Mobile Retail – Great for staff – Fantastic for customers

Read on for a new look at the role of the store, the positive effect Mobile Retail is having on retailers ROI figures and, most importantly, how your essential asset, your sales associates, can become intelligent brand ambassadors.

Why should so much of retail in store be tethered to the till?

For example, the payments we take, and the employee engagement of offering customers the opportunity to become part of the brand community, or the query of stock location. All of this typically happens at a fixed device at the store – and of course, at the end of the customer journey. The majority of retail sales will still occur in a physical store environment approximately 90% with the rest broken out as follows - #1By 2016, Forrester predicts that 0.8% of retail sales will occur via mCommerce and 9.1% of retail sales will occur via eCommerce. As well, Forrester have estimated that…. #2Nearly 40% of retailers have implemented mPOS or have a pilot program in place today, and 79% plan to integrate mPOS by 2015.

This race however, should not simply be about technology and  mPOS. It is about complete mobility in the store – that is to say, mobile access to information – and re-thinking the role of the sales associates.

Why should so much of retail in store be non-digitised?

Leading retailers today must plan for enabling intelligent brand ambassadors. Sales associates must have access to brand content, customer and product information at a level that is higher than that which the customer has, which may be harder than you think, due to the customer being able to obtain this information from their peers, the brand website and their own account information.  Note, these brand ambassadors are also sitting in customer service, with the same needs as their store colleagues.

#3Forrester Research, Inc. has mapped how digital technologies in the store can connect shoppers and associates through the complete customer journey from discover, to explore, buy and engage. These digital technologies are mainly about accessing information from a mobile device – such as stock + location look up, clienteling tools, mobile POS & payment, and access to web-based content. #4”Most european customers when seeing a sales associate equipped with a mobile device expect price checking, store inventory look up, technical queries as the top 3 areas that should be addressed to meet their needs.”

In high-touch retail (where customer engagement at the store is essential pre-sale, or where it could become transformational and a competitive advantage), the workforce should have technology in the store that is agile – easy to use, and both role and function-based. The workforce should be enabled to do more than ‘simply end the journey’. So what could that look like?

Sales associates should be better informed about the brand, with access to the online blog, look book, my styler, magazine, video content and access also to tweets and Facebook posts. This is the pulse of the brand and the sales associates should be representing the same product knowledge and company ethos as the website.

But at a personal level – what could be better? An even more powerful engagement would be omni-channel recommendations served up to the sales associates – based on complete customer spend across web and store…

However, to keep it simple, the sales associates must have access to key customer information, and be able to start at the beginning, for instance, register browsers in the store (even if they never make it to the till). One of our customers ran a mobile in-store customer capture programme and due to the clienteling technology we were able to increase email capture at the store over the heavy Christmas period (when most of their customers shopped) by 200% compared to the previous Christmas. What better way to begin the acquire, convert, cultivate lifecycle than with people browsing in your store!

So what kind of returns can retailers derive from mobile retail?

Our client, Cole Haan found that amongst many in-store clienteling programmes the simple ‘Thank You’ programme generated incremental revenue in the first six months – which in itself, covered the full cost of the clienteling technology, implementation and business process change management. In the UK, one of our fashion group customers found that implementing mPOS in the main, for queue busting and customer capture, decreased capital costs by 25%. How? By putting one fixed till and three mobile at pilot stores instead of three fixed tills. Another retailer with 100+ stores, had a 23% increase in sales due to upsell and faster checkout using mPOS. And yet another retailer almost ten times the size of the previous, with over 20K mobile devices across the retail estate made over US$1 billion(Euro€0.7b/Sterling£0.6b) sales on the mobile device, the majority of sales that they believe may never have happened due to queues in busy periods.

The theory is sound, the numbers are compelling, and so too is feedback from customers such as: ‘I was out in no time’; ‘Giving my information on an iPad is so much better than a postcard – it won’t be lost!’; ‘The woman who served me was able to run a short film clip on her iPad of how the leather is formed on the handbag I was buying, why it is so soft – it was so interesting’; and ‘I couldn’t believe that the person I asked in the men’s department was able to answer a question I had about the blouse I was carrying from the women’s department – whether it was available in another store in my size. He looked it up, found it, and I bought it for delivery to my house. Amazing!’


Mobile retail is the way forward for high-touch retailers – the challenge is focusing on business objectives for your mobile initiative, and ensuring the pilot a) allows for creativity (be careful with what you lock down – you will be amazed what phenomenal uses your pilot sales associate will find that directly improves operational efficiency) and b) measures the return on those identified objectives.

Citations: #3,#4 Forrester Research, Powering the Agile Store, June 2013,

#1,#2 Forrester Research, Market Overview Mobile Point of Service Solutions for Retail, Sept 2013.

Tanya Bowen, Director, CRM Loyalty & Clienteling, BT Expedite


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