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Mobile’s Road Ahead: Yikes

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Just like Nikki, conference season has me traveling right now. Next week I’ll have a full writeup of JDA’s annual Focus event. But if you read my article last week, you’ll recall that I posed some questions about the biggest opportunities for mobile technologies. More specifically — what do consumers think they are vs. what do retailers think they are?

Well here at this show (a predominantly supply chain and WFM, by the way), the topic of mobile’s potential has come up in every session and discussion I’ve had. One of my colleagues from Forrester even shared his own data about the disconnect between retailers and their shoppers on what a great makes for a great shopping experience. Consumers’ highest priority? Convenience. Retailers’ highest priority? Providing offers. Shoppers and the people they are shopping from still have very different ideas about what the best use is for the device in that shopper’s hand.

So as I pointed out last week: we have a real problem. Retailers of all sizes and stripes still maintain that the ability to check prices is job one, and consumers disagree. But let’s say (for argument’s sake) we get past that issue sometime soon. Imagine retailers and consumers get on the same page about what a mobile device should really be used for. Then what?

In our latest research, retailers tell they have a world of organizational prohibitors beyond that. Budget remains a serious issue. But the sheer numbers retailers ascribe to the roadblocks before them tell us that — even if they can figure out what they should be using mobile devices for — a whole lot still needs to transpire before organizations are able to make the most of mobile solutions — both in-store and in the digital domain.

This stuff isn’t easy. Let’s be honest — mobile in nothing short of a moving target. Retailers are expected to delight consumers who have consistently been — and will no doubt remain — several technological steps ahead of them at all times via increasingly sophisticated mobile devices.

However — and this is interesting — the story changes significantly when viewed by retailer size and performance.

52% of Retail Winners say that stores don’t even understand the mobile, social, or cross-channel opportunities of the new retail landscape — far and away their biggest inhibitor to making progress. This is no small feat to overcome. How can stores be expected to be relevant when they can’t grasp how far out ahead of them consumers really are?

However, perhaps stores are too easy of a target, and Winners are a bit quick to place blame on stores and store associates for this challenge — after all, stores can only do so much when they don’t have the tools necessary to compete. And it only takes a brief tour of your own favorite stores to notice how similar they are — technology wise, in particular — to where they were at the beginning of the millennium nearly 20 years ago.

Meanwhile, only 14% of all other retailers cite this store challenge as an inhibitor. What can we surmise from this? That non-winning retailers simply haven’t undertaken the legwork to bring mobility into their enterprises at the rate Winners have. Winners have been in the trenches for quite some time; they know what they are up against.

To further cement this point, 51% of non-winning retailers (vs. only 33% of Retail Winners) cite budgeting and ROI challenges as a gating factor to seizing mobile opportunities. Quite frankly, they haven’t even gotten past boardroom discussions about the need to bring mobility into the organization enough to have the scars that Winners already bear.

And by revenue, it should come as no surprise that it is the smallest retailers who are most challenged to find budget for new mobile endeavors (56%). This helps explain why they have yet to do more to differentiate themselves from their larger competitors.

The next few years are going to be tough for retailers, but on the flip side? They definitely won’t be boring!

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Articles & Opinions May 4, 2016
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