Retailers: Your Customers Rely On Mobile, Yet Your Apps Suck

By Madeleine Popp | Apr 23, 2015

Today’s customers are multitaskers. They may be physically present in your store, but they are also fully immersed in their mobile worlds. Mobile has become an important accessory to our purchase processes. The ability to access valuable purchase information on-the-go has made us incredibly thoughtful customers. Before even placing a foot into your store, chances are we have done some online research, read some product reviews, searched inventory and maybe even honed in on a couple items we want to purchase. Knowing we have the capabilities to access that information as we shop, empowers us.

Retailers Need To Know

There are some incredible statistics retailers need to know about the use of mobile in store, as well as in the purchase process. According to a Google Research Study:

  • 90% of smartphone shoppers use their phone for pre-shopping activities
  • Mobile use in stores is not category specific
  • Instead of going directly to a site or app, 82% of shoppers use search engines for browsing product information while in-store
  • Frequent mobile shoppers spend 25% more in-store than people who only occasionally use a mobile phone to help with shopping
  • 1 in 3 shoppers use their smartphones to find information instead of asking store employees

Mobile Is A Must

Mobile is no longer an opportunity for retailers – it’s a must. Retailers struggle with delivering an application to their customers that adds value and simplifies their shopping experience. Many applications frustrate the customer and are poorly designed. Application interactions that frustrate users can include: links that take you out of the application, slow loading, crashing, a lack of features and poor design.

Retailers with applications that have high ratings from consumers are: Amazon, Walgreens, CVS, Nordstrom, 7-Eleven, Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Apple and Zappos. Let’s look at why they are loved and most importantly, used. Here are some of their overlapping qualities.

They are..

  1. “Doing the basics efficiently” (Forbes)
  2. Easy to use
  3. Useful!
  4. Simplifying the shopping experience in some way
  5. Shortening the shopping experience

Brick and Mortar: Here To Stay

The physical retail experience isn’t going anywhere. Technology can never replace the sensory shopping experience. There is something to be said about seeing, touching and trying on items. The immediate gratification we receive from being able to buy items and take them home right away is something e-commerce will always lack. However, to remain competitive with e-commerce, retailers must employ technologies that surprise and enchant customers to keep them coming back.

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Big name retailers are experimenting with these types of technologies and are trying to get ahead of the curve. One retailer is Target: “..after Target ran a pilot all summer at 44 stores, it discovered shoppers were using their phones to ask lots of typical retail questions, like “do you have it?” and “where can I find it?””(Geekwire) As a result, in September of last year, Target released a new mobile app, just in time for the holidays. One notable feature was “shopping list”, which provides aisle locations of items on your list, whether they are generic or name brand, i.e. “peanut butter” or “JIF”. Target has also implemented “digital tablet kiosks”, helping their customers better locate inventory and find assistance.

Another retailer, Macy’s, also made a big announcement in September of last year. They are expanding the use of their Shopkick-powered iBeacons to all stores nationwide. Thus far, it is the largest beacon deployment in retail, with over 4,000 iBeacons being installed. “We are a multi-faceted retailer with stores, technology, Internet capability and mobile access that come together for our customers,” said Macy’s CEO Terry J. Lundgren, in a statement. “They are at the center of all our decisions, and our ongoing research and development will continue to help us understand how to personally engage with them.”

An Iterative Process

Retailers are always looking for new ways to better engage with their customers, which is a constant process. Implementing a mobile solution is no different. You will continue to refine as you learn. Mobile is a relational tool, but retailers should remember that the applications that get used have utility. We emphasize this frequently, but performing user research is essential, whether you are redesigning an application or creating one. The majority of retailers are relying on assumptions about their users or frankly not investing enough effort into their applications. You can no longer afford to that.

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