Retailer Mobile Strategies Start With Driving In-Store Sales

As more consumers turn to their phones to make buying decisions, retailers need to move beyond just offering a mobile app, believes columnist Allan Haims.


Despite the onslaught of e-commerce options, the bulk of consumer retail transactions still occurs in physical stores. As a result, retail marketing teams tasked with revenue generation still find the greatest success by focusing on driving in-store sales as the foundation from which all other marketing platforms flow.

This means leveraging multiple consumer touch points for a unified initiative — whether through mobile, online, email campaigns, radio, TV, billboards, direct mail, you name it. In turn, this holistic strategy should utilize existing digital assets across all marketing elements for maximum value.

Mobile plays an especially critical role in driving in-store sales, as consumers are using their phones all day to help inform their decisions.

However, many marketing organizations struggle with the disruptive nature of mobile and how to validate their efforts due to evolving benchmarks and little precedent. After all, the iPhone, even with its mass adoption driving much of the latest mobile innovations, has been around for only eight years, but Apple has sold over 700 million devices!

A Multi-Dimensional Mobile Approach

What is certain is that retailers’ mobile initiatives must fit into a larger strategy driven by the CMO that incorporates an array of complementary engagement platforms and centers on a multi-dimensional approach that goes beyond simply offering a mobile app.

This includes implementing a cross-functional marketing plan that ties store operations, merchandising and digital teams together for optimized mobile-driven results.


Apps, Wi-Fi and Beacons

Many national retailers have experimented in some form with mobile apps — whether native or browser-based — but few have mastered the nuances of the various mobile technologies and how they can be used most effectively. Harnessing the value of technology to communicate promotions, store openings, events, and so on via mobile is critical to optimizing mobile-driven results.

Branded native mobile apps are best suited for retailers’ most loyal and frequent customers as these consumers are more likely to see the value in keeping such an app on their smartphone, especially if it keeps track of loyalty program points and offers special discounts, a la Walmart, Kohl’s, Macy’s or American Eagle Outfitters.

Retail loyalists will probably be the most likely to respond to beacon-driven offers as well, which require downloading a native app and having Bluetooth turned on. Others who aren’t as engaged are likely to dump the app within a few weeks, severing the brand connection. In fact, some studies have shown that nearly 80 percent of consumers delete apps after just two uses.

However, public Wi-Fi is now serving as a must-have amenity in most public spaces and changing this dynamic. Consumers are logging on everywhere — to save money on their data plans and for better reception — in malls, coffee shops, hotels, and even entire cities.

Hyperlocal Web-based apps can bridge the gap between casual shoppers versus the strongest brand loyalists, as well as help retailers attract new customers who are close by or on the premises. Shoppers can now can receive robust content that is timely and targeted since the Wi-Fi determines proximity.

Innovate, Test and Evolve

New mobile technologies and methods of communication, as well as shifting in-store dynamics, merit new metrics and different ways of looking at the retail marketing landscape.

Mobile is still considered leading-edge, so success requires a willingness to experiment with various strategies and to see the results through to effectively gauge the next step.

It also necessitates banding together as an industry. Rather than going it alone with just a branded mobile app, for example, many retailers and mall developers are collaborating on mobile strategies that leverage common assets like Wi-Fi to connect with shoppers and offer them tailored value adds — translating into additional reasons to spend more while they are already there.

This includes cloud-based platforms that don’t require system integration but enable retailers to engage with consumers immediately on public Wi-Fi while leveraging the existing digital assets.

Part of thoroughly testing mobile strategies also includes gathering customer engagement data — specifically how and when they’re being influenced and what is actually moving the needle in their shopping patterns. While impossible to gather all data points, gathering these pieces of the story allows marketers to incrementally evolve and improve their mobile strategies.

Regardless of whether retailers are looking to acquire new customers, liquidate inventory or increase the average dollar sale, they must offer a mobile-driven in-store shopping experience that aligns with the mindset of shoppers when they are in buying mode.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Allan Haims, president and CEO of StepsAway, has more than twenty five years of executive and start- up experience in the retail and technology industry. He has been responsible for developing the strategic plans and leading companies in operational roles as President of Wet Seal; Senior Vice President of Disney Stores, Worldwide; V.P. of Merchandising at Victoria’s Secret and V.P. of eCommerce at Interactive Video Technologies. He was a member of the Board of Advisors of Motionbox, Inc. prior to its acquisition by Hewlett Packard. Haims received a Bachelor of Science degree from the School of Management at Boston University.

(Some images used under license from


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