Almost everyone has one. You can launch infuriated fowl at devious swine with them. And they provide the missing link between virtual and physical worlds. The mobile phone may seem an unlikely saviour, but with the right technology in place in-store, it could give retailers a real edge.
The death of the High Street has been prophesied for a while now. Globalisation and the growth of online shopping have squeezed traditional retailers – and we’ve seen a raft of closures and changes on the High Street in recent years.
At the moment, experts suggest multichannel retailers have two options:
- jettison the physical stores
- jump on the showrooming bandwagon – and sell online
But there is a third way; bringing the benefits of the web in-store.
Because, the fact is, people still like to go shopping. The difference now is that, when they do, they expect to get all the benefits they’d get online – access to a full range of products, real-time stock availability, instant access to product information and price comparisons, no queues, quick checkout and multiple delivery options.
Mobile technology can give customers all of this in-store, while at the same time improving customer service and providing retailers with new ways to sell.
We’re already seeing it in action at retail frontrunners such as Oasis, which has introduced iPads and mobile points of sale to its stores. Liz Evans, the company’s managing director, explains: “Using iPads is a fun and more practical way of shopping. People don’t have to queue and can buy anywhere on the shop floor. They can also look things up online and take pictures of themselves when trying on clothes. We are making shopping more fun, intuitive and innovative. In our first week of operation, iPad transactions accounted for 20 per cent of sales.”
It’s not just customers that benefit from the “webification” of the store. Mobile devices also empower store staff. They can instantly get their hands on enhanced product information or access training materials, planograms and store dashboards. All in all it means they can spend more time with customers on the shop floor selling, instead of in the back office searching.
The tablets themselves can be fully mobile or docked in secure holders to act either as a customer-facing kiosk or a more traditional staff-facing till. And with intuitive ‘pinch and swipe’ touchscreen gestures now the norm – both store staff and customers adapt quickly to new devices.
Of course, the next stage will be sharing information between customer and staff devices. So rather than handing a tablet back and forth between store staff and customers, in the near future the shared experience will move between store tablets and customer smartphones, ‘throwing’ content or payment between devices.
The fact that you can access product information, check stock, order goods and take payment from just one handheld device, while roaming round the store, is also reshaping store layouts, with less need for great banks of tills. Instead we’re seeing less formal “touchdown points” dotted around the store where customers can pay and have products wrapped etc. The result is more stock and display space in store.
If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of mobile technology in-store we’re hosting an event at BT Tower on 24 October 2012. The details are still being finalised, but we’ll have two high profile retailers as guest speakers, sharing their experiences, and our experts and partners will be there with a wealth of practical advice via our technology demonstration showcase at the top of the BT Tower.
Posted by Charleen Benson, Head of Consulting Services, BT Expedite