MRS 2013: Rethinking Bricks-and-Mortar in the Age of Mobile

“Bricks-and-mortar stores have a place, but they cant continue to be the things they are today,” said Sienne Veit, head of mobile at Morrisons. “Theyre going to have to adapt, or die.”

And what better example of how retailers need to rethink stores in the age of mobile than Kiddicare?

Getting physical

Previously a pureplay online retailer, Kiddicare was bought by Morrisons two years ago as a way to kickstart its own journey taking its products online, and as a technology incubator to try new things – Viet describes it as “a technology company which happens to sell baby goods”.

But in the meantime Kiddicare has gone the other way, moving into the physical world with the opening of five stores. Its a unique perspective on a familiar issue.

“Theres things you can only do in stores,” said Veit. “For us, there are purchases like the first car seat for your baby – choosing that is a big deal, and you can research endlessly online, but you want to be able to kick it around to be sure its safe. So we highlight the points of difference – our free giftwrapping service, and servicing teams for car seats and buggies.”

Its okay to shop with smartphones

“But the most important thing about technology is that its continuous. Moving from online to mobile to, eventually, in-store – that experience needs to be seamless.”

For that reason, Kiddicare isnt interested in trying to stem the flow of showrooming, but tries to work customers using phones in-store to its benefit. It features QR codes on all its shelves, which enable it to see which products are the most researched by customers, and then tailor the content behind the QR code accordingly. Even more smartly, its electronic shelf labels enable it to change prices on the fly, to make sure its not being undercut by the competition.

Kiddicare doesnt just accept showrooming, it embraces it: “You need to tell your consumers its okay to use their smartphones to shop,” Veit said.

Going forward, she says Kiddicare wants to bring more mobile technology in-store. Shes trying to find a better way to do mobile payments and couponing, and is even thinking of incorporating RFID or NFC technology on shelves to make it easier to guide customers to specific products.

“Ultimately, its about getting much more connected at a granular level, and making the shopping process seamless, from car park to check-out.”