The mobile channel by definition extends retailing to an almost limitless range of touchpoints, since mobile devices bring the store to wherever the customer goes. Yet current trends in mobile retailing center on tying disparate touchpoints closer together using mobile technology.
For example, using tablet devices store associates can check inventories of either an e-commerce site or of other stores to order out-of-stock items for customers, avoiding lost sales. Or using their own smartphones, customers can scan a QR code or bar code of an item and pull up its description on the manufacturer’s home page. Using location-sensing technology, retailers can send customers real-time texts with targeted offers for items in a nearby store, personalizing promoted targets based on a shopper’s online purchase and browsing history.
Beyond tying up the “loose ends” of customer interaction, the overarching trend in mobile retail is immediacy. Everything retailers will try to accomplish with mobile technology in 2014, from eliminating long checkout lines by replacing fixed POS terminals with tablet- and smartphone-based payment, to providing discounts based on real-time factors such as weather, takes advantage of the immediate nature of mobile devices. No other technology allows retailers to reach customers at the exact moment of purchase decision.
Even better, the mobile channel allows retailers to make customers aware of potential purchase opportunities, such as proximity to a nearby store or an individually targeted, limited-time promotion. By bringing touchpoints together in a way that reflects real-time opportunities to make sales and enhance the customer experience, the mobile channel promises to be a powerful source of retail profitability in 2014.