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The All-Powerful Mobile Consumer

Published on Mar 9 2015 7:55 AM in Features

The All-Powerful Mobile Consumer

Mobile Shopping is already shaping the way we shop, but to what degree are bricks-and-mortar stores acknowledging that fact? Andrew Jennings reports.

For most consumers, their everyday lives and their digital lives are now wholly interwoven. Today, it is hard to overplay the impact that mobile consumers are having on the food-retailing business.

It is forecasted that over the next five years, mobile point of sale (POS) will undergo a significant transformation. Mobile giant Motorola is predicting that within two years, roughly half of all in-store transactions will be completed by mobile POS or self-checkout on a shopper’s mobile phone.

Consumers now have more access to, and deeper engagement with, content and brands, thanks to the explosion of digital devices. According to research by insights firm Nielsen, mobile retail is gaining such traction that more than four in five (87 per cent) of smartphone and tablet owners are using a mobile device for shopping.

The ownership of multiple mobile devices is revolutionising the shopping experience for consumers, by allowing them to research potential purchases and compare prices for goods and services.

A new breed of shoppers, who are often more comfortable buying online than face to face in store, are driving retailers to explore new self-service store formats and POS interactions.

Retail Gain

So what does this profound shift in consumer transactional behaviour mean for retailers? Well, it’s now the job of the retailers to keep up with this huge leap forward. However, as consumers continue to take advantage of the convenience of digital technology for real-time browsing and shopping, a huge opportunity has opened up for proactive retailers to move ahead of the curve.

The emergence of the mobile-powered consumer has seen a landslide of new mobile apps emerge for the grocery industry, covering everything from compiling shopping lists, checking recipes, scanning products and tracking spending to finding nutritional information, locating products and scanning information-laden QR codes on products and signs.

Research by mobile advertising experts InMobi reveals that two out of three modern grocery buyers do use mobiles to research grocery and grocery-store information, most often to learn about and compare prices, promotions and discounts.

“Especially during these instances, we can guess that consumers are still in ‘deciding mode’, and not quite committed to a specific product or grocer. And digital window-shopping doesn’t end here,” InMobi report author Emily Basileo explains.

The data found that not only are modern grocery buyers using mobiles to decide where to shop, but they’re also using them in stores, while they are shopping.

‘Showrooming’, which involves researching products in store and then purchasing them online elsewhere, is a practice that is on the increase, with consumers now showrooming while shopping for groceries. InMobi claims that 29 per cent of these consumers are looking for better prices elsewhere.

This year has seen the introduction of new digital devices that enable smooth, hands-free mobile and in-store transactions and payments. With a New York Times report released last month noting that in just three weeks after launching the Apple Pay system, some major retailers in the US are already noticing a wave of Apple fans eager to check out at the register using their new iPhones, this trend is set to accelerate.

Businessweek has reported that 45 per cent of Safeway’s sales come from shoppers who get special offers via PCs or mobile apps, up from almost zero just three years ago.

Long Lines

Meanwhile, long queues have long been a major bugbear for both retailers and shoppers in trying to create their own stress-free shopping experience.

In recent years, many of the big-name retailers have offered supplemental checkout options aimed at phasing out long lines within their stores.

To help with the process of eliminating long transaction queues, retailers are being urged to arm in-store staff with handheld devices to process payments, use scanners to create a ready-for-checkout basket of items, enable the use of mobile wallets at the traditional POS, and integrate scan-and-go self-checkout functionality within a mobile app.

One major retailer embracing the revolution is Tesco Lotus, a leading retailer in Thailand, which recently partnered with leading digital solutions firm Honeywell to implement a mobile retail solution that allows it to interact with customers via their smartphones.

As part of the change, Tesco Lotus had to transition the POS system from 1D to 2D scanning, capable of reading bar codes from smartphone screens.

The Honeywell solution features a smartphone-ready app that provides a series of benefits to customers, including quick and easy access to mobile coupons, an e-loyalty card and linked credit cards.

Social Media

Social media is also driving sales, both online and in store, with all of the major supermarkets now having a presence on Facebook and Twitter.

Latest data shows that almost two thirds (64 per cent) of overall social-media users say they use social media sites at least once a day via their computer, and almost half (47 per cent) of smartphone owners visit social networks every day.

With the rapid adoption of mobile devices, social media is playing a huge role in the buying behaviour of the mobile consumer, empowering shoppers by providing a direct point of contact with the brands they use and the content they see.

For the major retailers, full-time staff are now required to monitor these social-media pages, where they keep tabs on malicious content while answering questions from customers.

It’s not enough for retailers to just advertise now. They need to be having conversations with their customers on social media. Retailers have to communicate their offerings while also listening to what customers are saying.

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