Are retail businesses ready for the smart-phone revolution?

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The advent of smart-phones is revolutionizing the retail industry. During this year’s all-important holiday shopping season, the brick-and-mortar retailers that are best equipped to engage shoppers on their smartphones will be the big winners. That’s because more shoppers than ever before will be using smartphones to assist their holiday shopping and make purchases.

Thanks to a recent survey conducted by the CFI Group, retailers can gain valuable insight into how to satisfy the desires of cross-channel shoppers. The CFI Group’s 2014 Holiday Retail Spending Report points to a dramatic rise in the number of mobile transactions as well as the importance of retailers offering shoppers a fully integrated cross-channel shopping experience.

Mobile Commerce is Booming

Following the lead of online shopping, mobile commerce is booming. The 2014 Holiday Retail Spending Report reveals that the number of consumers who used their smartphone to make a purchase in the previous six months climbed 11% over 2013 to 70%. Of those shoppers who have made purchases on their smartphone, 41% of them reported that they plan to use their smartphone even more in 2015 for shopping.

The lesson here is clear. It’s time for retailers to offer robust mobile shopping features to consumers. During the dawn of online shopping, retailers scrambled to build ecommerce websites. Now, they must turn their focus to mobile.

Retailers Aren’t Yet Prepared for the Mobile Commerce

Even though smartphone usage in the U.S. has almost reached the point of being universal, most retailers are not prepared to capitalize on the trend towards mobile commerce. The 2014 Holiday Retail Spending Report offers several important facts about smartphone usage while shopping:

 

  • Nearly 70% of shoppers in the U.S. own a smartphone
  • 57% of smartphone owners say they use them while shopping in stores
  • 54% of shoppers use both mobile commerce sites and apps on their smartphones
  • 53% of shoppers report that their smartphones aren’t as helpful as they’d like

While consumers are raring to explore the shopping world with their smartphones, retailers are not ready to handle this mobile commerce revolution. It is interesting to note that out of 70% of US consumers that own a smart-phone, 57% of them use their smartphones to shop within the store. Among them, 53% consumers report that their mobile shopping experience was not satisfactory. The brighter side of this report is that this value has decreased from 61% to 53% this year.

The prime reason for this dissatisfaction is the lack of efforts from the retail businesses in providing ecommerce solutions. Retail businesses need to develop mobile optimized websites and apps to deliver rich and consistent end-user experience to consumers. Website designing elements such as usability and responsive designing needs be taken care. With a rich usability feature, consumers can easily navigate through different options and complete a transaction. The smartphone revolution has brought a versatile range of smartphones into the market. You never know which device a consumer uses to visit a website. Providing consistent end-user experience across all devices is a challenge. Responsive designing effectively answers this challenge.

Data Security Remains a Major Concern for Shoppers

Highly publicized reports of consumer data breaches at major retailers have made mobile shoppers fearful. In 2013, 34% of consumers said they didn’t want to make a purchase using their handheld device because they were not comfortable with the security of the transaction. In 2014, that number rose to 42%.

Security is a crucial factor holding back mobile commerce. Only after retailers demonstrate to shoppers that their data will be safe will retailers be able to benefit fully from the mobile commerce boom.

What Mobile Shoppers Want Most

One of the major challenges retail stores face is that their focus still tends to be more on facilitating transactions than meeting the actual needs of shoppers. After discussing the growing value shoppers place on the ability to use their smartphones while shopping, the 2014 Holiday Spending Report identifies shopper’s top three desires:

  • 60% check online pricing
  • 63% check pricing at other local stores
  • 52% read online reviews and recommendations

 

In addition to data security, retailers must do more to satisfy the expressed needs of shoppers. Making it easy to shop on mobile devices is an entirely separate issue from giving shoppers the tools they want to use while shopping.

Are Retail stores making the most of Wi-Fi?

Today, retail businesses need a holistic mobile strategy that handles online and in-store mobile commerce needs.  The CFI Group holiday shopping report also reveals that 63% of shoppers check pricing at other local stores. To effectively cater to this audience, retail businesses have to augment their online digital marketing strategies with in-store Wi-Fi access.

 

To provide the optimal customer experience in the store, businesses need to deploy a state-of-art Wi-Fi hardware that is coupled with a legally complaint Wi-Fi landing page, 24/7 support and an optimal engagement platform.

In a reflection of the growing importance of mobile-powered in-store shopping experiences, Target has acquired Powered Analytics, a startup that focuses on personalizing in-store shopping through mobile technology, location data and predictive analytics. Having a strong mobile in-store experience is becoming increasingly important for retailers, especially mass merchants. Using Wi-Fi, iBeacons, product search, and in-store navigation, Target will soon be able to offer shoppers a real-world experience that is similar to shopping on Amazon.com.

As shoppers rely more and more on smartphones, it’s up to retailers to find new ways to attract and retain shoppers by satisfying their mobile shopping needs.

For more information on Wi-Fi trends or to subscribe to our free newsletter, please visit www.wi-fi360.com

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Mr. Fellah, is a Senior Analyst and founder of Maravedis with 20-year experience in the wireless industry. He authored various landmark reports on Wi-Fi, LTE, 4G and technology trends in various industries including retail, restaurant and hospitality. He is regularly asked to speak at leading wireless and marketing events and to contribute to various influential portals and magazines such as RCR Wireless, 4G 360, Rethink Wireless, The Mobile Network, Telecom Reseller to name a few. He is a Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA) and Certified Wireless Technology Specialist (CWTS).