While many of the current retail commerce conversations have been focused on the mobile shopping strategies that tier 1 retailers are implementing, little has been said about how the mobile revolution is affecting the rest of retail. With an increasingly digital shopping culture, to some degree all retailers should be re-thinking their customer engagement strategy for both today and tomorrow.

The State of Retail Competition:

The biggest growing threat to any retailer is the ability for customers to purchase practically anything online from established and emerging e-commerce giants such as Amazon. Driven by new conveniences, 45% of shoppers are researching and browsing through other products while they are in a physical retail store. The reality is that today’s retailers are not only competing with local competitors, but also with online, digital giants.

There are likely many reasons that your customers continue to shop in your stores. Maybe you are selling a unique product combined with an experience that can’t be replicated online. This may be true today, but continued technology advancements are always just around the corner. Based on the  speed at which the retail mobile market is growing at today, it won’t be long before most stores, from grocery to hardware, are offering digital ordering and payment options.

If you haven’t already started on a mobile strategy, you may already be lagging behind. The good news though, is that we are only in the beginning of a digital commerce market expected to outpace traditional retail growth within the next 5 years. By 2017, ecommerce is expected to comprise 10% of all retail sales, and mobile will account for 25% of the online commerce share. Retail chains that start building a mobile presence now will have a better chance of remaining relevant in the lives of tomorrow’s mobile consumers.

Implementing a mobile shopping strategy

At the very least, every retail store needs to have a website that is accessible by mobile phone. Studies show that 70% of consumers call a business directly from search results and an additional 57% won’t recommend a business that has a poorly designed mobile site. Consumers want information at their fingertips, from anywhere at any time. Having your phone number, location, operating hours, and product catalogue easily available by mobile phone will ensure that you are not driving traffic to competitors.

Leverage what you have got

The next step in creating a mobile presence involves evaluating your existing digital infrastructure. If you are already selling your product through an e-commerce site, consider creating mobile or web apps that can connect directly with these platforms. Transitioning to mobile commerce will be easier and more cost efficient if you can effectively leverage what you already have.

Customize rather than build

In order to start planning a mobile strategy, think about what is most relevant to the products and services you are offering as well as your in-store customer journey. Some typical examples include:

  • Mobile wallets: Ordering, payment and goods tracking by mobile phone
  • Loyalty: rewards, couponing and promotions
  • Product catalogues for easy browsing
  • Web to store ordering or delivery services

The most cost-effective way to create an m-commerce app or a mobile wallet is to employ a customizable white label solution. For smaller retailers with minimal financial resources, this is a much safer bet than building from scratch. Building is incredibly time consuming, costly and requires very detailed technical management.

A step ahead

The most important thing to remember when considering marketing through new channels is that in-store, online and mobile shopping experiences should be cohesive and mutually reflective of your brand function and personality. As you start to develop your multi-channel strategy, position your mobile presence as the bridge between the online and offline shopping worlds.

Moving forward

Large retailers have proven that mobile commerce presents a valuable opportunity to increase sales, raise the frequency of in-store visits, and build strong customer relationships to foster brand awareness and visibility. Retailers of any size should think of mobile in a similar way – as a crucial and growing business opportunity. Like any new channel, a successful mobile strategy takes time, financial resources and well-structured planning. That may mean creating a dedicated team of managers that focus on developing a mobile strategy or having that first meeting with a technology solution provider who can help determine this path. Whatever the case may be, mobile should be top of mind for all retailers.