The gains – and pains – of engaging the mobile-first customer

Mobile technology is changing the way shoppers behave in-store. Today’s customers – particularly Millennials and Generation Z, who have grown up with smartphone technology – are favouring an experience that incorporates digital connectivity.

Shoppers are increasingly using smartphones in-store to look up product details, compare prices at the shelf edge, and share product details via social media or messaging apps.

But while this can cause shoppers to become distracted, or potentially compare competitor items, retailers should not see mobile interaction as detrimental to the purchasing journey. If anything, the mobile-first customer presents an opportunity to enrich the in-store experience.

Guiding the mobile journey

Mobile is a valuable channel through which to digitally influence customers in the physical space. The challenge for retailers is to maintain authority over shoppers’ smartphone activities, to drive profitable outcomes for their business.

Free Wi-Fi access is fundamental to asserting control over a shopper’s journey whilst providing them with a useful service, provided retailers look at where they can positively influence the in-store experience.

For example, consumers logging-on to a store’s network can be greeted by a branded welcome portal, promoting brand messages and the latest promotions. It’s also an opportunity to promote app downloads, which can enhance the customer journey through in-depth product information, interactive store maps, or the facility to purchase out-of-stock items.

As well as guiding the mobile-first shopper’s journey, an official interface also creates an opportunity to capture customer data. The majority of shoppers are willing to share personal information in exchange for content that’s tailored to their personal demands. This can support retailers in two ways. Firstly, by encouraging visitors to promote the brand; 1 in 10 Generation Z shoppers will post store visit images to their social profiles, for example.

Secondly, capturing customer data enables retailers to understand more about the consumers entering their stores, and their behaviours, to improve both the store experience and marketing outreach.

Empowering store associates

Mobile technology isn’t just something that should be placed in the hands of the customer. It also empowers store associates to deliver better, more personal customer service; connected devices such as mobile PoS tablets improve their access to knowledge, and their transactional capabilities.

In this way, mobile PoS provides a true ‘best of both worlds’ experience. The customer has access to all the digital data they need, and the service is tailored around their specific demands. Yet at the same time, the technology is in the hands of store staff, who are controlling the interaction, and steering it towards a positive outcome.

Mobile-first engagement starts with the network

The prospect of engaging more closely with mobile-first shoppers is an exciting one; but in their rush to court the customer, many retailers do not fully consider how their growing reliance on technology will impact their store network.

As digital engagement plays an increasingly important role in store interactions, the strain on business networks will become more apparent, threatening efficiency, reliability and security. And this will ultimately start to impact the customer experience.

The first step retailers therefore need to take is to upgrade their enterprise network, to a solution that can scale and evolve as shopper engagement techniques evolve.

Over the next few months we’ll be discussing which network solutions will provide the best long-term growth platform, and how consumer behaviours will continue to impact the importance of store network investment. However, one thing is clear; the value of mobile shoppers is growing, and retailers need to explore the opportunity that value presents in-store.

Vodat International specialises in managed data networks for the retail industry. Get in touch to find out how our networks can power your in-store experiences.

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