How do traditional brands from the world of retail, publishing, or banking take the service they have offered for decades and make it work as a mobile service? That’s a challenge that companies in almost every sector are facing, although it has become more of an acute challenge for retailers because new market entrants are redefining what customers expect as normal in the sector.
Research published just a couple of months ago (Forbes magazine) on the retail mobile customer experience found that shoppers have an expectation of a completely seamless shopping experience no matter which device they use. So shoppers have an expectation that they need to invest minimal effort in the process of shopping, which means that for the retail companies, life gets more complex.
Step back for a moment and think about the mobile experience you have with companies that have only ever existed online or on apps. Tripadvisor can guide you to the nearest Chinese restaurant inside seconds. Uber can give you prices and show you how many drivers are nearby and how long you need to wait once a driver is located for your ride. Spotify advises you on new music you might like and when your favorite band is visiting town. Now think back to how the traditional providers of these services used to operate. Guide books, printed maps, waving for a taxi in the street in the rain, and reading a review of your favorite band the day after the show happened.
That gives an idea of the challenge faced by the retailers. The research report featured in Forbes magazine Focused on 8 retailers from the Fortune 100. Best Buy, The Home Depot, and Target all came out on top on a series of user experience measurements focused on ease of use, speed, credibility, aesthetics, and delight.
Costco and Walmart came out on the bottom in this research. Personally that sounds surprising because to my mind, Walmart has been the single traditional retail brand most interested in innovation and exploring how apps can change the retail experience. However, this study rated them low for information on pricing and shipping, and requiring too much information to complete a transaction.
Amazon has certainly led the way in this area. They got a patent on one-click shopping back in 1999 showing that they were letting customers check-out with a single click almost twenty years ago. If retailers are still making their regular customers scroll through pages of delivery and payment information then they might need a history lesson.
It’s clear that in-store retail is not finished, but the smartest retailers need to find how they can support customers who want to sometimes shop in-store and sometimes shop online. Different channels from those used to make the purchase often influence these omnichannel shoppers and they are the most valuable customers of all.
My observation on this recent research report is that retailers need to think strategically about three key areas of their business:
1. How can we make mobile shopping easier than traditional online shopping experiences that still use the shopping cart model familiar in the 1990s?
2. How can we blend online and in-store so in-store customers are not anonymous – they can be served with information and offers using their mobile device even when in-store?
3. How can traditional retailers explore new retail paradigms, possibly by engaging with new business models? Can the blend of online and in-store shopping create entirely new ways to relate to the customer – a health food store creating a vitamin subscription plan for example? Most people thought the concept of Dollar Shave Club was a joke when they started – then they sold the business for $1bn to Unilever.
Getting mobile right in retail is about far more than just offering a colorful website or app. Integrating your in-store and online business to create a true retail omnichannel may redefine how your entire company operates. This is not a bad thing. Look at how the online-only businesses have redefined their industries now think how your section of retail may change if the heritage retailers did not exist?