customer uses mobile and social media to state customer experienceAccording to a recent article in The New York Times, a number of major retailers are using surveillance cameras and smartphone signals to learn information about who their customers are and how they shop. Retailers say they are using the data to inform decisions on store layouts or send coupons to customers as they meander through the shops. If a customer has previously shared profile information while downloading a store app, the store can offer even more personalized offers.

I’m getting more comfortable with giving up some privacy if the payback is convenience – why some commuters don’t use E-Z Pass to speed through toll plazas amazes me. And while The Times noted that industry analysts think some customers are a little “creeped” out by the scrutiny, the newspaper also reported that some customers are willing participants – remember the app downloads – and appreciate the attention, especially the coupons.

Stores are “literally bringing the Amazon experience into the store,” one retailer told the newspaper.

Judging by the results of a survey by TechValidate on the top issues facing retailers, mobile and social media interactions will get even more scrutiny. According to the survey, the top two issues are:

• Leveraging mobile, social, and online interactions together to drive sales (68%)
• Delivering a consistent, superior, and personalized customer experience regardless of channel (67%)

Get Social and Mobile Retail Right, Fast

Looking at my own and others’ digital habits these days, online shoppers expect retailers and brands they like to know how to operate efficiently in social and mobile environments. More and more, consumers are not just expecting personalized shopping experiences, they’re demanding them. If a digital shopping experience with a favorite store proves unsatisfactory, many shoppers aren’t shy about moving on to other digitally-available brands and retailers.

Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are playing increasingly larger roles in influencing retail shopping, too. Consumers use these sites to get or share opinions on merchandise, or spread the word on up-to-the minute retail advertisements. The busiest shoppers are using apps to monitor their favorite brands to see what’s hot or even just available.

When you consider how many more smartphones and tablets people will be using, it’s obvious why retailers are working hard to use these tools to connect better with customers. According to a Gartner report, this past spring sales of tablets are expected to climb almost 70 percent to 197 million units in 2013 and mobile phone shipments are expected to climb to 1.8 billion units this year, up from 1.7 billion units in 2012.

Other top issues facing retailers are closely related to the better application of mobile technology, social media, and Big Data analytics.

Without a doubt, these technologies will significantly impact how retailers address the other key issues they identified, which include:

• Planning and delivering the right products (53%)
• Truly understanding retailers’ most loyal customers (32%)
• Growing sustainably (29%)
• Reducing labor-intensive processes (28%)
• Managing the information overload (25%)

B2B and B2C to B2B2C

Some corporations that have traditionally focused on behind-the-scenes, business-processing functions are entering the consumer app and social-media arena. Recently, SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott announced that SAP is emerging as a “business-to-business-to-consumer” company as he highlighted advances in social, mobile, in-memory, analytics, and cloud technology.

This announcement leads us back to that survey on retail issues. Check out this infographic that highlights top issues facing retailers in the next 5 years.

You can also learn more how mobile technology is changing customers experiences, in-store engagement, and retail strategies in this survey (login required).