As we head into the busy holiday shopping season, columnist Allan Haims discusses ways brick-and-mortar retailers can use mobile to impact their bottom line.
With Black Friday and the holiday shopping season around the corner, retailers are hoping for a fourth quarter that’s good to them, delivering sales that fatten their bottom line. They’re also looking for opportunities to acquire new customers and stay engaged with current ones to ultimately convert them to loyal consumers who will continue to boost their top-line revenue for the year ahead and beyond.
Fortunately for brick-and-mortar retailers, the key to welcoming shoppers through their doors and accomplishing both is right in the palm of most shoppers’ hands: a mobile device.
According to Pew Research, 72 percent of Americans own a smartphone, so it’s no surprise shoppers have come to rely on it heavily. A study by Deloitte Digital found that digital shoppers bring higher store traffic, conversions and spending; with 84 percent of consumers saying they use their phone while shopping in stores, mobile strategies are vital for engaging with shoppers and helping them chart easy-to-navigate buying journeys during Black Friday and beyond.
Here are some ways to use mobile to make the most of holiday-driven sales.
Build brand awareness with digital handouts
Generating brand awareness is the first step to acquiring new customers. With holiday shoppers increasingly distracted with a multitude of shopping options, it’s harder than ever for brick-and-mortar retailers to create awareness of their brand — much less what they actually offer. The buyer’s journey goes nowhere if retailers can’t get shoppers to take that first step.
Reaching today’s shoppers via mobile translates into giving them a “digital handout” about a retailer that increases awareness and helps move them to the next step of their shopping journey. Searches of store directories on mall websites are an example of such a handout; once shoppers know what stores are available, they can take the next step to find out what sales and promotions the stores are offering.
Native apps allow retailers to reach loyal customers, but download and app retention rates are still relatively low. Hyperlocal web apps give retailers the ability to engage with new and existing customers who don’t want to download an app or get multiple offers in one location by allowing them to opt into a mall’s guest WiFi network. Web apps are growing in popularity due to the ease of use and cross-functionality offered.
Fortunately for retailers, shoppers are looking for digital handouts. According to IBM’s Eighth Annual Online Retail Holiday Readiness Report, about half of consumers want to receive real-time promotions while they’re in a store. They’re looking for retailers to help them take that first step.
Make shopping a personal, streamlined experience
Using mobile to increase brand awareness and in-store traffic is just the beginning. RetailNext found that 55 percent of online shoppers say they’d prefer making purchases in-store, an opportunity brick-and-mortar retailers can’t ignore. Two-thirds of shoppers also admitted to “webroomming” — making purchases in-store after doing research online.
Results from a PayPal study indicate it’s an experience a majority of shoppers would welcome. Although throngs of mall shoppers would indicate otherwise, six in 10 Americans would rather spend time in a dentist’s chair than deal with the stress of holiday shopping, according to the research.
Malls and brick-and-mortar retailers are using mobile to help streamline shopping and relieve that stress. Geolocation strategies equip retailers to deliver personalized and targeted offers.
Many malls leverage their WiFi networks to deliver hyperlocal shopping offers and event information to on-property shoppers, who are at the closest point to making a purchase.
Major retailers also have experimented with app features that offered shoppers in-store suggestions based on pictures they took of clothing and accessories around them. Digital store layouts via mobile, in-store tablets and mobile pay options make the shopping journey more efficient and hassle-free.
Deliver the unexpected
Although the official launch of the holiday shopping season is just around the corner, shoppers started redeeming Black Friday-like deals even before snatching up after-Halloween deals on treats. Reaching Black Friday and holiday shoppers who are already well-primed with promotional offers requires retailers to stand out in unexpected ways.
Mobile offers the flexibility to react to trends in real time and draw shoppers into the store with limited-time or special offers.
“Unexpected” doesn’t always have to come in the form of a promotional offer, however. Mobile equips retailers to showcase unique or exclusive products.
Price isn’t always the only driver behind a shopper’s purchase, according to Google. Consumers also are on a quest for the best; mobile searches related to “best gift” grew 70 percent last holiday season.
Specialty retailers are especially well-positioned to differentiate themselves with brand-specific products. With mobile searches for unique and cool gifts growing as well, why not give them what they’re looking for?
Retailers also can deliver the “unexpected” through a shopping experience. During the 2015 holidays, luxury brand Burberry used animation, the giant screen in London’s Piccadilly Circus and shoppers’ own mobile devices in an interactive campaign focused on its signature scarves.
The experience allowed shoppers to use their phones to take control of the giant screen, where they could view, interact with and monogram Burberry scarves. Shoppers used their phones to direct the movement of their scarves on the screen. They could also view directions to the nearby flagship Burberry store, where they could purchase their personalized scarves.
Make shopping social
With the chaos of holiday shopping, in-store shoppers are more frequently turning to mobile and social media for product reviews and to watch video content about highlighted merchandise. They’re looking for information, feedback and support from friends and family to help them make buying decisions as part of the purchase process.
They’re also sharing finds and good deals. According to a Pricegrabber survey, 86 percent of consumers share deals with their friends.
Delivering offers via mobile makes sharing the savings and finds easy, using in-store shoppers to share a digital handout and extend awareness beyond store walls. And that sharing and awareness pay off, as reports suggest that product information found on social channels influences shopping behavior and enhances loyalty.
Shopping journey begins with mobile
Mobile is already serving as a wide doorway for brick-and-mortar retailers this holiday shopping season, with the potential for record sales.
Retailers who employ mobile strategies that actively engage consumers from initial awareness to unique in-store experiences and products, as well as extend awareness through social platforms, will be well poised to generate long-term customer relationships that impact the bottom line for the holiday season and beyond.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.