Customers want a mobile shopping experience

Retailers are increasingly pursuing an omnichannel strategy that is designed to enhance the shopping experience by merging a range of channels: in-store, online, mobile and social. They are exploiting the Internet of Things (IoT) and deploying new technologies in store: The findings in the latest report by the IoT and mobile management company Soti show that most customers want mobile technologies to be used in shops.

Mar 19 2020

Mobile technologies improve the purchase experience for two-thirds of customers

The report’s title, State of Mobility in Retail, clearly reflects its focus on the use of mobile technologies in retail outlets. Successfully linking online and offline poses a huge challenge for the retail industry.

Questions like “what kind of digital service do my customers expect when they envisage a modern shopping experience?” and “what technologies do retailers need to deploy to increase customer engagement in their stores?” are just two that need answering.

The survey of approximately 4,000 consumers from the UK, Germany, Sweden and the US offers some initial answers: Around three-quarters of all respondents (74.1 per cent) believe that digital services would improve their shopping experience. The most popular technologies are self-service checkouts, which 42.6 per cent of survey participants expect to see in shops. Nearly a third (29.4 per cent) would like to see scan-as-you-shop and similar technologies that allow customers to scan and pay for their items while browsing the aisles.

Many of them also want smart technologies to be combined with personal service: 40.5 per cent of respondents would prefer to order a basket of items online and collect their purchases in store during normal opening hours. When you look at the findings, it quickly becomes clear that the expectations of mobile technologies are very high: Mobile services are supposed to make the shopping experience better, faster and more secure.

Retailers must invest more in mobile and IoT solutions

“Retailers need to implement modern strategies to stay relevant and wake up to the fact that consumers want mobile and IoT technologies which enhance and personalise the shopping experience,” explains Shash Anand, Soti’s Vice President of Product Strategy.

“It’s essential that retailers integrate these business-critical technologies into their business to ensure they can deliver the speed, convenience and customisation that employees and customers expect. As the online and offline worlds continue to merge, the time for retailers to invest in mobility and IoT solutions is now.” 

But where is this journey heading according to Soti and other experts? What is already clear today is that tomorrow’s sales assistants in retail outlets will be “connected associates” equipped with multiple mobile devices, such as Bluetooth beacons, breakproof and shockproof end devices, mobile point of sale (mPOS) tablets or smartphones, augmented reality (AR) glasses with integrated HD cameras, headphones and microphones, as well as portable and wireless Bluetooth barcode readers and printers.

This will enable customer interactions to be enhanced, inventory management to be better structured, and sales opportunities to be presented at a greater speed. Retailers will also increasingly need to implement a function to check product availability in their outlets. With this kind of functionality, customers can use a self-service kiosk online at home, on the go or in store on their mobile device. Once a product has been selected, it can be reserved or purchased directly online and then collected from the nearest store.

Regional differences compared

The report reveals considerable regional differences in the readiness to engage with new technologies. It’s hardly surprising that there is great excitement about innovations like facial recognition and beacon technology among men (44 per cent) and the 18-to-34 age demographic.

Consumers in the US (48.1 per cent) and Sweden (37.5 per cent) are generally more enthusiastic about facial recognition and beacon technology than their counterparts in Germany (32.1 per cent) and the UK (31.7 per cent), who are more cautious. 

Nearly three-quarters (74.1 per cent) of German consumers believe that sales associates who use in-store mobile technology provide a better shopping experience, while half of US consumers (50.6 per cent) are very comfortable using voice-activated shopping, such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa. Where stores provide a better technological experience, 30.6 per cent of all US customers are more likely to return to them.

Nearly a quarter of respondents (22.4 per cent) are also likely to spend more time in such stores for the same reason. A significant 50.7 per cent of Swedish respondents believe that scan-as-you-shop technology improves their overall in-store shopping experience. 

When it comes to delivery drivers entering their homes using a smart lock to leave purchases inside, trust levels are roughly similar among customers in the US (19.4 per cent) and in Sweden (20.2 per cent). 

Although there is widespread demand for technology to be used to deliver a better shopping experience, respondents from all countries (32.6 per cent) are unwilling to sacrifice the security of their personal data to improve their in-store experience.

In summary

Looking at the findings, it quickly becomes clear that retailers need to invest in technologies if they are to continue to attract customers to their stores. Deploying mobile technologies is the only way for retailers to meet the demand for a seamless shopping experience. The report by Soti clearly shows where consumers expect this journey to lead us.

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