Of all the devices that populate our lives, none seem to have taken a more central role than our mobile phones. Whether standing in line at the store or during our daily commutes, we take any and every opportunity to get lost in the glow of our very own private screens. As more of our attention is given over to these personal devices, merchants and brands are creating new mobile experiences to engage consumers and drive them toward a desired action.
New services and features that are helping businesses leverage mobile as an integral part of the physical store, provide consumers with tools that enhance their ability to shop and complete secure transactions seamlessly. This blurring of online and offline retail is part of a trend otherwise known as Cross-Channel Purchases.
iBeacon technology is one key tool for enabling the omni-channel experience. It offers merchants expanded opportunities to engage with customers on their mobile devices. Walgreens is currently developing a mobile application that is part loyalty and discount program, and part immersive product finder. Created in partnership with Aisle411, the app uses Google’s Project Tango virtual indoor mapping technology to deliver relevant product reviews and promotions to customers in aisle. Using a special camera, the Project Tango technology captures 2 million data points per second and then merges that information with retailer floor plans. The result: highly contextual discounts—a customer browsing in the juice aisle might receive an alert that buying other cold drinks will earn him or her reward points.
Customers are served push notifications to help them discover new products based on the items they have previously purchased. When the app distinguishes a product, it displays further information, such as the price or nutritional value. This mobile commerce initiative also offers retailers greater insight into customers’ spending habits, which can be leveraged in marketing campaigns and beyond. The technology is currently being trialled (fixed) in four U.S. Walgreens stores.
In another example of this trend, StockNearby aggregates inventory from over 1,000 U.S.-based retailers to help shoppers locate purchasable items in their area. Shoppers can browse boutique fashion products from their mobile or desktop, and make purchases directly from the site for in-store pickup or delivery. Users are able to scroll through racks of items that are currently in stock, or search for specific pieces of clothing—all of which are located nearby. Select cities also offer dash delivery, enabling customers to receive their new goods within a matter of hours.
The local aspect of the service adds to shopper confidence, while also creating a stronger connection to nearby businesses. StockNearby’s interactive view of geo-tagged boutiques allows small retailers to effectively manage their online inventory while engaging new clientele in both the digital and physical space.
In a similar concept to StockNearby, but exclusive for Londoners, Streethub’s shopping app showcases products from independent fashion boutiques to help users browse and discover things they love close by. Available on both desktop and mobile, the app offers a local, instant shopping experience with additional merchandise added daily so users can continually discover a new assortment of unique products.
Streethub has partnered with a handpicked selection of 300 home and retail shops in the fashion capital, allowing shoppers to browse through a massive inventory of goods before picking their favourite item. Every product on display within the platform’s Pinterest-style layout is in stock and available for immediate purchase. Once payment has been confirmed, the item is available for in-store pick-up or same day delivery in as little as 90 minutes. The service allows independent designers and merchants to expand their digital reach, helping them more effectively compete with retailers who have a larger online presence.
As consumer shopping behaviours continue to evolve, we’re poised to see a greater expectation for digital experiences in offline settings. Mobile is the right tool to bridge this gap, allowing merchants to deliver utility to customers in highly personal and engaging ways. Whether leveraging real-time inventory to link online browsing with in-store pick-up, or serving up a relevant promotion while a customer is deciding between two products, these mobile interactions can be the difference between an abandoned shopping cart and a sale.