Ben George, content writer at mobile and gadget insurance firm loveit coverit explains how retailers can deploy mobile solutions to boost sales in store.
One of the biggest threats facing the traditional retail industry is the encroachment of online stores and mobile competition. With consumers able to make purchases anywhere, anytime via online stores, the need for bricks-and-mortar retailers is becoming less essential, as customers no longer need to frequent the high street in order to find the best deals. This has led to a complete re-evaluation of the traditional high street, with multiple household names – such as BHS and Debenhams – either disappearing completely or entering troubled times.
Research conducted by loveit coverit looking into how mobile technology has impacted the way we shop, showed that over two-thirds of consumers use their smartphones to check competitor prices in store. This has a very damaging impact on retailers, who oftentimes can’t compete with cheaper prices online, and demonstrates the ways in which technology is affecting the industry. Despite this, there are some ways in which retailers are utilising mobile technology in order to draw in consumers. Not only do these potentially encourage new customers into bricsk-and-mortar retailers, they also go some way to preventing sales from going to online competition.
Mobile app integration
A successful way for retailers to leverage mobile technology in store is to have a dedicated mobile app for their brand. Unlike online-only retailers, who often have a mobile app as an extension of their website – albeit with increased mobile functionality – bricks-and-mortar retailers can use a mobile platform to encourage sales. This can be used as a means of checking availability, reserving specific items, alerting consumers to sales, and providing more in-depth information on products. But one of the best ways of using a mobile app is to create a loyalty scheme.
Traditional retailers have been extremely successful with loyalty cards for decades – with Tesco’s Club Card being the prime example. Recently, however, there’s been a shift to more technological integration, with mobile apps replacing cards in a variety of retailers. These have become a way for customers to collect and track points, and easily cash in on their rewards in store, ensuring they visit retailers more frequently. For an excellent example of how app integration works with a reward scheme, you only need to look at the success of coffee chains like Café Nero or Starbucks. Their apps allow customers to save points for free items, as well as offering spontaneous rewards for loyalty. These specific mobile apps also act as a payment method, which further increases smartphone integration instore.
The only issue with dedicated mobile apps is that, once every retailer has one, consumers quickly become overwhelmed, which drives down engagement. An alternative is a presence on a ‘general’ shopping app, which covers a variety of retailers in one place, allowing retailers to market to specific audiences. Research from Retail Me Not suggests that use of general shopping apps could increase in-store traffic by up to 35 per cent.
Smartphone payment options
While mobile wallets have been around for a number of years, and the majority of retailers have integrated them into their payment methods, they are becoming an important weapon for retailers to keep sales in store. As cash transactions become less frequent – the loveit coverit survey revealed that it fell behind contactless card payments and Chip & PIN – the need for alternative payment options is clear. And with more and more young people (18 – 35-year-olds) demanding mobile integration, card readers which take payment from Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and others are becoming more important to bricks-and-mortar retailers.
One of the key advantages of offering mobile payment is that it provides customers with a quick, easy way to pay. It stands to reason that that if consumers can easily make purchases in a bricks-and-mortar retailer, they are less likely to go to an online competitor. This appears to be reinforced by the data, with a 2015 poll by Harris Poll and Digimarc showing that half of shoppers want their checkout experience to be faster. Integrating mobile payment is one way to achieve this aim.
Smartphone payment options also have a significant impact on smaller businesses, which are equally suffering from the lack of footfall on the high street. The traditional view is that smaller businesses – whether that be independent chains, pop-ups, or market stalls – are cash-only establishments, which tends to put consumers off. However, with the integration of mobile payments through POS systems and small card readers,from companies such as iZettle, Square, and Clover, small businesses are able to offer customers an alternative way to pay, potentially increasing sales.
Selective SMS marketing
SMS marketing may seem a little old-school for some retailers, especially with more technologically advanced ways of getting your brand in front of customers, but it can be very effective at driving footfall. Retailers can use SMS to inform existing customers about deals and sales, providing an incentive for them to visit the store, and potentially driving more sales. Retailers can also use SMS campaign to get valuable information about their customers, which they can use to target them with the most relevant offers. What’s more, promotional texts have a 99 per cent open rate, which is significantly higher thanks to emails and other forms of marketing.
While these measures may not be enough to completely change the fortunes of the retail sector, they demonstrate that there are some changes that can be implemented by bricks-and-mortar stores to help boost sales.