Recently, I had the opportunity to catch up with Brian Walker, Principal Analyst at Forrester, who focuses on e-business and channel strategy, and asked him about the trends he’s seeing around the use of mobile in-store. This is what he had to say:
How do you see in-store mobile shopper engagement fitting into the new model for agile commerce?
Agile commerce is our way of describing the ways in which companies must respond to how consumers are using many digitally-enabled touchpoints today to discover, research, buy, get service, and share. This goes well beyond how we have thought about channels traditionally. The key driver for this transformation has been mobile and its growing presence in the customers’ lifestyles – and nowhere is that more disruptive and obvious than in a store. The data shows that showrooming’s impact may be overstated but what cannot be overstated is the consumers’ growing habit of using mobile to look up information and reviews and to locate products. Mobile is not another channel; it is the way of engaging with the customer that crosses all interactions.
How do you view the opportunity for in-store mobile shopper engagement for retailers with brick & mortar presences?
Retailers need to understand that mobile is the most disruptive technology to come around in many, many years and may ultimately be more disruptive than even the web. At Forrester we have seen a tremendous acceleration in traffic and sales from mobile in just a few short years. We see this also in email and social media. Retailers need to make looking up information, finding products, and participating in loyalty programs via mobile in-store much easier. That said, it is in the very early days, as most consumers are still figuring out how to use mobile and for many it may not yet be obvious. But as mobile payments become more prevalent, as more messaging in stores appears, and online players like Amazon and eBay push it, mobile use in stores will pick up quickly. Don't get me wrong – the web is not going anywhere. Mobile must be closely integrated with the web, as well as all other traditional channels and emerging touchpoints.
What are the primary barriers facing retailers trying to incorporate in-store mobile shopper engagement? And what can they do to be more successful?
The most obvious barrier is just plain customer awareness. Many customers are not really aware of what mobile can do. Retailers are scared of it and want to pretend it does not exist. Connectivity is also an issue of course. Simple things like what Home Depot does in offering Wi-Fi in their stores that requires a simple Terms and Conditions acceptance in the browser that then markets the mobile web and apps they offer to help customers find products, and information – and of course buy them direct – is a great way to market the tools they have. Associates of course play a key role as well in talking about it and showing customers how to use it, like what Apple does in the Apple Stores. And lastly, reward the customers who use mobile with a great experience so momentum can build. Retailers who look at current stats to determine the importance of mobile when they’re offering a poor experience is shortsighted.
There are a lot of good nuggets in Brian’s comments, but the one of the sticks out for me is in the last sentence. The early offerings being put out to help shoppers are just that: early offerings. It would be myopic to use these early statistcs to judge the value of mobile – it’s a much bigger opportunity. And shoppers are already expecting so much more.