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Embracing mobile: How smartphones enable the store

Smartphones are a constant resource for shoppers before, during and after trips

Last week I attended New York University’s Mapping Mobile conference to discuss the role that smartphones play in deepening retailers’ engagement with their shoppers.

Using retailer examples from the United States, England, and Canada, my presentation focused on how this device is being turned into a constant resource for shoppers before, during, and after their trips.

To be clear, shopping with a smartphone is becoming quite common. Kantar Retail’s ShopperScape survey data found that one in five holiday shoppers used their devices to shop for gifts during the last holiday season. As the utility of mobile apps and tools increases, we expect this behaviour to accelerate.

One particularly useful trip-planning tool is Target’s Cartwheel app, which launched in the United States earlier this year. It works by allowing shoppers to see what deals are trending, share offers with friends, and load coupons on their phone to scan at checkout. This adds convenience and eliminates the need to search for and clip out paper coupons to bring to the store.

And shoppers are responding, as it already has more than two million users.

Other developments involve capturing sales in the store.

Last year Tesco offered a kiosk in its toy department to help shoppers browse its entire assortment digitally; expanding on the store’s selection. The kiosk let users order online-only toys via their mobile device on the spot, effectively intercepting shoppers while they were looking to buy in-store.

We’re also seeing creative tools being used to maintain ongoing connections with shoppers. One example is Walgreens’ Steps with Balance Rewards program. Aligned with the retailer’s brand, it incents users to achieve their self-selected health goals, such as jogging more often. Shoppers can track their progress on the app and earn points redeemable in-store as they advance.

These efforts are only getting started.

Looking ahead, we expect to see mobile tools become more personalized, further accounting for past shopping behaviours and preferences to hone suggestions and rewards.

Smartphones will also let interactions become more contextualized, accounting for a shopper’s location and the time of day before presenting offers.

Moreover, as the device is used across the shopping experience, retailers’ understanding of how to appeal to their audience will become much more sophisticated, helping those who to successfully navigate this space to deepen and differentiate their connection with customers.

E-mail at Robin.Sherk@KantarRetail.com to discuss this topic more or for a copy of the presentation.

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