As the Retail Landscape Undergoes a Transformation, Mobile Becomes More Critical

I live near an outlet mall, and while I don’t spend much time there, I've noticed some changes. First, there’s a lot less traffic trying to squeeze into what used to be a full parking lot. In the stores, the aisles aren’t as packed as I remember – and the lines seem to be shorter. The act of shopping feels different. Something has changed.

Should I be surprised or concerned about this?  What’s changed?   

Mobile.

The mobile device has, and is, transforming the retail shopping experience beyond recognition – a profound shift that should serve as a wake-up call to mobile marketers in 2017. More shoppers are now searching, comparing and buying online or from their smartphones, instead of traipsing through malls. Amazon, Wayfair, QVC, Overstock.com and other online retailers have turned the concept of shopping into an instant-access service, thanks to mobile data, personalization, day-of delivery perks, user-friendly apps and, soon, the wider adoption of voice-assisted digital shopping.

These industry-disrupting forces are also putting marketers, especially those in the retail sector, on notice to better understand and anticipate the needs of today’s shoppers - or risk becoming another casualty in the retail sector’s transformation.  Some of these include:

  • The Sports Authority, which closed all its stores in 2016
  • The Limited, which followed in early 2017 with more closures
  • Other big-name retailers, including Sears, Kmart, Nordstrom, Lowe's, JCPenney, CVS and others, which have announced cutbacks and store closings to take place in 2017
  • Macy’s, which is cutting 10,000 jobs, while Amazon.com is adding 10 times that by 2018

 

Welcome to the New Retail Economy

This transformation of the shopping experience is what I describe as the arrival of the “on-demand mobile retail economy.”  And in this new economy, mobile marketers must understand shoppers’ habits and behaviors wherever they are, and they must cater to their customers' activities and needs in the mobile environment– especially as they move from device to device, from home to work to leisure to home and back again.

Just as smartphones are transforming the retail economy, they have also become indispensable, 24/7 tools across every component of consumers’ daily lives.  A recent Expedia/Egencia global survey found that 60% of travelers never fully "unplug" from their smartphones – not even while on vacation.

 

In 2017's On-Demand Mobile Retail Economy, Data is the Key


Mobile and retail marketers need to be in sync with their customers, too – both on their phones and in their lives. Using all of the data that can be collected from the mobile environment, marketers must leverage all of the channels available to them - apps, email and mobile messaging, to name a few - to connect with consumers' "moment of opportunity" activities – when they open an app, walk into a store, browse for a new product, place or remove an item from the online shopping cart, buy the same brand of moisturizer they purchased online last month.  

Mobile data connected to these various activities can provide telling insights on how to create more compelling email campaigns, improve in-app messages, or inform entirely new digital marketing initiatives.  Data is the critical ingredient that ties together the various elements of the new retail shopping experience to produce meaningful consumer insights.

Indeed, mobile marketers who fully understand and embrace this mobile-influenced, data-driven transformation of the retail environment will be most likely to succeed. They'll emerge as the mobile equivalent of the full parking lot, crowded stores and busy checkout lines.

Find more solutions to the new retail challenge in our "Delivering Mobile Success in eRetail" showcase.