The Candid Voice in Retail Technology: Objective Insights, Pragmatic Advice

Where Are Mobile’s Biggest Opportunities?

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As a shopper, what do you use your mobile phone for most? I’m asking in the traditional retail, sense, of course — not the texting between social media sessions or weather checks (all of which can factor into retail shopping these days). But more in the sense of finding a store, or searching for merchandise, or creating a shopping list, or checking order status…

Here’s the thing: did you say to check prices? Because in our latest survey on mobile devices, retailers overwhelmingly tell us that’s what they think consumers value most.

In fact, retailers of all sizes and stripes still maintain that the ability to check prices is job one. However, after that, some interesting differences emerge by retailer performance.

Winners want to make sure that shoppers can find merchandise as easily and accurately as possible. This includes all the ways consumers shop today: finding an item online from the comfort of one’s home, finding a product in a nearby store while out and about using a mobile device, finding a product that’s not in store once that shopper is in a particular store — and everything in between. It only makes sense, then, that their second priority is to schedule in-store pickup of a digital order.

All other retailers, by comparison, are zeroed in completely on price comparison. RSR has been citing this as a shortsighted approach for quite some time now, and cautions retailers that this is a dangerous tack. From our most recent pricing report:

“The best-performing retailers believe they have solid promotion planning processes, and they see their promotions' effectiveness in line with those beliefs. Retailers whose sales are lagging are even more likely to believe their promotions are effective, even though they don't regularly identify bad promotions, and they don't regularly measure the full impact of a promotion. Pile on the need to understand and respond to competitors' dynamic pricing strategies — multiple, intra-day price changes — and retailers face as much disruption when it comes to pricing as they did when price optimization was first introduced.”

If we need further proof that modern retailers have become too promotional in nature, consider the next most important opportunity to non-winning retailers: once they’ve addressed price comparisons, their second highest-rated opportunity is to pull the price-drop lever: 39% go directly to promotional offers and coupons.

But what about mobile opportunities as they relate to employees?

We found that retailers think mobile technology holds the key to finally ending the headache of employee work scheduling, shift trading, and time-off requests.

What is particularly interesting about this data is how much it has changed in the past 12 months. One year ago, we asked retailers the exact same question. At that time, only 30% of retailers cited access to work scheduling functions as a top opportunity — at 51% this year, it is not only the top opportunity that retailers think mobile will bring to their employees in 2016, but it’s also the second biggest shift in priorities in the past 12 months.

In fact, the only thing that’s changed more is retailers’ hopes for assisted selling, dropping in this same time frame from 53% last year to 38%. While this appears to be a negative indicator of where retailers’ faith lies in the future of mobile devices’ ability to make the workforce more relevant to demanding consumers, further investigation proves it to be worse (for some retail chains, at least) than first thought; Winners’ valuation of assisted selling possibilities is up from the group’s (42% vs. 32% of all others), while the negative change is driven entirely by large retailers.

Only 14% of large retailers ($1-5 billion in annual sales) see mobile devices as giving their employees a chance to provide assisted selling opportunities. By comparison, 56% of the smallest retailers see these same devices as providing a real advantage to their in-store associates. This is a key component of small retailers’ going-forward strategy in stores. They recognize that consumers have come to their stores for some reason; that they (one day) plan to capitalize on this opportunity by arming their store associates with the same technology shoppers already have is a bright spot on their near horizon.

Returning the store staff to relevance is a key component to what might help small retailers — whose window for stealing market share away from their larger, less-nimble competitors is closing rapidly — differentiate themselves before larger retailers can catch up.

If you’d like to read the full report we’ve just released on how different retailers perceive mobile technologies, you can find it here.

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Articles & Opinions April 26, 2016
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