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Clicks to save bricks in 2018

By Retail Technology | Thursday January 25 2018

Is 2018 the year that retailers still not making the most of mobile have to finally come up to scratch? Judopay CEO Ryan Farley thinks so

You'll likely be aware of the industry joke that requires some thought leader to say each and every January that we've arrived at the 'year of mobile'. 

For consumers, that year probably came a few years back with the ubiquity of the smartphone. Yet there are whole sectors of industry where these little supercomputers haven't really made an impact. 

For retail, it's something of a tale of two cities; some have invested heavily in mobile, others have yet to. 

One thing is clear: for the mobile laggards in the retail sector, 2018 needs to be the year they maximise what mobile can do. 

Underwhelming experience 

For every company like Amazon - opening its no-checkout, mobile app-based Amazon Go store concept to customers - there's a Sainsbury's, supplementing an underwhelming in-store experience with an inconsistent app. Now that mcommerce is so established, and usually lumbered in with the term 'ecommerce', it's surely not long before consumers start voting with their thumbs. 

Consumers want to use their mobiles more or less everywhere to interact with more or less everything, yet many retailers still aren't meeting consumers in the middle with the mobile services and products they need. 

Sure, more or less every retailer has an app, but app users expect a lot more than just being able to browse through products and they expect to do everything they can usually do in-store through their phone. 

This requires a mindset shift from retailers, to not just enable entire customer journeys on mobile, but to also begin blending in-store and online to boost engagement, sales and - crucially - repeat customers. 

Smartphone purchases

If the most recent Black Friday demonstrated one thing to retailers it was surely that mcommerce is really getting into its stride with purchases on smartphones up from 29% to 40% in just one year. 

Retailers that are enabling consumers to buy on the move are clearly reaping the rewards of changing behaviour on mobile. Young, tech-savvy ASOS' overtaking of M&S last year is partly proof of this and we sense that for retailers 2018 could be app-solutely huge. 

Yet it isn't all about the first and final click coming from mobile - it's about joining up the dots too. 

Tech revolution 

As the physical/digital divide dissolves even further, we can expect to see a tech revolution in-store to always-on mobile shopping experiences like Amazon Go. From our perspective, 2018 will be the year that the app comes into its own as a crucial part of all customer journeys. 

It's not just Amazon and the grocery market set for radical change in-store. IBM is currently trialling checkout technology in London which doesn't even require scanning anything. Instead, sensors at the point-of-sale detect what's in your basket and with one click in an app you pay for it all. It's alleged to be up to 10x faster than the usual self-checkout process. 

Retailers like Zara are already leading the way too, and others are set to follow. Head to Zara's Oxford Street store with its streamlined, well-designed app open on your phone and you can scan the clothes you're picking up while you shop. Reach the checkout and the machine can automatically scan what clothes you've brought to the counter, avoiding any 'unexpected item in the bagging area' issues. Instead, the app actually complements the in-store experience and even speeds it up. 

For fashion especially, the average shopper needs to check out the look and feel, not to mention size and fit, of an item before buying - so bricks and mortar stores need to keep evolving to retain this high-ground advantage. 

Overly complicated

Current barriers to a truly complementary in-store/in-app integration include poor in-store WiFi, often with overly complicated or non-optimised registration processes, no clear reason for customers to buy while they're in-store, slow or clunky payments processes (in-store and in-app) and no personalised push messages/email marketing to encourage that next sale. 

Yet, now imagine a world where a customer walking near a store receives a personalised push message about a special sale in a product area they've browsed in-app before. They enter the store, guided in-app to the floor and section the product is in, they try it on, they self-scan it and pay in-app with a touch of their thumb with an e-receipt automatically shared through the app. 

This level of service is entirely within reach for major high street retailers, yet many are still to deploy any kind of transformative technology in-store or in-app. 

It may seem counterintuitive that clicks will save bricks - and it's a given that many will continue to shop from their sofas - but the real retail revolution in 2018 could be that the supercomputers in our pockets powerfully transform our everyday purchases on the high street. Your move, high street. 

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