Combatting mobile comparison apps in the retail store: the 4 key challenges
Most store-based retailers have already realized that they have a new battle front. Aside from margin pressure, the chaos of store operations and fickle consumers, mobile shopping comparison has now hit the store with full-force. A recent study by Pew Research revealed that 50% of US consumers used their phone to compare prices in the store during the 2011 holiday season.
But as a retailer you’ve been here before, and you know that price is just one consideration in a consumer’s purchase decision process. Other factors include convenience (hey I’m already here in the store), access to great deals, friendly service, rewards for loyalty and access to tools that provide Inspiration. Smart retailers are realizing that creating a unique and compelling in-store mobile experience is a very effective way to deter and overcome price comparison shopping.
I have identified the 4 key challenges I believe must be overcome in order to provide a compelling in-store mobile experience.
Challenge 1: Improving signal in the store
Most retail stores have poor wireless signals from telecommunications carriers. For a great consumer mobile experience a live internet connection is imperative. Many retailers, including Home Depot have begun tackling this problem head on by including free Wifi networks in the store and doing a great job of promoting their mobile presence.
Other techniques include boosting the 3G and 4G radio reception in the store. This requires the installation of signal boosters.
Both wifi networks and signal boosting are expensive capital outlays. Wifi networks are likely to provide the greatest longevity and relevance over the next 10 years but require action on the part of the consumer to pro-actively connect to the network. Signal boosting will be outdated quicker than you can say 5G, but provides the most transparent solution for a consumer.
I recommend finding a low cost solution with minimal capital outlay and tackle this problem head on.
Challenge 2: Bridging Store Inventory and Online Inventory
Many retailers have built their mcommerce solutions already. These typically draw product feeds from their existing ecommerce platform. But most ecommerce teams were started outside of the store retail operations and often use a separate distribution center from store operations. As a result there are many store products that don’t exist online and many online products that don’t exist in the store. This must be fixed if we are to bridge online and store operations, and provide a cohesive in-store mobile marketing experience.
Arc Worldwide recently undertook a large consumer retail study. One of their findings really stood out to me. Consumers expect that a retailer has store-level inventory knowledge through their website. They expect the website to be able to tell them whether the product they’re interested in is available in-store. I believe they have a right to that expectation. With the sophistication of current merchandising platforms a retailer must be able to provide real-time visibility to store-level inventory. But let’s at least start with just knowing which stores exist in each environment, whether the product is in stock is another level again.
Challenge 3: Mapping the Store
Store maps are another major differentiator that can provide a compelling reason for the shopper to open your app instead of the drones of price comparison apps. As a retailer you have the opportunity to provide Inspiration for your customers. Imagine the mobile experience playing out this scenario, “if you liked this shirt you just scanned, it goes really well with these jeans which are just over there in Aisle B”.
The chaos of a store environment and end-cap promotions means that a retailer’s HQ rarely has visibility to exactly where each product is located. But they do have the information to point the consumer to the right area of the store. A fresh consumer friendly store map is a useful tool regardless of whether it has products mapped onto it or not. Several retailers, including Target, are using mobile store maps to great effect today. Consumers will be expecting your floor plans via Google shortly. Someone (hint: Google) will be providing your store maps soon, control the experience and you can be that someone.
Challenge 4: in-store promotion
The final challenge to providing an incredible in-store experience is simply awareness. “Oh you have an app? Why would I use it?”. Consumers are not yet accustomed to expecting a great mobile in-store experience from a retailer, so if you’re able to provide one you will need to work hard to promote it in the store and spell out the benefits, whether it is Inspiration, Coupons, VIP checkout access or faster checkout times.
Ensure store associates are aware of and evangelizing the mobile experiences. Create bold store signage promoting the experience as the consumer enters the store and be sure to highlight the benefits such as free Wifi, store maps, in-store inspiration and in-store scan.
Retailers who are working to overcome these four challenges are in prime position to keep consumers coming back for more, compete against price comparison apps and deliver an excellent mobile experience for their consumers.
- Patrick Collins, CEO, 5th Finger