How to provide a personalized mobile retail experience: 3 critical steps

By Jonathan Crowl

| Retail

How to provide a personalized mobile retail experience for customers

The new year has barely begun, but retailers are already making plans to dramatically reshape the shopping landscape — literally. According to Business Insider, more than 3,600 brick-and-mortar retail stores across the country are scheduled to close this year.

These store closings are a sign of the times for the retail industry: As consumers turn to online shopping options to find and purchase products, their dependence on physical stores has declined. But smart retailers aren’t waving the white flag and preparing to close shop. Rather, they understand that the ability to provide a personalized mobile retail experience is becoming a crucial skill for any retail brand that wants to survive this industry upheaval.

Statista notes that an estimated $669 billion in global retail commerce revenue will come from mobile in 2018, but customers expect more than a mobile-optimized shopping website or a retail shopping app. Consumers turn to mobile in search of a better shopping experience, one that leverages its strengths and attributes to deliver unique personalization and engagement.

Here are three basic guidelines to follow when developing a mobile retail strategy:

1. Assess what customers want

Customers are fairly consistent in wanting more personalized experiences from retail brands. The question brands should ask themselves is where that personalization should begin — which first requires an audit of your current customer-centric mobility.

Retailers need not send out a survey to their customers to understand which aspects of personalization they should address immediately. Instead, follow the data: Where is customer engagement in decline? Where are sales being lost? By contrast, where are customers engaging, or at least seeking to engage, with a brand?

Brands need to start with the basics and move upward. In general, this means optimizing current content and online destinations for mobile devices; reserving a budget to fund the development of a mobile app; and finding an analytics solution to connect to any and all existing mobile properties to collect data for analysis and future innovation. Then you’re ready to identify the form of personalization with the highest ROI and begin building a plan to provide this personalized mobile retail experience.

2. Make your mobile app the centerpiece

While there are plenty of mobile experiences that exist outside a mobile app, the creation of a retail mobile app — and the establishment of this app as a go-to destination — is critical for one key reason: The app will be any retailer’s best source of customer data that drives personalized experiences.

Customer profiles can be saved, which means retailers can automatically collect browsing and purchase histories and even call them up in real time. Loyalty programs and rewards points can be an additional source of customer data, while also creating a strong incentive to use the retail app. Credit cards stored in an app can be used for online and in-store payments, and omnichannel shopping carts can be built via mobile, then finished on a desktop device.

Ultimately, retail mobility means moving beyond apps and online shopping to create an experience that merges the physical and virtual retail worlds. But no matter how far you progress, the value of a mobile retail app is that you can maintain connection and interactions with customers on a near-daily basis and use that asset to gather data that powers new strategies.

3. Use analytics to smooth friction and provide a personalized mobile retail experience

Mobility allows retailers to see trends that were previously invisible, especially where the path to purchase is involved. Where are consumers dropping out of the online path to purchase, and why? What is the role of omnichannel shopping carts, and how might they be better synchronized across mobile and other platforms to streamline the shopping experience?


Perhaps mobile’s greatest benefit to retail bottom lines is the ability to reduce friction by making the customer experience not just more enjoyable, but easier. According to a 2017 survey by UserTesting, “ease of use” and “speed” were two of the greatest differentiating factors among retail mobile app experiences (“aesthetics” was the third factor). This means that regardless of how great your mobile experience is, and in spite of your efforts to use mobility to provide more transparent information about pricing and shipping costs, friction is most likely to be the difference between mobile success and failure.

When implementing mobility into your retail strategy, functionality and performance are important to consider. But these new experiences and services can’t be more complicated than the status quo: They need to offer innovation while also simplifying the customer experience.

Driving retail experiences through a mobile app

-app-based store

-but experiences also matter: turning a mobile app into a destination where frequent visitors are rewarded with coupons and limited promotions, building in-store functionality such as floor maps, even delivering push notification rewards when consumers are in a geofenced retail area to incentivize in-store visits

Seamless mobile payments

-credit cards and user profiles saved in mobile apps, making payments easier whether in store or on an app

-follow Amazon’s lead: allowing quick mobile payments to reduce friction during the physical transaction process

Omnichannel shopping carts

-makes it easier to shop via mobile and checkout on a desktop

-reduces cart abandonments, helping preserve sales that might otherwise be lost

If you’ve ever spent time shopping on your desktop and decided you’ll come back later to check out, only to realize your shopping cart is empty in the app when you come back, you’ll relate to the frustration many shoppers feel. With advanced technological capabilities available, why wasn’t it able to recognize you?

Kohl’s recognizes how frustrating that experience is and how many sales it’d likely loseout on because of it, which is why it created the digital “shopping bag.” It’s omnichannel, meaning it is the same no matter which channel customers are shopping on.

Both Kohl’s and its customers benefit from this approach: Kohl’s mitigates the risk customers will abandon their bag, and customers have a frustration-free omnichannel customer experience.