Merchant Innovation

12 Retailers Innovating With Mobile

“Mobile blurs the on and offline worlds, making it possible for everything with a physical component to have an online component … Having the ability to communicate with consumers in real time during their shopping journey is something that merchants have never been able to do, and with that comes both power and responsibility – the power to influence sales, and the responsibility to be relevant.”

Identified as one of Karen Webster’s “Six Things That Will Change The Future of Payments” in August 2013, the retail revolution, powered by mobile, is already well underway. As recent headlines show, savvy retailers are embracing the concept with open arms heading into the holidays.

Today’s forward-thinking retailers are following Webster’s best practices, harnessing mobile to drive consumers into physical stores, provide a consistent, unified experience among shopping channels and cut down on queue issues at the point of sale (POS).

In our first “12 Days of Christmas” feature, we’re bringing you a recap of this ongoing trend, as told through the successes, and failures, of the retail companies that are working to invent the next-generation shopping experience today:

1. Macy’s – One of the retail stores that’s most aggressively moving toward multi- and omnichannel, Macy’s has revealed a host of new initiatives in the last two months. However, first and foremost may be its pioneering of Apple’s potentially game-changing iBeacon Bluetooth low-energy technology service.

iBeacon sends Shopkick app users special push notifications via mobile, including discounts, deals and rewards, the very things Webster has suggested will be the ingredients to the retail world of tomorrow.

In addition, Macy’s has moved to promote a unity among its channels in other areas, revealing that it is testing in-store pickup and bringing its static catalogs, magazine ads and billboards to life through integration with visual recognition technology specialist NantMobile.

2. Nordstrom – Nordstrom has been on a mission to revamp its image by investing heavily in the retail revolution, showing that it’s ready to take chances in the sometimes volatile space. For instance, it’s June investment in the now-defunct Wantful is an example of its enthusiasm for mobile and its willingness to go this extra mile.

The Seattle-based fashion retailer has seen more success on the social front. It recently announced it would begin using Pinterest to inform its in-store merchandising decisions, which subsequent reports suggest could further engage an already robust social audience.

Nordstrom finished third in terms of social word-of-mouth, a metric designed to assess social web chatter, for the first three weeks of November, trailing only Walmart and Amazon in the category.

3. Hointer – Unless you’re a Mobile Payments Insider or you were lucky enough to attend our free discussion with its CEO Nadia Shouraboura, Hointer may feel like a bit of an unknown on this list, but there’s a reason it’s in the same league. With its innovative retail concept that harnesses mobile to rethink the dressing room experiences, Hointer is truly turning heads.

While a quick web search doesn’t yield much in terms of use just yet, if it’s recent partnership with Levi’s goes well , we’re sure you’ll be hearing more about the company as it looks to revitalize retail shopping with a mobile concept that could be a white-label success.

4. Coach – Coach is finding an unlikely between high fashion and high-tech with its recent moves. The New York-based retailer recently unveiled a new retail concept, redrafted to fit the mobile experience, when on November 25, it announced its staff would begin using iPad minis to complete transactions and help answer customer questions to improve customer experience.

Going forward, the retailer plans to forego traditional registers altogether to maximize floor space, a move that, if successful, could convince more retailers to do the same.

5. Staples – Staples has been a bit quiet in recent weeks, if only because it’s been ahead of the mobile curve. The Massachusetts-based office supply specialist showed its willingness to embrace innovation this March with a move that arguably helped move omnichannel from a concept to something actionable when it announced 1,500 redesigned stores that would capitalize on mobile apps and mPOS

Since then, Staples has continued to be at the forefront of the retail revolution, revamping its mobile app for cross-channel selling, expanding its eCommerce service and speaking about it at PYMNTS Summer School 2013, while its competitors strived to keep up .

6. Target – With a reputation as the hipster’s Walmart, it’s not exactly a surprise that Target would move to embrace channels that many millennials use, but it’s shown a willingness to embrace new and novel forms of commerce, provided other retailers have paved the way.

Following Nordstrom’s lead it debuted its “Awesome Shop” on December 9, an online storefront powered by Pinterest, and on September 27, it announced “Target Subscriptions,” widely viewed as its answer to Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program.

Target has also worked to bring more shoppers into the mobile fold, targeting parents with a special app push earlier this November.

7. Best Buy – 2013 might go down in history as the year Best Buy avoided its Blockbuster fate. The Minnesota-based retailer openly defied showrooming with a steady mix of price-match guarantees and online promotions that encouraged shoppers to convert in store through any channel, and rode this success to a head-turning third-quarter earnings report.

And it’s invested heavily in the main vehicle that will best allow this transition, its mobile app, updating it in July and totally revamping it in September specifically to improve the in-store shopping experience.

8. Warby Parker – Warby Parker made a bit of an unconventional move this past June when it revealed it would be building its own mPOS solution, a decision that, as MPD CEO Karen Webster attested to, didn’t exactly lead to accolades from the experts.

The verdict is still out on Warby Parker’s decision, but whether it propels the eyewear specialist ahead of its competition or ensures it lags behind, the result will provide a lasting lesson to the industry as it looks to make the mobile shift.

9. Kmart/Sears – Kmart and Sears, both owned by Sears Holdings Corporation, were early proponents of mobile. The companies jointly launched an in-store POS system in October 2012 and Kmart added new payments functionalities to its app in July.

Both retailers were well-prepared for the shift, launching app updates in October , but the moves, while early, haven’t been enough to encourage multi-channel shoppers, or so the headlines would suggest. Sears Holding announced on November 25 that both chains could see stores close in 2014, and revealed on December 7 that it plans to spin off Lands’ End, proving that just any mobile solution might not be enough.

10. Apple – While not a traditional retailer, Apple does have retail stores, and plenty of them, and it’s using them as innovation labs for mobile products that could reshape the landscape for years to come. On December 6, it launched its iBeacon service in 245 Apple stores nationwide in what could prove to be a great way to test its nascent tech before it rolls out to more stores.

11. Victoria’s Secret – There’s no better channel for discretion than mobile, which may be one reason why it placed high on 2012’s list of top mobile retailers by customer experience, trailing only big names like Apple and Amazon.

With its mobile approach already appealing to customers, it’s still moved to improve the service in 2013, launching a mobile augmented reality function this October, that could help win even more fans and set the bar for other clothing companies in the same swoop.

12. Toys “R” Us – While Target and Amazon might expect to have mobile-savvy shoppers, Toys “R” Us was an unlikely entry on a recent list that ranked the mobile intelligence of retail customer bases.

The results go to show that retailers of all shapes, sizes and demographics are finding success with mobile, and that the platform will be nimble enough to accommodate this variety in the years to come.

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The July 2019 Pay Advances: The Gig Economy’s New Normal, a PYMNTS and Mastercard collaboration, examines pay advances – full or partial payments received before an ad hoc job is completed – including how gig workers currently use them and their potential for future adoption.

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