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.

Argos is smart to start trading-up customers’ old tech

I wonder how many unused gadgets the average person has lying around their home? The pace of technological change is such that I suspect most households have at least one previous generation smartphone or tablet in a drawer somewhere.

In fact, the UK as a whole has about £1 billion worth of retired tech tucked away, according to electronic equipment recycle firm, Wrap. And Argos has become the first retailer smart enough to capitalise on this opportunity, by teaming up with Wrap and inviting consumers to trade in out-of-date digital items at their stores.

This seems like a win-win scheme; shoppers get Argos vouchers in return, which they can use to get the latest generation gadget, and they don’t have to dispose of the item themselves; the retailer gets additional custom and some positive publicity; Wrap gets lots more lovely devices to reuse or recycle, reducing the electronics industry’s contribution to UK landfill.

It’s surprising that a scheme like this hasn’t been piloted before – at least, not on the scale of what Argos is planning – but I guess this must be down to the financial, logistical and promotional investment needed to make it a success. However, those who haven’t boldly gone down this route may not realise how clever Argos is being, aligning itself with a technology recycling scheme.

Argos has undergone a major strategic overhaul over the last 12-18 months to reposition itself as a digital-first company (including the launch of a digital concept store on London’s Old Street), and this latest move brings customers into its tech-savvy community.

The recycling scheme is sending out a clear signal: ‘because we’re a company on the cutting edge, we know that you crave the latest technology, and we’re going to help you make that upgrade in an environmentally friendly, financially beneficial fashion’.

Not only does this court custom in general, as the exchange of vouchers will encourage shoppers to make their next technology purchase with Argos, it attracts a specific segment that is interested in electronic gadgets.

These are the early adopters, the boundary pushers; the type of customers likely to embrace in-store technologies such as self-service order points, find them of benefit, and return to the store in future because of them.

So Argos is smart to start trading-up customers’ old tech – because this could well be the scheme that unites digital-first shoppers with their technology-led ambitions.

Is your store ready for the mobile shopper?

Fashion retailers are immersed in one of the most competitive markets out there. With constantly changing trends to keep up with, meeting customer demands has always been difficult to achieve.

Alongside this, retailers now have consumers’ tech-addiction to contend with. As new devices constantly hit the market, shoppers are being presented with alternative ways to browse and pay for goods – with fashion being the first stop it seems!

According to the latest research from the British Retail Consortium, UK consumers are increasingly using their mobile devices to shop online, particularly when it comes to buying clothes. In fact, popularity is soaring, with smartphone searches rising by over 50% since last year.

While this may seem intimidating for bricks-and-mortar stores, there’s no reason why they can’t embrace mobile technology too. It’s very likely that most customers will be carrying a smartphone, so why not see the device as an untapped resource to help boost business?

Many retailers are already doing just that. UK shoe specialist Clarks has noticed the appeal of mobile to today’s shopper, and actually promotes the service to passers-by. Featuring stickers in their shop windows, Clarks urges shoppers to use their devices in-store to browse their entire product range online. This not only caters to consumers’ growing reliance on technology, it encourages them to complete their full journey in the store – even if their desired item might not be there at that time.

Some retailers are taking this one step further, creating mobile apps aimed to enhance the store experience. Ted Baker is a great example of this, finding a way to combine mobile and beacon technology to draw in more shoppers. The retailer’s Westfield White City store recently installed beacons in its mannequins, allowing them to send push notifications to customer smartphones about the displayed items. If the shopper has downloaded the Ted Baker app, they will be able to quickly purchase the clothing directly from the website.

However, before retailers consider launching an in-store mobile strategy, there are some factors to consider. For one, there’s no use advertising mobile services if their website is not mobile optimised. Surprisingly, Barclays recently revealed 70% of UK retailers have admitted they do not have a responsive website or an app in place – which can be very off-putting for a smartphone shopper.

Secondly, retailers must ensure they have a robust Wi-Fi network in place if they are offering mobile facilities in the store. A slow internet service will not only discourage customers from using it in the first place, but will likely open doors to complaints too.

Mobile offers a very lucrative opportunity to build stronger relationships that drive revenue in the store. However, retailers need to get the basics right to create a solid foundation on which to build impressive customer experiences.