Prior to Covid-19, retailers were already moving towards mobile-first shopping, with phones being used to link the in-store and digital experience. The pandemic has pressed fast forward on this transformation, opening up both challenges and opportunities for retailers.
Foremost, mobile can be a tool that brings the convenience of online shopping to the in-store experience. After all, the easier the brand makes the shopping experience the more likely the customer is to return.
However, the need for a mobile-first experience now extends beyond convenience. With physical distancing the new normal, health and safety has become a bigger priority for customers and phones can help retailers offer a safer way to shop.
Mobile is the gateway to the customer
Shoppers enjoy the in-store experience. They want to browse and try on products before they purchase them. Yet, when physical stores closed, consumers were forced to change how they shopped, and retailers were forced to adapt as a result, with mobiles playing a key role.
In China, for example, lockdown caused a boom in live stream shopping, a combination of streaming video and e-commerce, where retailers model their products in real-time for viewers to purchase.
This method of selling has become popular with retailers, as it allows them to interact with customers and re-create the in-store experience at a safe distance. And sharing advice and information on the products also acts as a great marketing tool driving more sales.
Safety is now the top priority
These new and exciting retail trends that have appeared during lockdown are here to stay. Even those who were previously more tech-averse have transitioned to digital platforms.
But as stores begin to open, wellness and health is going to be at the front of shoppers’ minds, and we are going to see a new type of consumer. Shoppers will be hyper-aware of health and safety needs and brands will be expected to provide a safe shopping experience.
During the pandemic, contactless payment limits increased from £30 to £45 in the UK to avoid the handling of potentially contaminated cash and minimise the touching of pin pads.
To encourage shoppers back to the high street, retailers need to find ways of limiting contact shopping further. The more retailers can become touch-free the better, and mobiles can be the tool.
Mobile as the remote control
Stores have started to shift from ‘touch’ to ‘gesture’ shopping. Instead of physically interacting with products and tools, customers can use their mobiles to guide them.
Mobiles can act as the shopping basket and the wallet, and it can even be a queue jumper by delivering products to reserved fitting rooms. Services such as ‘scan-to-try’ let shoppers request items to try on via their mobiles and even search stock levels to see whether there are sizes available without working through the racks.
This can help shoppers to reduce the handling of products in-store, while also limiting the time spent in queues or the need for interaction with other shoppers and assistants.
Mobile in brand experience
Despite mobile-first bringing new levels of convenience to the shopping experience, many retailers have made life so easy that shoppers are no longer spending time with the brand. This presents a challenge for stores in offering a unique experience that will help them stand out from their competitors.
Offerings such as mobile order at Starbucks play into the need for convenience, as customers place their order ahead of time and skip the queue to collect their product. This service allows consumers to have a smooth brief experience, but sometimes can be at risk of not allowing enough engagement with the brand.
Retailers need to create experiences that make customers want to spend time with them in-store, and technology can help achieve that. Nike’s House of Innovation is a perfect example of using mobile technology to create unique moments that draw shoppers in.
Store visitors have a different experience than they would while shopping online, and can use their mobiles to customise products and even unlock extra services in-store. And, thinking back to Covid-19, with the instant checkout stations shoppers can scan items and pay instantly via their mobiles, reducing all forms of physical contact.
Using mobile to keep brands alive in a remoter world
Mobile-first will become the dominant retail strategy as we venture into the post-Covid world. Shoppers want to be connected to the in-store experience, while receiving the conveniences of online.
However, to reap the rewards, retailers need to adopt the mobile-first strategy that will help them meet consumer shopping and safety needs, while also keeping the brand experience alive.