The Future of Retail: How Mobile Will Help Shape the Stores of Tomorrow

By Bill Loller, VP, IBM Smarter Commerce

The mobile revolution has ushered in a new era in retail shopping, transforming the experience into a quick, easy and hyper-personal exchange, which is all conducted from the touch of a mobile device. As the trend and spending power behind online shopping continues to grow, brick-and-mortar locations are tasked with finding ways to incorporate mobile technology into the in-store experience in order to stay relevant, competitive and alive.

Mobile has inextricably become an integral part of everyday life; smartphones are now an extension of the self. For this reason, mobile shoppers demand a brand experience that’s personalized and engaging. According to a recent IBM study, 63% of online adults experiencing a problem with a mobile transaction would be less likely to buy from the same company via other channels. This makes it critical for retailers to blend mobile into brick-and-mortar shopping in order to keep customers happy and engaged.

Quest for Data
With the convergence of smartphone technology and retail, trends such as showrooming will become more prevalent. In response, retailers will look to develop tactics and strategies that work with these trends, instead of against them.  

Online research is now a natural part of the customer buying process. Today’s retailers are now seeing the value of assisting customers in this quest for information. By implementing tools such as in-store Wi-Fi, retailers can interact with customers in real time, thus more directly engaging the customer with their brand offering while having the flexibility to provide customers with incentives and promotions to encourage in-store purchases. Mobile can be used to enhance the in-store experience for consumers, as well as provide a precision tool to better target customers.

Customer in the Middle
When shopping on a mobile device, the customer is always at the center of the shopping experience. This customer-centricity is something that retailers must work to replicate in stores. On smartphones, the buying experience happens right where the customer is standing. They don’t have to shuffle through aisles and shelves to locate their items and check-out is simply a click away. How can they enhance and differentiate the in-store experience as well?

Mobile Concierge at Your Service
Forward-looking retailers will look to provide concierge-style services, where staff equipped with mobile devices act as personal advisors to assist customers in navigating their path to purchase. This type of elevated services puts a personal touch on the in-store experience, allowing retailers to create and maintain meaningful and sincere connections with customers, all while driving sales.

The stores of the future must learn to embrace mobile and use it as a tool in the buying experience. If brick-and-mortars can learn to shift the advantage of mobile in their favor, they can increase value for their customers while at the same time increasing revenue for their business.


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