The image of a shopping cart has always represented a retail store in schematic diagrams. This might be a good time to change that. In recent years the mobile phone has overshadowed pretty much everything within the retail industry. This holds merit not only for online retail but also in the context of traditional brick and mortar stores. It is also true not just for product awareness, discovery and analysis stages but valid for more crucial stages of the shopping cycle i.e. experience, selection and payment.
It is estimated by a Google study that 82% of shoppers use smartphones inside stores to complement their shopping experience. While mobile phones have become inseparable from retail experience, what drives quality in mobile engagement is good old localization and personalization. Recent studies also reveals that 65% of shoppers would like to see more personalized offers from retailers and 53% are willing to share their location to receive more relevant ads.
Thanks to iBeacons and WiFi adapters, retailers now have real time information on micro location of shoppers - inside stores. They know exactly which display the shopper is standing next to or which display did he seem to hover around, a few seconds back. However, to deliver a more personalized experience, the missing piece has been the mapping between the out-of-store persona of the shopper with his in store activity.
Imagine this - an app on your phone knows your online product search history, the shelves you browsed through on your last in-store visit and also which is the nearest store to your weekday evening commute. So on a day when there is a sale on that product in that store, all it might take to direct you to the store is a notification about the sale, just when you are about to start your commute. And what might close the sale is a personalized greeting when you enter the store and directions to the exact shelf that has what you are looking for. Add to that, more specific offers when you pick up the product and even alerts to store assistants when your movements seem to indicate the need for assistance. Of course this will take into account local compliance requirements for privacy that usually mandate disclosure and explicit consent of users before they start using the apps.
In short, what we really need to take retail mobile engagement to the next level is to connect the out-of-store persona (location patterns, preferences, interests, browsing history, wish list, social network) with the in-store actions (in store trajectory, dwell time, merchandise handling actions) in order to deliver the most relevant and timely content to shoppers.