Mobile Shopping… While In a Store

Just when you thought e-commerce took some time to get used to, now retailers have to welcome mobile commerce into their sales strategies… whether they like it or not.

Pew Internet Research did a study of mobile phone users during the 2011 Holiday season, finding more than half of adult cell phone users actively engaged with their phones while in stores to help them make purchase decisions  Holidays or everyday, this number is strong enough not to ignore. So just how are customers using their phones to help them “shop”?

1. Customers refer to their phones to look up reviews and product information while shopping in stores, allowing them to make more informed decisions.

2.Customers refer to their phones to check pricing of products, actively looking for somewhere else the same product may be available but cheaper.

3. Customers refer to their phones to call friends or family about making a purchase decision.

It’s estimated by Pew Internet Research that 52% of all adult cell phone users use their phone for at least one of these three reasons. Due to this, it’s extremely important to consider how you – an indie store owner – will support this in your store.

The first question you need to ask yourself  – if you have not already – is are you prepared to support these consumers? In being prepared, there are a few things to consider.

1. Do you allow cell phone use in your store? Nowadays, most stores do. But some stores consider this an invasion to privacy, such as using a smartphone in a dressing room area. Other stores simply find it rude. If you have a policy of no phones allowed, make sure you clearly and politely identify this in multiple spots in your store. For example, you should have something near your entrance that identifies this, as well as by your cash wrap. A few strategically placed signs in your store will  also do the trick. Remember to keep your tone friendly here should you choose to do this. Customers prefer not to be told what to do and how to act, so this isn’t a preferred rule to make.

2. Do you allow your products to be photographed? Most phones have cameras built into them, and customers can get a little snap happy with taking pictures. Whether they are wanting to post something on Facebook, pin it to Pinterest or simply text it to a friend, you need to identify if you will even allow this. Depending on your store type and products, you may prefer not to. But for many retailers, this needs to be accepted as a “new” consumer behavior that will aid in sales for you. While you hope customers will identify where they snapped the picture from  (your store) this can’t be guaranteed. Try to embrace this consumer behavior – it’s the new norm and can help strengthen sales.

3. Do you welcome competitive shopping via phones? While we can’t imagine you love this, the real question is do you accept it? After all, you can’t change how consumers today act. What you can do, however, is accept it, respnd to it and make it work for you. If you see a customer actively using their phone or clearly hear them discussing your store inventory with someone on the phone, what do you do? This is a tricky question without a black and white answer, but for many stores, they have found success in politely positioning themselves into this conversation. Believe it or not, some customers today are just use to grabbing their phone for “support” and may not even think to ask for help. Another approach may be to wait till they look up and away from their phone again, then offering to assist them.

Among the biggest challenges of mobile commerce that we hear from retailers again and again is that they can’t compete with lower prices found online. We get it. Our best answer to this? $7 out of $10 spent in a locally owned business is kept in the community. Unfortunately, this isn’t the answer everyone wants to hear, but it’s our hope this will somehow make an immediate impact at that moment. What we don’t suggest, however, is to get frustrated, heated or upset because you don’t like these types of consumers. They exist and they will likely visit your store one day. The real way to win them over is with your instore experience, product, stand-out customer service and overall enjoyment of being  – and shopping – in your store.



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