In a previous blog post about Omnichannel retail, I suggested that retailers have to “start thinking mobile” because that’s where their customers are moving. However, I also explained how it doesn’t mean that every retailer suddenly has to overhaul their business model and start handing out 3D glasses. In other words, keep doing what you’re doing—but do it with your mobile customers in mind.
The results of a recent study by the National Retail Federation’s Shop.org division and Forrester, provide some data to back this up. Forrester forecasted that in 2016, direct online sales totaled 11.6% of total U.S. retail sales ($394 billion), but digital touchpoints impacted an estimated 49% of total U.S. retail sales. This is great news for many of our retailers, particularly those in the convenience and restaurant industries, who rely heavily on foot traffic.
Here are some of the study’s other key findings that support the idea of using mobile technology in “the now”:
- Customer service topped the list of new initiatives retailers will invest in over the next year (confirming that flashy virtual and augmented reality are not the priority… for now!)
- 45% of retailers surveyed said mobile initiatives transformed their overall digital customer experience
- 54% of retailers say mobile is one of their top initiatives in 2017 (followed by marketing at 46%, site merchandising at 42%, and omnichannel efforts at 22%)
- Smartphones made up 47% of online traffic among retailers surveyed
NRF Vice President Artemis Berry noted that retailers have found “that even modest investments in mobile initiatives can result in huge returns.” And I especially love this quote: “This is no longer a new way to reach customers, but it has certainly become a highly effective method and one that boosts the level of customer engagement across the brand.”
Again, there’s no need to reinvent the digital wheel, but better that you hop on the mobile train now before it’s too late.
Forrester Vice President and Research Director Fiona Swerdlow adds that today’s customers are empowered with information and technology. “To grow, retailers know they have to operate with a customer-obsessed mindset to deliver the experiences that consumers now expect at every touchpoint,” she says. “It’s about having all aspects of the business—stores, mobile, merchandising, customer service, fulfillment and more —work together to deliver total value to your customers wherever they are, at any time.”
If how to optimize the retail industry was presented as a dissertation, I think Swerdlow just gave us the thesis statement. That’s what it all comes down to -enabling the various parts of your business to work together in real-time.
Empowering Your Employees to Communicate
Working at Zenput is interesting because I, along with many of my coworkers, also happen to be regular customers of many of the major retailers we serve. We help major retailers that collectively serve millions of people—including their own employees, past and present. That’s what I’d like retailers to take into account when they’re proactively considering technologies that are a “natural fit” for their businesses. Your customers use mobile, your employees use mobile… so why not invest in the mobile technology that can improve your business?
Think of the various components Swerdlow discusses and what you might accomplish if you had a real-time solution to address these needs:
- Stores - from external maintenance to internal equipment, gain the ability to report store conditions as they change, in real time.
- Merchandising and Fulfillment - From out-of-stocks to the new promotion delivery that never came, report it in real time. Take a photo and share it with your network to confirm the latest marketing execution.
- Customer Service – On store visits, allow your managers to observe and report on customer service best practices. It could be included in a simple checklist of whether employees are dressed appropriately for work, use courteous language, and offer customer assistance. And this goes beyond playing “big brother” on managers—it allows an organization to celebrate those employees who go out of their way to make a customer’s day easier.
Are you ready to use mobile technology to improve your business?
Learn more about how Zenput helps retailers increase their execution by scheduling a demo.