Is Mobile Disrupting or Enhancing Brick-and-Mortar Retail?
Ponder this: “simply put…the much discussed retail apocalypse is [actually] a retail revolution. This is because the store is not dead; it must be reimagined as the hub of a customer-centric model,” said Alexa Driansky and Asher von Stein,1 senior vice presidents at the retail consultancy AlixPartners. This commanding quote conveys a central topic within Logile’s recent blog posts, particularly in reference to the United Kingdom (UK) and global commerce. The major takeaway for readers in those posts was that brick-and-mortar retailers can thrive in an online economy, if they adapt.
To recapture the highlights, our blogging exploration two weeks ago led us to discover how thousands of store closings on the UK’s high street are not death sentences, but rather, they can be rebirths for retailers willing to part ways with old go-to-market strategies in order to pursue organic digital transformation. Last week, Logile blogged on frictionless retail, a concept involving the removal of pain points from a consumer’s in-store experience. Today, we will voyage into a complementing element of the retail revival process known as seamless retail.
At its core, seamless retail means offering customers brand consistency (i.e., reliable information, unswerving pricing, etc.) between physical and digital spaces. In terms of brick-and-mortar reinvigoration, seamless retail encompasses two specific things: omnichannel integration and mobile device synchronization. These are highly intercorrelated, as recent research dictates. According to Deloitte,2 digital interactions impacted 56 cents of every dollar spent in brick-and-mortar stores in 2016, which did not include the influence of online sales. That’s astounding, considering that those interactions have likely increased since that time.
Deloitte2 went on to note there was a digital divide in 2016 between, “experiences that brick-and-mortar retailers are delivering and the experiences their customers actually want.” There has been an overemphasis on matching competitors and an underemphasis on listening to consumer feedback. What do digital natives really want when buying products in person? Opposed to original fears that mobile devices and online buying might demolish the need for brick-and-mortar, experts now see consumers using their devices to enhance in-store experiences. Thus, seamless retail could be the methodology that closes this digital divide for organizations.
Let us momentarily look at the data behind this assertion. In 2017, Sandy Skrovan3 wrote about a customer survey administered by the well-known retail news source Retail Dive. The survey analysis showcased how 603 consumers used their mobile phones while shopping in brick-and-mortar locations. The results “should set off warning bells for retailers and brands. They confirm the importance of offering a seamless and top-notch integrated retail customer experience.” These outcomes are summarized below:
- Nearly 58 percent of consumers researched products or product info while in store, while 54 percent checked prices. Forty percent of consumers accessed or downloaded digital coupons.
- Two-thirds of shoppers under the age of 35 used smartphones while in store, while half of shoppers over 45 used their phones for different reasons.
- Men were more likely to conduct in-store research, while women were more likely to use their phones to find coupons while shopping.
These figures illustrate that a majority of customers are utilizing their devices to make purchasing decisions at physical retail locations. What is next then for retailers in the United Kingdom? Great question. Price Waterhouse Cooper’s (PWC) UK division4 outlined in 2017 how brick-and-mortar retailers can, “win the battle to better attract and retain today’s mercurial shoppers. The underlying theme is to create an immersive, seamless, brand-defining experience for consumers across all channels, one that will keep them coming back.” PWC specifically defined six areas, or battlegrounds, where brick-and-mortar must succeed moving forward: pricing, loyalty, delivery, employee knowledge, mobile and innovation.
There is one area that we at Logile believe PWC missed within its list on successful store attributes and digital transformation: integrated operations. Mobile can be a magnificent tool for helping employees to become more productive and engaged. Devices can also impact systems like inventory and management in positive ways that give customers a more seamless experience. For instance, imagine a consumer traversing through a grocery store in the UK looking for a particular product. A manager quickly engages the customer; she sees this patron desiring particular items, so the manager looks up a coupon on her device.
While the manager is doing this, she gets a mobile alert that a cooler has exceeded its acceptable temperature threshold. Walking to the cooler, the manager sees an out-of-stock item; she messages her associate in the center store department to restock because the retail chain is running a promotion on that good. The manager immediately notices the importance of keeping the item available, thus ensuring future customers get what they need when they need it. In this way, one manager with one device, using a seamless integration of digital and physical information, promoted brand consistency and fantastic experiences for multiple customers.
In ending, there is both evidence and technology available to support the need for an omnichannel and mobile savvy retail environment. Brick-and-mortar retailers no longer need to fear their demise at the hands of online competitors as long as they focus on closing the digital divide between them and their consumers. Overall, mobile can be used in consumer-centric ways, directly and indirectly, to provide a more seamless experience for UK-based and global retailers.
- Driansky, A., & von Stein, A. (2019, April 22). Retail stores to the world: The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated [Blog post]. AlixPartners.com. Retrieved from https://www.alixpartners.com/insights-impact/insights/retail-viewpoint-retail-store-death-greatly-exaggerated/
- Simpson, J., Ohri, L., & Lobaugh, K. M. (2016, September 12). The new digital divide: The future of digital influence in retail [Blog post]. Deloitte.com. Retrieved from https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/industry/retail-distribution/digital-divide-changing-consumer-behavior.html
- Skrovan, S. (2017, June 7). How shoppers use their smartphones in stores [Blog post]. RetailDive.com. Retrieved from https://www.retaildive.com/news/how-shoppers-use-their-smartphones-in-stores/444147/
- Price Waterhouse Cooper UK. (2017). Total retail 2017 [White paper]. PWC.co.uk. Retrieved from https://www.pwc.co.uk/industries/retail-consumer/insights/total-retail-2017.html