Even the most omnichannel-savvy brick-and-mortar retailers have several justifiable fears about the rise of mobile in just about every path to purchase. Whether consumers are just taking the first steps of product research or are comparing prices standing in store aisles themselves, the pocket-sized smartphone is becoming an increasingly large factor in how and where consumers decide to pull out their pursestrings.
And while it might seem like a world of mobile-addicted shoppers is one where B&M brands can only play catch up, a few tweaks to already extant apps could turn mobile into one of physical retail's strongest tools.
The story starts with Macy's, a retailer that knows plenty about the struggles that have befallen some of the strongest in-store brands around. The department store recently parted ways with its CEO, and in the obligatory period afterward where a new direction must be chosen for the sake of sales and shareholders alike, Macy's finally took their first step on Tuesday (June 28) with a seemingly minor announcement: the debut of a version of its official app meant to be used in stores. With a tap, users can switch between mobile app and in-store app, the latter of which offers a more prominent scanning button and other design changes that group vice president of digital media strategy Serena Potter believes will make mobile a tool for in-store retailers rather than a liability.
“At Macy’s, we truly see our app as a customer’s in-store shopping companion,” Potter told Mobile Commerce Daily. “We’ve built-in a lot of great features over the years to help enhance our customer’s shopping experience. From scanning a product to understand the latest price to product reviews, offers, store availability and more. With In Store Mode, we are able to further highlight these features, customized to the particular store they are visiting. In addition, the latest version of the App provides enhancements to how offers in a user’s wallet are presented, along with their Plenti points balance, creating a more personalized experience for the consumer.”
The actual changes implemented by Macy's might not be enough to incite an in-store mobile revolution, but the willingness to embrace mobile as something that customers already use is an excellent application of the "if you can't beat them, join them" principal. Retailers like Macy's that offer customers a personalized way of interacting with their stores through proprietary mobile apps are that much more likely to keep said shoppers from digitally wandering to the next best price or the next flashy ad on their phones when merchants have already gone through all the trouble of getting them in the store in the first place.
The need to offer customers a customized mobile experience is borne out in the research, too. According to a recent study conducted by DMI, four of the top five things customers prefer to do with mobile retail apps while in-store (accessing coupons, taking photos of products, checking shopping lists and scanning barcodes) are all related to seeking or accessing more information about the retailer whose store they're already in. While there's sure to be plenty of consumers who are just as willing to jump ship if the time is right, there's a clear segment of consumers calling for deeper digital experiences on their phones while they walk the aisles of their favorite retailers.
“The reality is shoppers have made it known that they value convenience over most things,” Maya Mikhailov, CMO at GPShopper, told Mobile Commerce Daily. “By making their stores more convenient and easy to shop in, it’s an important step forward in revitalizing their in-store retail strategy.”