06 January 2016

Keeping up with the smartphone revolution

The way we shop has changed. Consumers today are more informed, more connected and more demanding. Technology and smartphones have made consumers accustomed to instant gratification, they expect to have items available on their terms. The reality is now with shoppers no longer needing to visit brick-and-mortar stores to buy items, traditional retailers need to revisit the way they service their customers, and fast.

Today new technology is one of the greatest forces that brands need to contend with. And, when technology is used to deliver convenience to consumers, it can also deliver great results for the bottom line. It is the brands that listen, inspire and connect with consumers via the channels they use that are most likely to succeed. For traditional retailers, remaining relevant through offering a seamless, enriching omni-channel experience is key.

So while we all know that consumers are time poor and focused increasingly on convenience and value, they have also changed in other significant ways: they expect customised service, have abandoned brand loyalty, and increasingly search for deals that offer the best value for money. They are well aware that they have the ability to vote with their feet and wallets, they readily publicly celebrate good experiences, but are as quick to complain about poor service.

Proactive retailers will take a good look at the new consumer, and work to close the gap between consumer expectations and the ability of businesses to meet them. Developing trust is key especially to grow brand loyalty. Brands need to consider how they can engage with consumers both as individuals and as communities across different stages of the path to purchase, openly encouraging dialogue, acknowledging suggestions and consumer sentiment. If not, as Deloitte Research shows, they “risk consumer activism, not having a presence in consumer communities, and losing consumer trust and loyalty”.

To remain relevant, retailers should develop digital strategies that overlay, and enhance their current model to close this gap. Developing a pre, in-, and post-store mobile strategy focused on the customer experience is key.

Experience shows that it is the forward-thinking retailers which are interweaving digital tools into delivering top-end customer service that are making headway in this hyperconnected world. At a global level – Starbucks is owning this space through its ‘order and pay’ mobile functionality. Starbuck’s mobile-first strategy enables it to engage with its customers via its payments app. loaded with additional engaging functionality: the ability to purchase music, pre-order drinks, check how long it will take for your order to be ready, and track vouchers for free food and coffees. A great example of a mobile solution which offers measurable consumer benefits and business results; in fact it’s the mobile strategy is driving nearly 20% of all transactions.

There are many technologies available that help create a valuable customer offering: Beacon solutions enable proximity based deals, delivering coupons to consumers nearby or in-store, it is these mobile coupons which play a key role in driving loyalty. Over 71 million Americans are expected to redeem coupons via their smartphones in 2015. Here in South Africa, Shoprite Group’s popular Eezicoupons offers instant shopping discounts to customers via its mobile app, and now are also available to FNB Customers through the FNB banking app.

With the smartphone revolution shows no signs of abating, the availability of cheaper smartphones is set fuel further growth. So how do Retailers keep up with this trend and deliver impactful mobile solutions? The bottom line is, a change in mindset is needed. And fast. To maximise sales and consumer loyalty, retailers need to offer the best, seamless combination of online and in-store by using technology to improve their customer experience.


Terry Steenhuisen
mobile transacting, Retail, technology
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