Now is the Time for Mobile in Retail

For the last 3 years, it has been clear in the industry that mobile marketing and retail were going to intersect in a big way. But this holiday season we saw big waves from Amazon with mobile marketing (see below). Now the National Retail Federation asked where retailer investment was going in 2012 and the answer was clear: mobile retail and marketing. It is clear that now is the time for mobile in retail.

Mobile marketing promises a lot for retailers. Their customers are carrying devices that can educate, locate and even make transactions. With mobile, customers could get the information that may be keeping them from converting to a sale. Retailers can offer targeted coupons and discounts that can be redeemed right instantly from the device. The data from those coupon redemptions can be then used to close the data hole: exactly what marketing dollars brought the person in the store? Mobile can also be used to advertise based on exact location; imagine walking beside Best Buy and your phone reminding you that you needed to pick up that video game for your son, or with future technology, walking down the computer section and getting a message from HP.

Mobile is also a defensive play for brick and mortar retailers from their biggest threat: online retailers. E commerce retailers want to take away in store buyers even while they are walking down the aisles. Online retailers can offer shipping to customer’s doors and better pricing because of lower overhead costs and lower margins. If retailers aren’t connected to their customers through their mobile phones, then their e-competitors will be.

Amazon fired a big shot across the bow of brick and mortar retailers by offering $5 off of their purchases for using their price comparison mobile app. The mobile app called “Price Check” allows customer in store to use bar codes, pictures of products, text and voice commands to see Amazon prices for products they see on shelf.

Clearly retailers need to respond to get in front of threats like that in this new channel; and they seem to be. Now, when the National Retail Federation asked the industry “Which technology should retailers be investing the most in for 2012?” and “mobile retail and marketing” was the clear leader with 41% of the vote. The distant second was in store technology with 28%. Target, Best Buy, Home Depot, Starbucks, Toys ‘R Us and many others have already started. These apps allow the retailers to connect with customer in a variety of ways, from requesting customer service, making a shopping list, scanning QR and standard bar codes, and redeeming coupons.

Shoppers, retailers, and brands alike need to understand and use this new marketing channel, or competitors will be pulling away customers away… by way of their smart phones.


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