The holiday shopping season is about to start and it's likely shoppers will doing a fair amount of price comparisons on mobile devices in the aisles of big box retailers from October-December. Smartphone use in retail shopping is definitely changing the retailing landscape. More than half of U.S. adults own a smartphone and use its search tools and online apps to shop and compare pricing and features. According to a May 2013 Google shopping study, nearly 85 percent of smartphone shoppers checked their phones while browsing or buying in a physical store.
Our phones help us search for products we're interested in, checking for lower prices, extra bonus gifts, or maybe added points with a preferred retailer. In 2012, ForeSee found that 62 percent of shoppers accessed a store’s site or app during the holiday shopping season in 2012.
This year, big box retailers like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target, Home Depot and others hope to motivate shoppers to use their own mobile apps or other marketing tactics to drive increased store purchases.
Big Box Mobile
How are major retailers leveraging smartphone technology to improve the in-store shopping experience? Among the key ways, according to a retailing executive David Moth, is to use key identifiers to keep track of customers' moves between and across desktop and mobile applications. One method is to establish a strong loyalty program that ties in directly with store member card usage. As customers swipe their customer cards at NetSuite POS systems in stores, it creates a data trail to give retailers a strong view on shopping behavior.
But using mobile apps can still be a semi-confusing ride for shoppers. Driving around to several stores to use mobile apps connected to a big box retailer can still be a chore for shoppers, no matter how easy the stores try to make their apps. Maybe that's why it has opened up a new mobile app market for retailers.
Two recent 3rd party mobile shopping rewards apps — Shopkick and ibotta — have emerged to help forge tighter marketing bonds between retailers, manufacturing brands and their customers. Shopkick's rewards program works with retailers like Target, BestBuy, Macy's, Old Navy, Crate & Barrel and others. Shoppers buy things at these stores using the app and gain rewards points known as 'kicks'. The app tempts you with more 'kicks' for linking your credit card to the app.
The ibotta app gives users a selection of offers on the app as they shop. Shoppers are asked to choose a product offer (say bread or a beverage), and complete one or more tasks associated with the offer. These tasks may include sharing the product on your social media sites, watching a video clip, or clicking to a product's nutritional makeup. Users can unlock their app earnings when they choose to buy the offered product in the store.
Other apps like Swirl also help retailers pinpoint shopper locations, and attract and influence the consumers while they are shopping in retail outlets.
Data and Surveillance
Some of this data collecting via customer loyalty programs and mobile app behavior could come at a price to retailers, however. How much of their personal information and shopping patterns are American shoppers, already weary from the NSA privacy scandal, willing to disclose? The data collection methods of some retailers are being dissected by privacy groups. As a result, shoppers may have to make more strict personal decisions regarding their shopping habits.
Other Marketing Methods
Besides mobile, other retailers continue to look to low-cost, street-level marketing. Incorporating unusual marketing approaches, guerilla marketing tactics can show a solid impact on sales for a big box retailer. Maybe it's a team of young people being fun and handing out free samples in front of the store on a Saturday morning. Or maybe it's offering up product demos in a store department that includes incentives to buy via mobile devices. Guerilla tactics also include using online methods to draw a viral buzz to a specific topic or promotion.
What makes guerilla marketing work best is the one-on-one element of the purchase decision. If a guerilla marketer came up to you in a store with a flyer, a free sample and $1 discount coupon, it might be difficult to turn down that offer. The one-on-one approach also allows shoppers to ask questions and get qualified answers from the marketing rep. You'll likely see more of these guerilla tactics in holiday-themed promotions in the next 10 weeks.
Which mobile marketing methods get you excited? Which ones leave you cold? Leave a note in the comments.