Over the past few years we have witnessed unprecedented growth in mCommerce. If you have anything to do with retail but are not already engaged in mCommerce in some way then apparently the future is bleak.

Most mCommerce activities and trend data seems to be predicated on consumer use of mobiles to buy over the web. According to IMRG over half of the UK adult population now have smartphones or tablets. Recent statistics suggest that over 50% of smartphone and tablet owners are accessing retailer's web stores and brands via mobile internet.

This growth has driven an enormous, rapidly changing market for Apps and a plethora of payment methods. However, this only addresses part of the market - the use of consumer devices for shopping by those who prefer the convenience of shopping via a tablet or smartphone rather than their PC or use their devices for price comparison to get the best deal. This part of the market is well served by countless Apps and promotional tools, with payment choices catching up. The use of retailer owned in-store mobile enablement has sadly fallen far behind. The vast majority of retail transactions still occur in the store. Why is it then that the use of mobile technology within the store environment to enhance the customer experience is still relatively untapped and immature?

For in-store mobile to be effective it really needs to focus on enhancing the customer experience and addressing the key issues that get in the way of a great shopping experience, namely:

  • Selling from web in store
  • Completing transactions in store that started in a different channel
  • Resolving out of stock situations
  • Accurate and timely re-ordering
  • Taking payments
  • De-tagging and bagging
  • Effective use of workflow to enhance the user experience through pre-defined journeys
  • Presenting a customer (and retailer) friendly user interface to simplify and enhance the shopping experience

From the retailer's perspective, mobile needs to address the key drivers of:

  • Store staff become more effective and efficient
  • Driving promotions across channels
  • Increasing sales & margins
  • Adding brand value and loyalty

There have been a number of in-store mobility pilots, many of which seem to have been predicated on "I need an iPad in my store, find me a problem that this is the solution to". These pilots have often been fraught with issues, the biggest of which has been theft or damage of the iPads and has led to mobile solutions being bolted down, which seems to defeat the object.

Also, many of today's pilots have been hastily integrated in order to get something out quickly. Consequently they can end up having a negative impact on the customer or staff experience. Sales, cash, products, promotions and stock details may not all be applied in a fully integrated manner meaning that the customer experience via the mobile solution is not the same as that at the till. Frequently, the retailer has to apply manual adjustment at head office in order to reconcile the actual store stock and sales positions. This may be OK from a pilot perspective but is not a scalable solution.

The other key challenge around the deployment of mobile solutions is access to the basic enabling technologies. A good WiFi or 3G/4G signal is imperative to make any mobile solution work well in stores. Retailers with 1st and 2nd generation WiFi are unlikely to find these adequate for mobile. Nothing spoils a customer experience more than devices going offline because you have moved into a communication dead spot!

In order to really apply in-store mobility in an effective manner and to drive real enhancement of the customer experience, it is imperative to start from a position of really understanding what customer journeys you are actually trying to address. From a mobile perspective there isn't really a one size fits all solution. The technology and workflow that you apply for Q-busting may be totally different for what is applicable for clienteling or personal shopping. How will you ensure that the application you present to your store staff or customer is on brand, easy to use, gives the same experience as other technologies in store and really adds value? It's the customer experience that really matters.

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