This article originally appeared in the Jan. 2011 issue of InfoTECH SPOTLIGHT
A recent Accenture (News - Alert) retail survey reveals that face-to-face customer service, circular coupons and advertising, and PC-accessed online promotions are fast losing ground to a new tool that encourages customers to spend money. The “Retailing in an Era of Mobility,” Accenture survey of 1,000 customers in 10 countries, shows that the modern shopper is quickly adopting a new key to his or her respective retail experience: the smartphone.
A few statistics from the survey shed light on what customers expect from the modern retail experience:
· Seventy-nine percent of those surveyed would find it useful to download money-off coupons on their phones (as opposed to 48 percent who would download these coupons from their PCs);
· Seventy-three percent of customers surveyed would like to receive instant money-off coupons as they pass by an item in a store;
· Seventy-three percent of those surveyed favor using a smartphone to handle simple tasks, compared to 15 percent who favor interaction with an employee, and;
· Seventy-one percent favor using a smartphone to identify a store with a desired item in stock, while only 17 percent would prefer to get that information by speaking to an employee.
A Single Tool for Shopping Ease
One thing has always been true: Customers love a good bargain. But in an iPhone (News - Alert)/Android application world, customers are no longer interested in looking so far and wide in order to have a satisfactory shopping experience. They want their experience across store, mobile and online landscapes to be seamless. And beyond that, customers crave a single point of impact that provides instant knowledge of the retail information universe.
This trend will ultimately lead to a new definition of the store. Purpose, place and size are all up for debate. For years we’ve seen shoppers that treat stores more like showrooms, inspecting products in person before going home, getting online and making the actual purchase online. The smartphone is quickly erasing the gap, giving customers instant access to coupons and offers that are tailored to their needs, and the ability to comparison shop right in the store. In the future, customers will be able to make purchases instantly by waving their phone in front of a product, use their phone to pay, and, and simultaneously earn loyalty points and discounts.
A New Tool for Building Customer Loyalty
Mobility adds a new and powerful dimension to customer loyalty, couponing and vouchering programs – especially if these initiatives can be integrated with mobile payment capabilities. It enables companies to get their brands and services in front of customers any time a mobile device is in use. Unlike a card sitting unseen in a purse or wallet, and unlike sales offers that come through the post or e-mail, a mobile loyalty program can deliver incentives to consumers wherever they are, targeting them for timely promotions and even reaching them when they are in physical proximity to a retail location.
Consider a scenario in which consumers receive a notification via smartphone (an SMS message or an email) with a coupon link. They open the mobile application and download the coupon, which appears as a picture on their mobile display. They then instantly purchase this product by swiping the phone over a bar-code on the product. In a sense, the phone has become both a mobile wallet and a mini loyalty program epicenter. If knowledge is power, instant updates on coupons, bargains, and easy information on product is a sure way to provide customers a quick, efficient shopping experience with little effort or hassle.
A Final Word
Companies that successfully integrate the location-based services, commerce, payment and other capabilities of the smartphone into their traditional businesses stand to gain significant competitive advantage over the coming years. There is little doubt that this is the direction in which the retail industry is headed. Those who are not quick to embrace this trend, and the technology that is ushering it along, will find themselves with full shelves but less-than-crowded stores.
Lisa Mitnick is senior executive, Mobility Services, at Accenture.