Now the Store is Where the Customer Is

From his forty years of measuring in-store shopping behavior, retail guru Herb Sorensen observed that the tragedy of bricks and mortar retail is that most shopping time is wasted because retailers do not know what the shopper is doing. Likewise, today’s mobile shopper is challenged to understand what it is that brands and retailers have to offer and what’s in it for them, while sellers are studying with more intensity than ever what mobile shoppers are doing in each shopping moment.

According to recent reports, 80% of adults in the U.S. have a smartphone, most transactions are being influenced by activity on those phones, and 82% of customers are using their phones while standing in the store deciding what to buy. Yet, 90% of all transactions still occur in the store. Harvard Business Review calls these selling opportunities “micro moments” and the opportunity to reach mobile shoppers at various stages toward purchase the “shopper’s journey.”

If you’ve been in a retail store recently you’ve seen it: a lot of people standing around looking at their phones. Yes, they’re checking texts and scores, directions and weather, but they’re also power shopping. They’re looking to see if an item is in stock or what else is available, searching for coupons and discounts, reading messages from retailers’ apps, websites and email and even messages sent direct to the browser through push notifications and mobile-only virtual shopping assistants.

Many believe that the mobile shopper in the store is a major tipping point for e-commerce — it’s where the big opportunity for mobile commerce technology lies. The challenge: engage with customers in meaningful, contextually-relevant ways throughout the shopping journey to drive incremental revenue, but also to build long-term relationships, not just transactions. In short, reinvent the shopping experience for the modern, mobile era.

Ironically – and the reason why there’s so much curiosity over reports that Amazon is opening physical outlets – is that location is still everything.  What’s important is not just the location of the store, but the location of the customer – where they live, how they research and engage with brands before shopping, where they are outside the store, inside the store as they move around, and what they do up to and during the purchase. Knowing where the customer is informs the retailer how to engage, what to message about, what will be most effective. For the customer, location technology is proving extremely helpful in answering questions like, is the item in stock in this store? Is it cheaper nearby? Is there a discount in this store today?

A number of tech companies are working on location software that understands much more about the shopper’s location, delivers more relevant content, and provides the deep analytics retailers need to learn who is visiting, where they are from and how they are interacting with brands. Knowing more about behaviors and trends allows previously siloed online and in-store marketers to work together to create a create a deeper, more contextually relevant relationship. For shoppers, the experience promises to be a more personalized one with much less friction between buyer and seller as not only e-commerce but in-store commerce shifts to mobile.

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