Avert your gaze from your phone for a moment — if you can. If there’s anyone around you, there’s probably a good chance they’re also on their phones. We don’t go anywhere without our smartphones, and that's because we do everything on them — from talking and texting to engaging in consumer content and shopping. But you already know that (and, by the way, your gaze is probably back on your phone).
A lot of the mobile experience is about convenience, that everything consumers need is all in one place. But do mobile phone calls match the quality of a landline call? Nope. Is reading an article on a phone a better experience than reading it on a larger screen or (gasp) in print? Nuh-uh. When it comes to shopping, can mobile platforms replicate, or even improve upon, the brick-and-mortar shopping experience? As it turns out, that one may be possible.
According to recent research, mobile commerce is expected to grow at a more than 30 percent rate through 2022. That projected increase is due, in large part, to the fact that consumers are spending more time than ever before on mobile devices. Late last year, mobile internet usage officially surpassed desktop usage for the first time, as more capable and powerful mobile devices like smartphones and tablets became more widely utilized.
But, while more consumers are heading to mobile retail channels, the personal experience and ability to touch and preview items in-person offered by physical stores still holds allure for roughly 70 percent of shoppers.
As mobile technology continues to progress, platform developers are working to improve the mobile commerce experience to rival physical store locations. And the market is showing interest — and investing —in improved mobile tech.
One platform benefitting from the mobile scramble, NewStore, a Boston-based omnichannel mobile commerce platform provider and software developer, recently received $50 million in Series B financing to help fund efforts to expand its mobile platform’s capabilities and partner with new retailers. In a recent interview, NewStore CEO and founder Stephan Schambach told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster how the company plans to use its platform to make mobile experiences more comparable to brick-and-mortar store visits, and why the future of retail may be all about mobile.
“People aren’t [going] online anymore — they’re online all day,” Schambach said. "They’re online when they’re sleeping, and they’re even online when they go to a brick-and-mortar store, because everyone always has their phones. And, because of that, they expect the experience on their mobile devices to be just as good as the experience in the store.”
Making Mobile Experiential
Schambach said because mobile and digital commerce have become staples of modern consumer behavior, most shoppers now only visit stores if they have a specific need.
Largely gone are the days of window shopping for leisure, or regularly browsing department store fashion sections to check out new style display rotations. These days, more stores are keeping inventory on shelves longer, which means stores are stocking and displaying fewer new items. What’s more, mobile activity has largely replaced in-store browsing and buying. That’s bad news for department stores, Schambach said, which rely on in-store traffic for sales and revenue.
“Consumers do all their research on their smartphones, and they usually have a reason to visit the store,” Schambach said. “Specialty retail will continue to survive, and that’s because they’re providing an experience that gets people in the door in the first place.”
According to Schambach, mobile retailers looking to entice shoppers away from brick-and-mortar stores need to provide experiences that rival in-store service — even the kind of super-personalized attention typical of smaller, specialty shops — or risk losing business to competitors.
Schambach said NewStore’s platform is designed to do just that, by enabling mobile merchants to offer shoppers a personalized experience.
For instance, Schambach cited data indicating consumers are more likely to buy from a native app than a mobile website, because mobile apps typically offer a more personalized consumer experience. Consumers can save their locations to find stores nearby, build profiles that include favorite products to receive personalized promotional offers and access loyalty and rewards programs — all in one place via their mobile devices.
“Shopping has become a streaming activity,” Schambach said. “Consumers want to check inventory, browse products, place orders and write reviews at their own convenience — on a mobile phone. They want to create a shopping experience at any time they want, tailored specifically for them.”
But, compared to simply offering a mobile-ready website, native apps can be expensive and time-consuming to build and maintain, especially when it comes to creating and updating both iOS and Android solutions. Schambach explained NewStore works to help retailers mirror their apps on both iOS and Android platforms, cutting down on the resources required to develop the more personalized experience needed to compete with in-store options.
Moving into the Mobile Commerce Future
Schambach and his team at NewStore are not only trying to rival the experience of specialty stores and other brick-and-mortar locations deliver — they’re trying to top it.
The company is working with retailers to design features and experiences that most brick-and-mortar-only brands cannot offer. In one recent effort, the company partnered with Adidas to deliver cleats to athletes as quickly as possible. To accomplish this, the two companies built an app-exclusive experience that enabled athletes to find a new pair of cleats and, in participating metro areas like London, to set a delivery time (within a four-hour window). Users could also arrange for other personalized experiences, such as booking a fitting with an Adidas expert.
Experiences like this could be setting the stage for the future of mobile commerce. With customization becoming an effort contained to taps on a phone screen, and "real-time" becoming "standard time for fulfillment," there are few scenarios that don’t pose an opportunity for mobile commerce.
While Schambach said retailers are not quite yet offering on-demand delivery through NewStore, it’s the kind of personalized service offering toward which the company is moving closer.
"With our technology, we can do that,” Schambach said. “We’re already using different ingredients and pieces of that with different customers.”
Can personalized mobile experiences replace the necessity for brick-and-mortar stores entirely? Not in the near-future, but if mobile can learn so much from brick-and-mortar retail, it would seem only fitting that brick-and-mortar would want to take a lesson from mobile commerce done right.
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