Comment: The new retail landscape – omnichannel goes mobile

Is the high street really dead? Although it may sound like a cliché, it’s clear the way we shop is changing. In 2016, we saw a significant shift in the way online retailers seek to reach their customers. It’s no surprise they’re investing – according to WorldPay, omnichannel shoppers spend between 50-300% more than single channel shoppers. But what’s surprising is the tactics these online retailers are adopting. Curiously, they’re starting to act a little more like a high street shop.

What separates an online store from a brick-and-mortar retailer? Part of it is instant gratification. If you walk into a shop, you can buy and leave with your purchase on the spot. Not so for an online retailer. Shoppers’ growing desire for the same speedy service has forced retailers to adopt a more seamless, hybrid approach. Those set up to succeed in this digital era are adopting tactics like faster delivery and personalisation to create a consistent experience across in-store and online, meaning they can react quickly to trends and consumer preferences. At the same time, they must strike a careful balance between providing these personalised services and respecting their customers’ privacy.

Amazon has set the omnichannel agenda for the last couple of years, by recognising why customers come to them: they want more options. The first physical Amazon bookstore launched in 2015, and three more flagship bookstores were announced in 2016. Amazon Go, which launched in December, is a cashier-free store. The store design captures the convenience of online shopping through mobile with the benefits of in-store purchasing, creating a seamless buying experience where payments are deducted from the customer’s Amazon account, identified through geolocation tags via their mobile phone.

The future is bright for multichannel services like these. At CES earlier this year, we saw delivery drones, robots on wheels that can escort your take-away from the restaurant to your front door, and an augmented reality (AR) offering that lets customers take a virtual tour of cars using their mobiles. However, this truly omnichannel future also poses challenges. When your customers can come from anywhere, how do you identify them, serve them and keep their data safe?

The retailers that will succeed in 2017 will be those who can offer an exciting, seamless shopping experience across every channel, without jeopardising shoppers’ privacy and security.

Changing behaviour

Today’s shopper has many stores to choose from, so retailers need a way to stand out from the crowd. A well-targeted, personalised retail experience, such as tailored offers that match their buying habits, can make all the difference. Especially if they are delivered through their mobile device. An iVend survey from 2016 found that 26% would like personalised loyalty scheme offers sent directly to their mobiles when they’re in a brick-and-mortar store. 94% were more likely to save offers and coupons if they were delivered to their mobile wallet.

Retailers are increasingly embracing iBeacon technology to deliver in-store offers directly to consumers’ pockets. Last year Tesco rewarded lucky shoppers by sending ice cream offers directly to their mobile phones during the summer heatwave.

The appetite for targeted deals will increase throughout 2017 and into 2018, but retailers need to make sure that their targeted offers engage their customers and respect their privacy, rather than annoy them. It is essential to strike a careful balance between personalisation and invasiveness.

Building trust

Consumers want you to be transparent. They are ready to opt-in to personalised news and deals from their favourite stores, but they also know how valuable their data is for retailers. 66% of consumers are happy to give up their data in exchange for services or products, but they need to know that retailers won’t take advantage. If shoppers find out that brands have tracked their movements, or used their personal information in any way without explicit commission, they’ll simply vote with their feet – and leave.  

An approach that combines transparency, safety and privacy is key. Retailers should strive to make it clear what data is being collected, stored and shared in return for a better shopping experience.

The mobile connection

It’s no secret that mobile technology can transform a shopping experience. As a platform, mobile can help retailers capture shoppers’ attention on-the-go and provide location-specific information and deals. But most importantly, mobile can help retailers keep customer data safe and secure.

Mobile authentication services like the GSMA’s Mobile Connect gives customers an additional layer of control over what information they disclose with retailers by prompting for explicit consent. Retailers can then use data from the mobile operator to confirm their customer’s identity, maintaining their privacy while giving more options for personalisation – but only if the customer wants it. For example, if a customer agrees to share their date of birth with the retailer, they can receive  relevant offers to their age demographic. As customers can access the service through their mobile, the service is a convenient, easy way to authenticate themselves.

Retailers that embrace a mobile authentication service are at a huge advantage in today’s competitive marketplace. By offering services like Mobile Connect, retailers can prove they take their customers’ privacy seriously. Shoppers can feel safe in the knowledge that the retailer is taking steps to protect their data, while providing a seamless way to interact with in-store technologies like geo-location. By combining the convenience of online with the excitement of bricks-and-mortar, retailers who take security seriously in their omnichannel plan will be rewarded by more engaged, loyal customers in 2017 and beyond.