thumbnailThere’s a new crop of apps intensifying competition among brick-and-mortar retailers by giving consumers a faster means of comparison and more advanced personalization. What this means is that businesses have to deal with the linear change of ever-increasing consumer options

One new app that’s particularly brutal for retailers is Find&Save. Once upon a time, Find&Save was a fairly benign little program designed to offer its users coupons to nearby stores. But recently the CEO of Wanderful Media, the company who provides Find&Save, announced to the world that they’ve added a new feature to the app. It’s called Cash Dash. Cash Dash lets retailers offer you promotions the moment you walk into a competitor’s store, or even the moment you simply walk past the competitor’s store.

Ben Smith, the CEO of Wanderful Media and one of the brains behind Cash Dash, was recently quoted saying: “When you’re walking into a Home Depot on Saturday morning, your intent is clear. You’re in home repair mode. That would be a very valuable audience for Lowe’s.”

Devilishly Competitive

If Smith’s plan sounds to you like an almost sinister level of retail competition genius, you’re right, and major retailers and their customers agree with you. Companies are already signing up in droves to do promotions through Cash Dash, and consumers are happily downloading the app that promises to give them inside intelligence and red-alerts for great deals.

It’s already been the case for some time now that a smartphone is a great aid to smart shopping. According to a recent study by Accenture, 68 percent of consumers check out items and prices in stores and then search for lower prices for those same items online, a practice now widely known as “showrooming.” So perhaps it comes as no surprise that now brick-and-mortar retailers are looking for ways to turn the information transparency made possible by smartphones to their own advantage.

The Hard Trend of Customers Going Mobile

Another major hard trend that apps like Find&Save reflects is that in order to compete with online shopping options, brick-and-mortar retailers absolutely have to leverage mobile technology.

In the physical world, retailers have become fairly good at tracking the moves their shoppers make in their stores, mostly through the information gathered in loyalty schemes and membership programs. However, they’ve been nowhere near as good at collecting and leveraging this kind of data as online retailers like Amazon.

In the vast majority of cases, brick-and-mortar retailers can only leverage this data when customers check out at the register. Before the mobile revolution, brick-and-mortar retailers didn’t have a way of knowing what shoppers looked at but didn’t buy, or whether they forgot something that they probably needed. Digital engagement until this point has given e-commerce sites like Amazon and Zappos a giant advantage. Digital stores are able to easily track those things that until now, brick-and-mortar retailers haven’t been able to monitor.

With mobile technology, though, retailers are now able to update their traditional loyalty programs. For example, Walgreen’s now offers a one-stop-shop app that customers can use to get prescription refills via barcode scanning, plus medication reminders, photography orders, and loyalty card point tracking. The solutions that Walgreens offers customers via its app are gradually personalized based on the customer’s activity (a la Amazon’s book recommendations) and triggers are captured through the app, creating a high degree of consumer stickiness.

Thanks to its well-conceived app, Walgreens can now celebrate the fact that more than 50 percent of its online orders now come from mobile refills, up from 10 percent in 2010. This isn’t going away.

In Conclusion

The lesson here is: don’t protect your cash cow. While you’re stuck guarding it, the world is going to change around you. Instead, you’ve got to extend and embrace the new reality that’s dawning on the horizon. Increasing transparency, ease of purchasing, and mobile-powered shopping are simply hard trends that are here to stay. Your business can’t compete on price alone. Your product or service needs another advantage now, such as speed, availability, or delivery.

Don’t just think of the cheapest way to offer your product or service. Think of the way to offer it that most meets the convenience needs of a hungry market.

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