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What's in store for mobile retailing in 2012?

By Chris Brassington

January 5, 2012 | 3 min read

Chris Brassington, CEO of Starfish 360, comments on how the approach to mobile retailing has to change in 2012 if retailers are to successfully keep and find new customers.

Let's get one thing straight: m-retail in 2012 is not about the mobile phone. That's just one piece of technology from a multitude of tech-channels. The important thing to remember is what the technology allows customers to do and how it raises their expectations of a retailer and its shopping experience. Basically, your customer's expectations are rising and 2012 is about the mobile shopper.

By this we mean the consumer in work with a PC, in bed with their tablet, in store with their smartphone or on the train with their notebook. Consumers are on the move. They don't want to pay for the petrol to the shops and don't have the time to trawl around the stores. They want to do their browsing, research, bargain hunting and shopping wherever and whenever they can - and if you don't optimise all the technological channels to give them that experience, 2012 will be another lost year with more lost customers.

Like anything in life, technology hasn't created mobile shopping. It is a mixture of factors that are based on behavioural economics. So, the current economic need for value combined with fantastic mobile devices that allow commerce of all kinds along with instant information and news of deals have empowered the consumer to enhance their shopping experience.

What most retailers miss when engaging with mobile customers is the context of the engagement. Is the mobile device being used in-store to gain insight to make a purchase? Do they want to check stock? Or maybe it's about support or customer self-care? The worst thing a retailer can do is create a mobile department separate from their other disciplines. It needs to be integrated so your customers get a personalised, unified and consistent experience.

On the technology front, 2012 should see the UK start to embrace payment with mobile devices, either by Near Field Communication (NFC) or through mobile phone applications such as the Square payment solution.

Also look out for mobiles using barcodes or Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). In the US, Macey's and Apple are implementing in-store solutions where the customer uses their mobile device to scan a code or tag on an item. They can then confirm a purchase with the mobile device and leave the store having paid for the item without recourse to a cash register. Synchronisation and reconciliation with the RFID system can allow paid for items to be taken from the store without raising the exit alarm.

So, it is a fully integrated experience: from mobile browsing, searching stock for the correct size or specification, store locator, arrive at store, try on or look at, then confirm payment and leave with your purchase or get it delivered - all through mobile devices!

And of course, we're not just talking about 2012. Everyone has realised there is no quick fix. There is no single magic App. Next year is about a strategic three to five year plan to deliver the best mobile customer experience and secure a long term future to increase customer numbers.

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