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Opinion: mobile is bringing the digital world in-store

OpenMarket head of commercial development Paul Murphy

In spite of the economic upturn and increased consumer spending, competition in the retail domain remains fierce. Consequently, in an effort to win and retain customers retailers are putting greater emphasis on the customer experience and investing accordingly. At the heart of the customer experience is ‘the brand’ and by extension how that brand interacts with us.


With omni-channel retailing fast becoming the norm, it’s important that retailers look at what this means for their communication and engagement with customers. As retailers increasingly expand their presence into online, social and mobile spheres, real success depends on a cohesive strategy that utilises the strengths of each channel to bring together a much improved customer experience.  One that very often culminates in-store.

As consumers become more tech-savvy and willing to engage with retailers, forward-thinking brands are using this to their advantage. With virtually every shopper carrying at least one smart device, retailers have the potential to make their in-store communications and marketing much more targeted and relevant than ever before. A number of retailers are using near field communication (NFC) tags in store to share offers and detailed product information such as stock levels or washing instructions. Customers simply tap their phones to the tag and the information is delivered to their device. This also allows for the retailer to share targeted offers via SMS; for instance, if a customer has tapped on two similar items, a ‘2 for £40’ coupon could be sent direct to their phone, encouraging the sale.

This idea is being developed further through in-store public Wi-Fi offered by companies like Wiforia. Brands offering free Wi-Fi to customers secure a vital data point: knowing when a customer is actually in-store. Using data from public Wi-Fi or ‘beacons’ it’s possible to map the shopper journey and all-important dwell time. This paves the way for highly-personalised, context-relevant marketing offers direct to a shopper’s phone. For example, if a customer dwells in the drinks aisle, sending a 2-for-1 offer might encourage the sale. With 76% of purchase decisions made at point of purchase, this could convert a browser to a paying customer. The same approach can be used to send shoppers customer satisfaction surveys via text message as they leave the store, encouraging quick, real-time feedback at the point of experience.

Research from Deloitte claims 50% of all in-store sales will be influenced by mobile over the next decade. With mobile, brands have a direct line to each and every customer, affording them a much more effective means of interaction than ever before and a very real ability to impact purchasing. Those retailers who use digital in-store marketing to create value-added experiences for customers, in the right place at the right time, can only benefit. 

Paul Murphy is head of commercial development at mobile engagement specialist OpenMarket.