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Smart Phones and Tablets are Redefining Retail

It’s easy to predict that with the explosive growth of people buying smart phones and tablets, we’re going to see mobility have an increasing and profound impact on retail. Currently, the largest retail chains are starting to embrace the ecommerce/mobile shopping revolution and install their own in-store kiosks and allow customers to download their own shopping mobile apps.

The problem is that small to mid-size retailers are continuing to see ecommerce and mobile shopping as a threat rather than an opportunity. But it’s time that they embrace the new reality that people are being increasingly empowered with smart mobility. In other words, retailers need to make mobility their friend, because often the thing we view as threatening is actually a gift in disguise. So retailers of all sizes need to stop thinking of mobility as a threat and start realizing it’s an opportunity.

One way retailers can innovate is to look in the opposite direction. In other words, don’t simply focus on how consumers are using mobile devices to shop. Instead, focus on how mobile devices might be used by your own sales clerks and within your store to improve the customer experience and make it easier to purchase something from you. For example, this holiday season some retailers are starting to copy the model that Apple stores use. That is, why have your customers stand in line for a cash register when you can have employees using smart phones and tablets make the sale right there on the spot?

Very soon, more and more retail outlets will be using mobile devices to not only make sales, but also to show customers additional features or other products available for special order. And if the customer wants the special order product, the employee can swipe the customer’s credit card on the spot and place the order for them.

Another good example would be to install tablets in fitting rooms. Didn’t find the perfect shirt? Pick up the tablet, search for other options, and purchase it from the fitting room. It’s better to make it easy for a customer to use your device that’s tied to your sales site than for them to use their own personal device, which might result in a sale going to a competitor.

You could also use an in-store iPad as a mobile kiosk, expanding the products from what that store has in its physical inventory to an unlimited number. By mounting iPads in select locations, you can create an inexpensive, mobile kiosk that can turn a “no we don’t have it in stock” into a “yes you can order it now and have it sent at no charge to you in just a few days.” The key is to make the customer’s experience an enjoyable one that includes no lines and free shipping.

So instead of fighting mobility, it’s time for retailers of all sizes to create a complimentary mobile and in-store strategy, one that can bring people from the outside in. For example, there are retailers like Target and LL Bean, just to name a few, that now have special mobile deals. The only way you can get the deal is by visiting the store and showing the coupon code displayed on your mobile device. So now they’re not only giving you a special deal, but they’re also giving you a reason to come into the store and hopefully buy a few other things. These stores are making mobile a reason to go into a store and buy.

Remember, if customers view shopping at your store to be difficult or frustrating, they won’t patronize you. But when you embrace mobility and use it to serve customers better and create a better retail experience, then you’ll have adopted a long-term success strategy that generates results. So it’s time to embrace and extend your reach with mobility, because you can’t stop the hard trends that are growing the mobile revolution.