customers and move ahead of their competitors.
Savvier, hands-on shoppers are making more purchases from mobile devices. eMarketer noted that in 2014, retail sales made on tablets were expected to reach $38.21 billion, an increase of almost $12 billion from 2013, while sales via smartphones would increase about $4 billion to about $18.58 billion in 2014. eMarketer estimates that almost 146 million U.S. consumers now use their mobile devices for shopping, representing 73.8 percent of all online shoppers. And Thrive Analytics found that a majority of all major age groups continue to use their smartphones while shopping in stores. Simply put, the rapid rise of mobile commerce warrants more targeted and enhanced engagement with consumers.
Retailers are catching on to the fact that the more channels they offer in which consumers can engage, the more wallet share they will capture from those consumers. According to a recent Deloitte study, digital shopping technologies influence 36 percent – or $1.1 trillion – of in-store retail sales, while 84 percent of customers say they use their mobile devices before and during in-store visits.
To take advantage of this trend, some omnichannel retailers are using mobile media to highlight the advantages of shopping in their physical stores. According to eMarketer, more and more retailers are seeing spikes in mobile sales as shoppers take advantage of their time spent waiting in line in the store to find additional products that complement their in-store purchases. For instance, shoppers will use their smart phones to find and order an accessory online to complement an outfit they’ve just purchased in-store.
Citi Retail Services has seen mobile devices playing a major role with regard to credit and accounts. Retailers are increasingly aiming to integrate the convenience of digital payment-card use into the retail experience. For instance, one major retailer enables its card holders who register on its loyalty website to view their credit card account status and financial details from the retailer’s website on their smartphones, PCs or tablets, so they don’t have to dig out a physical card or go to a different site and login separately to access credit card account features.
Storied retailer Macy’s has also unveiled a multitude of new technology- and mobile-based initiatives. These include location-based digital coupons; iBeacon devices that send special offers to nearby smartphones via the Shopkick app, which Macy’s has partnered with to deliver coupons; and an Image Search app, allowing customers to photograph an outfit or clothing item and be directed to similar items on sale at Macy’s.
As the dawn of online and mobile shopping technology unfolds, successful retailers are thinking more critically about ways they can better engage with consumers. Making the shopping experience more personal and relevant, coupled with increased convenience through mobile technology, is the key to more sophisticated consumer engagement and will soon be the norm for both established retail brands and emerging players alike. Retailers should start thinking not just about how they can meet these new consumer expectations, but also plan for future engagement methods that will be crucial for growth and competition as the digital and mobile shopping experience picks up steam.