There is a distinct threat to ‘brick and mortar’ retail these days, and it can be summed up in one word: mobile. Companies like Amazon have apps that let consumers scan a barcode with the option to purchase the item on the spot. More of these apps are coming, but this threat can become an opportunity if retailers develop their retail app-titude. Yes, I made up a new word. It seems quite relevant though considering the topic of this post. How does that one saying go? Fight fire with fire? What I am trying to say is that it is time for retailers to fight apps with apps of their own.
Why is this important?
1) The Facts and Just The Facts: Pew Internet and American Life Project came out with a study that shows 52% of adult mobile phone users use their phone to help make purchase decisions. The ScanLife Mobile Barcode Trend Report, tracking mobile scans of UPC and 2D barcodes, reported nearly 12 million scans last quarter and a 300% increase from the previous year.
2)If Not You Than Someone Else Will: MediaPost’s Chuck Martin discusses how ShopSavvy Wallet, like Amazon, also offers one-tap buying http://bit.ly/AC7pzn. After an item is scanned, the app lets consumers compare prices and one-tap purchase from the retailer with the best price. The moral of this story is that retailers need to offer their own app to maintain consumers’ attention and money. If you can’t capture their attention then someone else will.
How do you capture their attention?
According to Mark Walsh, many retailers have weak apps because they’re not focused on making them shop-centric http://bit.ly/w9GNCs. Examples of companies with weak apps are Abercrombie and Fitch and Longhorn Steakhouse. Instead of focusing their efforts on informing and connecting, they go the flashy route with 3D graphics and motion-based effects. Walsh clearly states that retailers need to choose whether to enrich or engage consumers. With this there are four types of apps to choose from that enrich or engage.
1) Informational: These apps enrich by providing consumers with information on retail outlets, high-level and non-product-specific information. Examples include Century 21, Hilton Hotels and Toyota.
2) Buy/Ship: These apps allow consumers to look up items and purchases for later offline home delivery. Examples of these include: Amazon, Wine.com and Zappos.
3) Multichannel Lite: Designed to assist in-store shoppers, but not in the same way as multichannel heavy apps. Multichannel lite is focused on providing product information and solving consumer problems like in-store wait time. Examples of these are Starbucks and Best Buy.
4) Multichannel Heavy: Also designed to assist in-store shoppers, but allows for more interaction and the option to purchase the product through the app. Examples of these are Walmart and Walgreens.
What about mobile landing pages and websites?
eMarketer cites two studies and concludes that consumers prefer each for different tasks http://bit.ly/Ag7tW8. Consumers prefer mobile for shopping, searching and accessing entertainment and prefer apps for navigating and acquiring information. However, what this article fails to mention is that the two are often intertwined. Acquiring information is part of shopping and making a purchase decision and websites and apps can both be sources of a purchase decision. Mobile landing pages are important to have, but apps are also and are more likely to both inform and engage consumers in the purchase process.
No longer is shopping a point A to point B journey. There are many other points along the way and with them come many other apps competing for shoppers’ attention. If retailers do not develop their retail app-titude and make it the strongest than another will and will take their customers along with it. Ask yourself what the status of your retail app-titude is and what kind of app you wish to develop, because that is what will make the difference. Successfully fight fire with fire, and you win.