Retail mobility solutions: Lessons from 2017 inform 2018’s strategies

By Jonathan Crowl

| Retail

Shoppers surrounded by colorful shopping bags checking their mobile devices.

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Mobile technology has become ubiquitous in retail stores as brands work to build omnichannel experiences, mobile-driven interactions and streamlined, convenient services for their customers. But for all the progress that has been made, there’s still plenty of work to be done.

NewStore’s 2017 Mobile Retail Report gave the industry an overall “C” grade for its success in integrating retail mobility solutions into the customer experience, both online and in stores. While innovation is slow to take root at some organizations, others have simply stagnated in embracing the new mobile solutions that consumers expect when shopping in stores. Only 22 percent of brands covered in the report offer a native shopping app, for example, though NewStore and other retail thought leaders consider such a solution a critical piece of mobile technology.

But despite these stumbling blocks, retail’s mobile adoption continues to move forward. Three emerging trends from over the past year offer some guidance for how retail brands can modernize their strategy and leverage mobile to build success in 2018 and beyond.

The IoT will take center stage in retail innovation

Mobile-connected solutions were one of the biggest retail trends of 2017, and retailers shouldn’t expect that to change in the coming year. Mobile payments solutions, tablet-wielding sales associates, mobile shopping apps with in-store features, mobile-connected digital signage and even smart beauty kiosks are just some of the retail solutions made possible by the Internet of Things.

These solutions will continue to become both more commonplace and more interconnected parts of the retail experience. According to a report from Radial, 37 percent of retailers believe that the IoT is the most important technology that will affect the retail industry in 2018. The types of IoT products that will be making their way into retail environments include inventory-connected CX solutions, supply chain management solutions such as smart shelves and other services that meet the expectations of a mobile-savvy consumer base.

Behavior analytics will drive customer experience development

Analytics has always been important to retailers, but the ability to collect data and leverage it effectively has never been better. Brands are laser-focused on building the most engaging customer experience possible, and the best way to optimize this experience is by using data to better understand customers’ needs and desires.

According to Forrester, retailers in 2017 were focused on breaking down silos between departments and data to build a holistic view of the customer experience through every stage of the buyer journey. The IoT has a role in this: With more mobile-connected devices able to collect customer data both in stores and online, retailers have access to granular data that they could previously only dream of interpreting.

Retailers can drive a better customer experience by using analytics to influence many mobile solutions, such as the use of clienteling technology to track inventories in real-time and make product recommendations to customers as they shop in stores. Behavior analytics covering in-store foot traffic can identify hot spots and dead zones where the store’s sales floor is either succeeding or failing to engage customers. With deep, rich customer data at their disposal, retailers are able to optimize every aspect of the customer experience. This is what innovative brands will be trying to accomplish in 2018.

Mobile payments are becoming the norm

After years of sluggish adoption of mobile payments solutions, retailers are rapidly embracing this technology. As Bloomberg notes, they aren’t just adopting existing mobile payment solutions: Major brands like Walmart and Starbucks are installing their own custom-made mobile payments solutions in their stores, taking ownership of this technology as they modernize the brick-and-mortar space.

Not every enterprise will have the resources, or the desire, to create their own in-house, mobile point-of-sale solutions, but they should be considering how they can simplify the payment process. As mobile payments become more commonplace in 2018, shoppers may have less patience for brands that hesitate to modernize the shopping experience. Security concerns and adoption barriers are no longer acceptable excuses for failing to implement these technologies, so expect these retail mobility solutions to become commonplace across the retail landscape.

After years of resisting the disruption brought on by mobile technology, retailers now realize that adoption is critical to delivering quality customer experiences. Expect 2018’s most successful brands to double down on their commitment to retail mobility.