Mobility 101

Taking steps to make stores mobile-ready

While a Web presence is a prerequisite to doing business in the 21st century, the fact that 77% of consumers are now using tablet computers or smartphones to shop is forcing retailers to rethink their digital strategies, according to a survey from online price comparison engine PriceGrabber. Realizing this is not a decision to be taken lightly, retailers need to take steps to ensure that mobility can be an opportunity, and not a threat, to their business.

“There is a dramatic surge in mobile shopping,” said Graham Jones, general manager of Los Angeles-based PriceGrabber. “As smartphone and tablet computer usage becomes increasingly common, consumers embrace mobile as a go-to shopping platform since it can be easily accessed anywhere, anytime.”

The breadth of mobility moves far beyond simply allowing conducting purchasing transactions. Whether looking to more intimately connect with consumers, empower shoppers and store associates, or increase the speed of consumer interaction, mobility is clearly primed to revolutionize the retail experience.

Before chains can reap these and other benefits, however, they need to get their stores mobile-ready. Here are some basic steps to creating a successful mobile strategy:

• Establish a secure wireless network. Mobile devices, especially consumers’ personal units, are beacons for hackers. As such, retailers must be proactive to establish robust, secure wireless connections at store level. Attention should be paid to tokenization and PCI compliance to protect sensitive customer information and mobile payments moving between devices, retailer-specific apps and firewalls.

• Support multiple devices and operating systems. While iPhones are all the rage, they only comprised 28% of the market at the end of the third quarter of 2011, according to The Nielsen Company, New York City. Android’s operating system accounted for 43% of the market (an unprecedented jump from 9% in 2010), and 18% of smartphone users accessed a RIM BlackBerry operating system.

Chains must be mindful to ensure their mobile platform supports all hardware options. They also must deploy device-specific user interfaces and middleware that can detect online traffic patterns and the browsers that access retailers’ mobile sites.

• Integrate mobile into existing shopping channels. Consumers expect — and deserve — a consistent shopping experience regardless of the channel they visit or customer touch point they use. This factor will become mission critical as more chains adopt an omni-channel retailing strategy.

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