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How mobile shopping connects in-store and online commerce

By Robyn Turk

18 Dec 2019

Retail |INTERVIEW

Despite traditions of celebration and relaxation, the holiday shopping season is one of the busiest times of the year for the retail industry. Last year, holiday spending amounted to 850 billion dollars in the U.S., taking into account figures over a period of just 54 days.

Insights from previous years has shown that online shopping plays a significant role in holiday shopping, yet consumers are not ready to give up visiting stores. The current issue, however, is that neither in-store or online shopping can provide the perfect experience to consumers. When shopping in store, consumers lose the ease of product discovery and availability of stock that e-commerce offers, though with online shopping, consumers experience a lack of human interaction and brand engagement.

Retailers are realizing that the best way to serve their consumer, particularly during the busy holiday shopping season, is to streamline offerings and services between their in-store and online platforms. They are competing to drive consumer traffic to both in store and online shopping channels, and in turn consumers are evolving to expect specific conveniences such as competitive markdowns and omnichannel services such as buy online, pick up in store. For many companies, the solution to bridging consumer expectations with retailer capabilities lies within new technologies - which is where PredictSpring comes in.

Founded by the former head of Google Shopping, PredictSpring creates mobile apps that serve consumers and retailers alike to make the mobile buying process a straightforward experience. PredictSpring has designed apps for retailers including American Eagle, Calvin Klein, Maje, Brooks Brothers and Vineyard Vines. FashionUnited spoke with PredictSpring’s founder and CEO, Nitin Mangtani, to learn insights on how mobile technology is the way forward to improve the shopping experience in today’s market.

FashionUnited: What are the biggest pain points for consumers when shopping online versus in-store?

Nitin Mangtani: The biggest pain point when shopping online is the lack of human interaction and personalized customer service. Consumers like the feeling of connecting with a brand and appreciate the personal touch when a store associate recognizes their loyalty status or knows their preferences or past shopping history. Fortunately, well-developed native mobile apps can provide that same level of personal connection even when a customer is accessing the brand online. The entire mobile app experience can be customized based on user preferences and location. Users can manage their loyalty program, receive product suggestions and chat with stylists.

And what are the consumer concerns with in-store shopping?

As you would expect, consumers shopping in-store may feel that they are missing out on the ease, variety, product reviews and access to information available when shopping online. Fortunately, these benefits can also now be enjoyed in-store. Consumers are taking advantage of mobile functionality on their smartphones while shopping in-store. Shoppers can check prices and inventories, access personalized promotions and discounts, pre-arrange to have product waiting in fitting rooms and connect to loyalty programs. Sales associates are also using mobile devices in-store to offer customers personalized clienteling services, endless aisles of products, arrange delivery of merchandise and, importantly, offer seamless checkout anywhere in the store. In-store mobile kiosks provide customer reviews, product location information and help with ordering out of stock merchandise.

While consumers used to encounter pain points at various stages along the customer journey, this is no longer the case. Thanks to robust mobile technology, consumers can now enjoy an easy, personal and information-rich experience no matter when or where they access a brand.

What are the main challenges for retailers?

One of the biggest challenges for retailers is digitizing the in-store experience. While most retailers understand the importance of offering a digital experience in store they also fear that it’s prohibitively difficult and expensive. In reality, it’s quite simple and affordable. Consumers who have visited innovative brands such as Apple, Nike and American Eagle Outfitters, SMPC (Sandro, Maje, Claudie Pierlot) have seen what’s possible when a retailer invests in their in-store experience.

How can these challenges be met?

Retailers and brands must modernize their POS systems. Easy-to-use, cloud-based, modular Mobile first POS systems allow store associates to offer mobile checkout anywhere in the store, effectively line busting and potentially saving retailers the nearly $40 billion lost each year due to long checkout lines. In addition, a Modern POS enables sales associates to offer highly personalized clienteling services, endless aisles, and alternative fulfillment methods such as BOPIS.

Modernizing the fitting room is also critically important if retailers want to stay relevant. In fact, shoppers who use fitting rooms are seven times more likely to complete a purchase compared to shoppers who simply browse inventory on the sales floor. So it’s easy to see why elevating the fitting room experience is so important to a retailer’s bottom line. Retailers like American Eagle Outfitters have done it well and are reaping the benefits.

Are consumers using online as a means of discovery, then completing their purchase in-stores or is it vice-versa?

In retail it’s important to remember that it’s not online or in-store, but rather it’s how do you make online and in-store journey seamless. Mobile technology has helped make the shopping experience truly omnichannel, with shoppers enjoying similar, connected experiences no matter how or when they access the brand. Often times, consumers use a brand’s website or app to “scout” product before venturing in-store to actually touch or try on. Conversely, shoppers often venture in-store to gather information before going home and placing an order online. In both cases, the most important thing is that the consumer is enjoying a seamless, connected and consistent experience whether they’re shopping in-store, online or both.

What factors, if any, make consumers more willing to complete an in-store vs online?

Every consumer is different and each consumer values different aspects of the customer journey. However, the one thing most consumers have in common is that they value the experience and that experience should be personal and it should be consistent across channels.

Storing and utilizing personal customer information in the form of clienteling is extremely important, both online and in-store. This information must cross channels so that the customer enjoys a consistent experience if they purchase something online in the morning and then visit that retailer’s store in the afternoon.

The factors that would compel a shopper to complete a purchase in-store versus online are actually quite similar. Shoppers, whether they’re shopping from an app or in-store, want an elevated experience in the form of convenience, choice and personal service.

What role do you stores play in the holiday shopping season?

While surveys suggest that this might be the first year that mobile holiday sales exceed in-store sales, the in-store experience will continue to be critical to a retailer’s success this holiday season. All estimates point to robust holiday sales and in order to capitalize on this strength, stores should commit to modernizing the store experience. Continuing to invest in old, inefficient technologies results in what we call “tech debt” and hinders a retailer’s ability to stay relevant. Affordable tools that enhance the entire customer journey are readily available and can easily enable a brand to modernize their image, attract and retain customers and enhance the bottom line.

What will be the biggest transition as we look into 2020?

Committing to a truly Modern POS system will be the most important thing for retailers to be mindful of as we enter 2020. It is the one aspect of retail that can really impact every step of the customer journey. A small investment in time and money can have a truly meaningful impact on customer experience.

In terms of payment, retailers must make paying for products simple. In store, that means mobile checkout and no lines. Online, that means a simple one-touch digital wallet option.

In terms of inventory and fulfillment, customers must always have access to a brand’s entire product catalogue and should be offered numerous fulfillment options. Using mobile store associate apps and kiosks, brands can now offer consumers access to their company-wide inventory, even in smaller footprint stores. Connecting channels to offer more convenient delivery options, such as BOPIS, is becoming extremely popular.

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