Is retail ready for the mobile-obsessed shopper’s rise to power?

123: that’s the number of times the average 17-25 year-old checks their iPhone every single day. To put this into context, that’s 30 times more than 26-35 year-olds, and a whopping 86 times more than those aged 55+, according to the latest Kantar data.

This information is not surprising – we all know the younger generations are glued to their phones most of the time – but it does beg the question as to whether retailers are listening to such statistics?

Right now, it doesn’t matter too much on the whole, because older shoppers are those with the greatest disposable income. Last year, the average 30-49 year-old could enjoy up to £1,400 to spend on goods and services each month, compared to around £100 for the 18-30s.

However, today’s tech-obsessed shoppers are tomorrow’s young professionals, and today’s young professionals are tomorrow’s high flyers. And when their disposable income starts to grow, they’re going to be just as (if not even more) affiliated to their mobile device.

To capture this audience when they reach their most profitable, retailers need to be creating a mobile-first strategy today, which puts in place the foundations for effectively reaching customers via this ever-growing channel.

Some companies already are; Walmart recently announced the launch of an SMS service, which sends shoppers verbal directions through their smartphone to the item they’re trying to find. They can then text the word ‘chat’ to receive one-to-one customer service.

Others are beginning to incorporate mobile into their outbound marketing strategy. Just this week, Pizza Hut launched a number of ‘smart restaurants’ in mainland China, which uses iBeacon technology to beam coupons, special offers and competitions to patrons’ devices.

But there is one absolutely fundamental component to any mobile-based retail and hospitality strategy, and that’s the network. To connect with customers, customers first must be able to connect – and this means having a robust, secure public Wi-Fi connection.

Free Wi-Fi is still not a universal concept in UK retail, so a huge step forward must be taken by the industry if we want to truly engage with shoppers across the devices that have come to dominate their lives.

Until consumers are able to get online in-store in a frictionless manner, retailers are missing an opportunity to build and strengthen relationships with them. This needs to be addressed as a priority, before Millennials grow up to become the country’s biggest spending group, or the chance to drive mobile revenue could slip through companies’ fingers.

House of Fraser & John Lewis show customer-centric change isn’t just customer-facing

There’s an interesting shift occurring in the UK retail industry at the moment, and it’s deep rooted within leading organisations. A few weeks ago, we saw House of Fraser restructure its senior personnel, and now John Lewis is doing the same.

Of course, changing roles is nothing new – there is always movement at the top of the tree – however, what these two retailers are doing is more significant. John Lewis has created a brand new role – group productivity director – for its retail director Andrew Murphy, and added ‘omnichannel customer journey’ to the job spec of its operations director, Dino Rocos.

House of Fraser has taken this even further, creating a unified customer insight team encompassing its brand, product, CRM and multichannel functions. Moreover, this team will sit at the centre of its business decisions.

While to the consumer’s eye, not much has changed with these reappointments, they mark a potential seismic shift in the retailer/shopper relationship. Though customer-centricity has been a core objective of the industry for some time, many businesses have tried to nurture this from the customer backwards; think iBeacons, self-service kiosks, mobile apps and queue busting technology.

Many of these tools have been incredibly successful, however they only change engagement at a superficial level. Underneath the bells and whistles, there are still fundamental improvements needed within the networks and logistics that power the customer experience.

True change starts from within, and that’s exactly why the likes of John Lewis and House of Fraser are going back to the drawing board and redesigning their infrastructure from the customer OUTwards, rather than backwards.

And they’re not the only ones. The number one reason retailers come to Vodat to upgrade their store communications or managed data network is customer experience; they just can’t match the speed and complexity of today’s consumer interactions and it’s having a detrimental impact on their revenue.

By reinvigorating the people and processes powering their organisations, retailers are laying the foundations for a new form of customer-centric experience. One that supports the ability to wow shoppers at the front-end with the capacity to physically deliver on their promises. This is the magical combination that will increase customer satisfaction, and engender long-term loyalty.