How Mobile Is Reshuffling The Shopping Experience (And How Retailers Should React)

Joerg Koesters

Mobile shopping: we all do it, don’t we? While enjoying a coffee on a patio, on the train, or even at the shopping mall, it’s so convenient – fun even – to check out the new collection of your beloved clothing brand, purchase the latest book by your favorite author, or order that must-have electronics gear. So how can today’s retailers grasp that mobile opportunity? I found some interesting insights from “How mobile is transforming retail,” a study that the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) published just recently.

Business has not been a bed of roses for retailers over the past few years. With the onset of e-commerce, they had to face the competition of powerful new players like Amazon, Bol.com, Coolblue, and Zalando. Now, in the space of three short years, the smartphone has put an immense virtual shopping mall into a staggering nearly 2 billion pockets and handbags around the world. According to the EIU report, 69% of the 519 consumers polled frequently use their smartphone to research purchases. Among millennial respondents, this figure rises to a stunning 81%.

Fun, fun, fun

Why do you love mobile shopping? Because it’s convenient, right? Our mobile device is always at hand, wherever you are. What about the fun factor? Some 51% of the respondents to the EIU survey say that mobile has made shopping more fun. Moreover, nearly half (47%) believe that using mobile devices for shopping makes them more loyal to certain stores. That could be great news for retailers. To top that off: prices seem to be less of an issue in mobile commerce. While online shoppers have always scoured the Internet for the lowest prices, they don’t do so on their mobile phones.

Online-to-offline

To put things into perspective: there’s a bit more to mobile success for today’s retailers than offering a fun, user-friendly mobile website or app. One of the many compelling findings in the EIU survey is that consumers are pushing the ‘online-to-offline’ (O2O) behavior that characterizes the mobile age. They want to check a local store’s inventory on their smartphone before reserving a product for store purchase or picking up an online purchase item at a local store. In other words: mobile services with a local presence are more important than ever.

Omnichannel is ‘it’

In an interview with the EIU, Scott Galloway, professor of brand strategy and digital marketing at the NYU Stern School of Business, confirms our belief. “Because about 60% of smartphone searches relate in some way to the user’s location, consumers may increasingly lean towards more specialized online retailers that have a physical store in their orbit over an online pure-play option,” he said.

Hence the choice of Amazon to expand its network of delivery lockers to reinforce its online presence. Galloway would recommend that the e-commerce champion take it further still and purchase a chain of petrol stations to provide more of a local presence and greater convenience to its customers. Key in all this: ensure a seamless transition across storefronts, offering identical experiences, products, services, and prices in physical stores as well as online and mobile.

Convenience and ease of use, in-store and mobile

As mobile consumers are looking for convenience and quality, both on their smartphones and in the store, retailers should combine easy-to-navigate mobile websites and applications with smart services in the shops themselves, says the EIU report. A full 76% of the consumers polled in the survey said they’d want to see store associates armed with the same mobile capabilities they have to check prices or stock availability and to reserve out-of-stock items. Moreover, the respondents seem eager to use more sophisticated retail services from their mobile devices, like trying on goods in virtual dressing rooms.

Around the world

Thought that the success of m-commerce was a typical Western thing? It’s definitely not! The survey was circulated to a global group of users in 39 countries, with a near-equal share of respondents from four regions: Asia-Pacific (23%), Europe (23%), Latin America (22%), and North America (23%). It is worthwhile to read the full report to discover some striking regional differences. One thing that struck me is how mobile shopping is far more popular than e-commerce or even traditional shopping in Africa. Most Africans have a (Chinese) smartphone, which opens up a whole new world without them having to travel to far-away shops or buying expensive computers to purchase the goods and services they seek.

Time to wake up!

The similarities between all four continents? Retailers that lack a compelling presence on smartphones will definitely lose their competitive edge. The road is still long, though. EIU shows that only 20% of Internet Retailer’s top 500 mobile retailers have a responsive website. Research from Barclays in the U.K. also found that 70% of retailers do not have a mobile-enabled website or application in place… It’s high time for the retail world to turn the tide and make mobile commerce a key pillar in their omnichannel strategy. It will definitely help them to connect with consumers … and gain an edge!

Need help establishing a cohesive mobile/omnichannel strategy? Download the full report, “How mobile is transforming retail: Bricks, clicks, tweets and texts across the omnichannel shopping mall,” sponsored by SAP, to learn more.


About Joerg Koesters

Joerg Koesters is the Head of Retail Marketing and Communication at SAP. He is a Technology Marketing executive with 20 years of experience in Marketing, Sales and Consulting, Joerg has deep knowledge in retail and consumer products having worked both in the industry and in the technology sector.