How can stores engage with mobile-ready consumers?

The concept of shopping online through your mobile phone has been widely adopted by consumers, but it seems the appetite for mobile engagement in-store is stronger than ever before thanks to the latest developments in smartphone technology.

New research released this month by IMRG showed that 4G is accelerating the use of mobile devices in the physical retail environment; 70% of smartphone users with 4G capabilities, regularly browse retail websites, with 48% of 3G users also using their phone for shopping purposes.

Although some of this activity will involve establishing direct online connections via websites and apps, consumers’ reliance on their mobile phones presents a major opportunity for bricks-and-mortar retailers to engage with them in-store. As mobile networks roll out their 4G coverage across the UK, retailers can use their in-store Wi-Fi facilities to connect with all shoppers using internet-enabled phones in the aisles.

By encouraging visitors to log onto your Wi-Fi, you can capture their details and activities, which enables you to market products and offers to them more effectively – both during their visit and afterwards, through other channels. Recent statistics by Savvy Marketing show 65% of UK consumers are open to receiving targeted offers to their mobile phones.

In addition to encouraging sales, personalised marketing also nurtures long-term customer relationships. This recent blog in Big Hospitality looks at the topic in greater detail.

One of the big plusses of Wi-Fi over mobile-based connections is reliability, as 4G is not available across the whole of the UK at present. However, creating a relationship in which consumers log-in rather than use their mobile’s built-in connectivity, is dependent on the quality of your Wi-Fi service.

A separate, secure network solution for public use is the essential foundation for any retailers hoping to bring digital consumer engagement into the store environment.

Get visual in-store

With the proliferation of mobile retail causing the popularity of e-commerce to soar, shopping in-store is becoming more-and-more about the experience, with digital visual merchandising being used as a beacon to entice customers to visit.

One of the latest trends in digital visual merchandising is wall mounted screens, sometimes covering an entire wall, which retailers use to stream product offers, videos of catwalk shows and idyllic scenery, in keeping with brand messaging.

Not only is this eye catching and interesting to a consumer, but it can offer value in terms of showcasing products and offers in the store. An example of this is the video wall display in or on the front of Hollister stores, with live feeds to Californian beaches, enhancing the brand vision and customer experience.

Digital content can also be displayed on tablet devices, with retailers streaming videos to customers as well as offering their entire product catalogue without having to stock it in-store. This expands the range of products on offer, no matter the size of the store. Removing the barriers between bricks and mortar and e-commerce sales and driving profit for both channels.

Other developments include virtual rails and the virtual changing room. The virtual changing room uses a full length mirror, which allows shoppers to select a retailers latest look, size up the virtual garments on their body, receive information on stockists and prices, and print their shopping wish list – all at the wave of a hand, although it is yet to take off.

The virtual rail concept integrates digital rails with physical rails of clothing, allowing customers to place orders for free delivery through points in the store, via sales assistants’ iPads or on their own mobile device using the in-store WiFi.

To support all of this innovative technology, retailers must have robust store networks in-place which, amongst other things, provides a fast and secure Wi-Fi connection. Wireless network connections enable retailers to stream audio, video and visual content in-store, on TV screens and via media devices. The network also ensures that all information is consistent and updated across channels including stock inventory.

As retailers are increasingly adding these services into stores to enhance customer experience, having a trusted network in place that can offer on all levels, is imperative.

Have contactless payments finally reached a tipping point?

The concept of contactless payment was met with mixed reactions when it first launched in the UK in 2008, and it has taken a while for Britons to warm to the payment method but it seems the tipping point has finally emerged.

According to The UK Cards Association, contactless payments broke the £100million barrier for the first time in March 2014, with final figures reaching £109.2million – three times the total expenditure for the same month last year. One in three consumers now owns a contactless card, which can be used to make transactions up to £20 when touched on a reader.

So why has contactless suddenly become an accepted mainstream payment method? Card providers offering this option have worked hard over the last 12-18 months in particular, to ease any concerns consumers have regarding their security, and to also educate them on how contactless works – highlighting potential issues such as card clash.

Equally, retailers have embraced its convenience and installed contactless payment systems so that customers can pay for small value items on the hop. EAT became the first UK restaurant chain to offer the service in 2008, but consumers can now make touch transactions at most retail outlets including McDonald’s, Boots, Pret a Manger and Starbucks.

One major factor has been the adoption of contactless technology by the transport industry. Selected bus and train services already offer ‘touch in’ services and the London Underground is trialling the use of contactless debit card payments in place of its current Oyster Card system, with a view to rolling out the facility across the entire network in the near future.

With major travel operators and leading international brands giving consumers confidence in contactless, now is the time for retailers to join the pin-free revolution and install contactless readers alongside their existing payment solutions. Before long, contactless will evolve from a novelty to a must have, and those not offering it will be left behind.