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Mobile – the new online for retailers

Posted by: Amanda Yates on June 25, 2010

As Kevin Perlmutter mentioned in his last blog post (and describes in his article), the way we live, work and play is changing, thanks to wireless technology. In fact, I recently read that having no presence on mobile devices in 2010 is like not having a website circa 1999.  So true! The digital age is in hyperdrive.  3G access continues to increase (and 4G is already here!). Some stats say that up to 99 percent of the population will have some sort of data capability on their mobile phones by 2011.

So what does this mean for retailers?  It means the need for a whole new view to their digital strategies. When a shopper can enter a store, scan a barcode, see that the same product is cheaper at a nearby competitor and click a link for directions to take them straight there, the game has suddenly been changed, so to speak.  There is an ever-expanding catalog of apps out there to enable this type of shopping behavior (in the store, in the car or on the run), and manufacturers like Apple are training customers via commercials and advertisements on how to use all these apps to simplify their lives.

It might be easy to dismiss this trend given the relatively small percentage of people with iPhones or Droids today, but now is the time to start investigating and investing in individual strategies. Almost one third of Americans are already shopping via their mobile devices, and the number grows when you talk about Millenials and their mobile shopping habits.

Two brands getting it right so far are Best Buy and Target, which both have useful apps. Best Buy’s app not only let’s you browse its extended online product assortment, but allows you to actually purchase via your mobile device (not many retailers are doing this yet). The app also lets the user locate stores and provides a map given your current location that leads you right there (the icon actually moves while you’re moving so you can see where you are in relation to the store). Finally it makes it easy to navigate, providing a “deals” page, as well as “ideas” and “gifting” pages, not to mention access to your “Rewards Zone” account.

Meanwhile, while Target’s similar app doesn’t let you purchase via mobile, it provides a barcode scanning option that can be used in and out of the store to allow shoppers to find out more information about a product. Beyond price, it offers product information, customer reviews, and availability in your local store.

So, like Target and Best Buy, the next move is to gain advantage and protect sales by offering shoppers what they want in the modes they desire. Not every retailer will need a full-blown program, but each must understand the needs of its customers, what information and access they are looking for and where or how they want to access it. Once these insights are known, the appropriate level of investment and how to spend it will become much clearer.

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