Consumers today expect more than ever before from bricks-and-mortar stores. How can retail staff use apps to meet shoppers’ expectations?
With physical stores returning to the centre of attention for bricks-and-clicks retailers, the industry is looking to new methods to create the ultimate experience in an increasingly omnichannel model of consumption.
Consumers are using a mix of digital and physical channels to inform their shopping experiences and the fusion of these is critical.
As a result, retailers and their sales forces face increasing pressure to provide contextual information about their products, a range of new services and of course in-depth insight on customer likes, dislikes and preferences.
This is where effective use of mobile in the retail workforce takes the spotlight.
The key here is to understand the three facets of consumer expectation during an interaction in store: ‘know me’, ‘know what I want’, and ‘get it to me in the most convenient way possible’.
“The potential to delight shoppers and create the confidence to assist in their shopping endeavours can significantly bolster the in-store experience”
Danny Bagge, IBM UKI
With these insights at the fingertips of store associates, the potential to delight shoppers and create the confidence to assist in their shopping endeavours can significantly bolster the in-store experience.
Introducing technology to an interpersonal interaction is a move that demands careful consideration of how and if it meets the needs of both the store associate and the customer involved. We have seen benefits in both small and large stores of significant retailers in the UK.
In small stores, extended range is a real problem. Features on mobile devices allow retail staff to respond to out-of-stock instances and ‘save the sale’, providing retailers with flexibility on an entirely new level.
This transfers to effective engagement with a consumer exhibiting rising expectations and a typically diminishing attention span.
Four pillars to retail app success
In large stores where the challenge is to understand every facet of every product in every aisle, holding a device with the capability to communicate that information gives store employees the ability to engage with customers by adding information, flexibility and context to the decision-making process.
Every retailer and every store is different, but there are four key elements of mobile in the retail workforce which should be considered.
“Mobile must find new easy ways of solving tasks, using the power of the camera, location, immediate information and of course inherent mobility around the store”
Danny Bagge, IBM UKI
Firstly, mobile in store needs to act as more than just a website. The experiences need to bring in the peculiarities of the store, the employee’s knowledge and the customer’s intention at that moment.
Secondly, shoppers need a ‘wow’ factor – similar to how we regard our favourite apps. Mobile must find new easy ways of solving tasks, using the power of the camera, location, immediate information and of course inherent mobility around the store. Our best apps join these together in such a fun way, that we want to use them. Similarly this should be a litmus test for the employee.
Mobile in a retail store must be intuitive. The more training required, the less effective the app will be and can often be cumbersome and actually hinder the customer interaction.
Finally, customers don’t need a Swiss army knife, we need a tool for a job. In this context, mobile technology must be continually designed and refined to deal with a task in that moment and that context, not a one-size-fits-all experience.
- Danny Bagge is the retail industry director of IBM UKI