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Secrets To Building Successful Mobile In-Store Experiences

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AVP Hughes headshotDo you have a mobile in-store experience strategy? Many articles and studies tell us mobile is the greatest technology disrupter in retail since the barcode. At three Retail TouchPoints executive breakfasts in New York City, Dallas and Minneapolis earlier this year, mobile was the hottest topic of discussion. So hot that at one event the presenter never made it past the third slide when mobile strategy was brought up for discussion! The question for retailers remains deceptively simple: How do you build a successful mobile in-store experience that leads to higher conversion rates and larger basket sizes?

A successful mobile experience starts with a well-defined strategy, beginning with a basic choice between mobile app and mobile web. This may lead to questions concerning user interface or device type — are you designing for an iPhone experience or Android? Is it a customer facing or associate driven experience? What features are needed across channels and should they all be delivered at once or over time? Will push notifications be implemented? Keep in mind 86% of mobile users’ time is spent in apps vs. mobile web since April 2014 according to a Flurry Analytics, comScore and NetMarketShare study.

What are the questions retailers forget to ask or simply don’t know they should be asking? The question of app adoption frequently comes up in any discussion of mobile strategy. The usual answer is to offer promotions to entice customers to download the app while in the store. However, this is not as simple as it sounds! What if the download isn’t successful? What if the customer who should have been delighted with a newly minted mobile app experience in the store is now a frustrated shopper who wants to receive an offer but cannot because the app won’t download? A bad mobile experience is far worse than no mobile experience at all!

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How do you avoid this scenario? If the store does not have high quality Wi-Fi for their guests, shoppers must rely on 4G-signal strength in the store. This is a risky proposition in most retail environments! Even when Wi-Fi is available, does it provide enough capacity? Is the network behind the Wi-Fi powerful enough to carry the extra load multiple customer will generate with their devices?

If a customer needs help to enable their device to work in the store, whom will they ask? A store associate, or do they call an 800 number for support? Are your associates trained to respond to this situation? Part of a successful mobile strategy must therefore include multiple layers of technology to deliver a great customer experience. The layers consist of more than just a mobile device and a mobile app! Great Wi-Fi connected to a powerful high-capacity store network is required to satisfy the additional data traffic the experience will generate. Remember that this may be the same network and Wi-Fi infrastructure handling POS transactions and other back office store data! The network must intelligently prioritize the most important data to guarantee the best customer experience. Even a five-second delay on a mobile device screen will seem like an eternity to the customer.

Once the right layers of technology are implemented, the next objective should be the store associate. Studies show that 67% of shoppers say they don’t want to talk to an associate when they enter a store. Why? Shoppers believe they have better access to information through their own mobile devices. The answer for retailers lies in developingthe “connected associate” — a well-trained associate armed with their own mobile device capable of delivering a great mobile experience when engaging a customer!

Retailers should include their associates as part of their mobile strategy. A well-trained associate is a well-informed associate that will only lead to better in-store experiences for customers. They need to be empowered with mobile, but not just by handing them a device and hoping for the best! Retailers, such as Kohl’s, The Container Store, and others have shown that associates who love their job and feel part of a great corporate culture perform better when engaging customers. Your mobile strategy should also include a connected associate strategy — but don’t forget the training element!

When considering the design of a customer facing mobile app, consider the target audience for the app. Often retailers attempt to deliver the maximum functionality possible within their mobile app to address all potential users. Is this the best strategy? Is your most loyal customer going to use the same features in your app as the infrequent shopper who only downloaded your app because of the 10% discount offer posted in the store?

Keeping in mind that overall retail app adoption by smartphone users is extremely low, you must identify exactly who you expect will use your app and deliver those features that will delight them. For example, will your app have an in-store mode with added wayfinding functionality and self-checkout capability? Is your app exclusively designed to drive traffic to your store or is it focused on m-Commerce revenue? The “one app to rule them all” strategy is not always the best one! Consider different apps for your most loyal customers, tied to a loyalty program that rewards them in ways that delight them and app usage in-store will increase — leading to larger transaction values and better conversion rates, if both the layers of technology and connected associate are in place.

Finally, how will success be measured? Apart from the typical goals of higher conversion rates and increasing average transaction values, what metrics will you evaluate to declare success of your mobile experience? And what tools will you use to obtain these measurements? Your mobile strategy should include an analytics solution that can correlate POS transactions, Wi-Fi usage, mobile app access, and possibly even use video to monitor the shoppers’ path through the store. All of these elements will help you properly attribute the influence of your mobile experience on your sales.

Once you have the analytics solution to measure these data points, “connected associates” to engage your customers, and all of the required layers of technology in place — what will you compare your experience to? Shoppers don’t compare your mobile experience to other retailers — they compare to Apple or Uber. Why? Those solutions deliver frictionless experiences that add value to their lives. They make it easy and seamless. They set the standard everyone is compared against. They’ve accomplished this because they have asked the right questions. They’ve implemented all the layers of technology. Their well-trained associates, or drivers, are connected by technology and well informed. They have the analytics to measure their success and compare themselves to others to help them continuously improve the experience. They have mastered the secrets to success. With these secrets in mind — you too will deliver a successful mobile experience!


Ricardo Belmar is responsible for the Enterprise Solutions Group at Hughes, developing enterprise services for Retail, and Hospitality markets. In this role, Belmar develops product/services strategy and market positioning for solutions designed for omnichannel retailers and the “connected restaurant,” focusing on enabling their customer’s digital “in-store” experience. Most recently, he has helped launch new services designed to accelerate access to cloud applications and deliver performance optimized in-store mobility solutions to retailers and restaurant operators through uniquely innovative Hughes technologies.

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