Tilted tables: what consumer devices are really doing to stores

There is no shortage of ways consumer-grade technologies stand to benefit consumers during the shopping process; it is genuinely unfathomable how powerful – and cheap – these tools have become. However, whereas many retailers have historically done everything they can to discourage/ignore the use of these devices (often embodied by the reticence to provide consumer-access to Wi-Fi networks in stores), the tide has clearly started to turn. Virtually all retailers recognise that the devices consumers love so much hold tremendous opportunity for the brand to get in front of consumers where and how they live. Furthermore, anecdotally, many of our retail clients have told us they think of the consumer-owned smartphone as a way to outsource hardware costs for future consumer-facing initiatives.

However, in our most recent research, retail winners already have a much greater understanding the consumer's position of power. It is they who recognise that consumers are presently "hacking" their store experience; retailers don't yet provide enough of a digital/online experience in stores, so consumers are supplementing the experience with their own mobile devices.

But winners also know that if they can get in front of consumers on those devices they have a much better chance of engaging with them (albeit mainly via promotions) in the meantime (See Figure 1). It's a stop-gap way of thinking: not a "retailer-in-control" solution, but for forward-thinking retailers, it's the best they believe they’ll be able to do to stay relevant for the near-term future.

Figure 1: The house always loses – for now…

By way of comparison, average and lagging retailers display an inordinate amount of interest in making the customer do her own work. Nearly one in three expresses interest in adding self-service customer-facing technologies into the store – not outsourcing the hardware, but ironically insourcing it. This is a notion that has already been proven a non-winning strategy by several high-profile chains in recent years.

Some interesting data also presents itself when viewed by retailer size:

We invite you to read the full report to learn more.

This article originally appeared on the RSR Research website. It is reproduced with the organisation's permission.