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9 ways mobile and social tech improves the retail shopping experience

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff | July 10, 2015
Retail and ecommerce experts share their tips on how stores can enhance the in-store shopping experience with mobile and social media technology.

With the continued growth of ecommerce and in-store comparison-shopping via mobile devices, it's become harder for many bricks-and-mortar retailers to get customers to make on-the-spot purchases. However, instead of seeing mobile and ecommerce as a threat, some savvy retailers have embraced the adage "if you can't beat them, join them."

So how are these bricks-and-mortar retailers using mobile and social apps to their advantage and what can you do to keep consumers from going elsewhere to shop? Follow these nine suggestions to make the sale.

1. Provide free Wi-Fi. Consumers want to use their phones to shop (or while shopping). And if they can't use their smartphones or tablets in your store, they are likely to leave. So consider providing free Wi-Fi.

"Retailers should look to deploy secure public wireless networks that support consumer apps that drive engagement with mobile shoppers," says Greg Griffiths, vice president, product marketing, EarthLink, which provides managed network, security and cloud solutions for multi-location retail and service businesses. Using Wi-Fi and beacons, "retailers can interact with mobile shoppers while gathering information on who's in the store and how long they stay to learn more about shopping patterns."

Moreover, "a recent IHL Group study showed [that] retailers [that] deployed in-store Wi-Fi report[ed] increased customer loyalty since deploying the technology," he notes.

2. Station self-service kiosks around the store. Not every customer has or wants to use her mobile device when in a store, which is why retailers should consider self-service kiosks.

"In-store kiosks that integrate with the [retailer's] point of sale system and online store can show customers what options are available online and in store, and even direct them to where they [can find items] within the store," says Andrew Van Noy, CEO, Warp 9, digital commerce, mobile and security experts. "In addition, these integrated kiosks could make product recommendations that may have not been previously considered."

3. Showcase user-generated content next to products. "Bazaarvoice research shows that mobile shoppers who view consumer-generated content [have a] 133 percent higher conversion rate," says Lucas Tieleman, director of in-store product innovation at Bazaarvoice, which provides user-generated content marketing solutions. "Using a mobile phone's geolocation features and beacon technology, brands can push relevant product reviews to a consumer's device in their exact moment of need, enabling the consumer to read reviews from likeminded shoppers and make a more informed purchase decision."

Similarly, "retailers can take a page from the Target and Macy's playbooks and draw attention in store to items that have been featured or highly popular on Pinterest [or Instagram]," says Michelle Stinson Ross, who handles social media outreach at AuthorityLabs, which provides search engine rank monitoring software. "Take it a step further with pins that demonstrate how a product can be used." For example, "a cake pan can be featured in a creative summer recipe. A scarf can be featured as a way to change up several outfits."


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