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One in 10 retailers use in-store features in their mobile apps: report

Pointing to how retailers are struggling with integrating mediums such as mobile into the store experience, only one in 10 currently offer in-store features in their mobile applications, according to a new report from EKN Research.

While retailers have aggressive plans to equip their store associates with mobile devices going forward, many do not expect to leverage the full capabilities of the devices. The results underscore how omnichannel integration is still a significant roadblock in enabling seamless in-store experiences.

“By its very definition, retailers’ omnichannel integration strategies need to be inclusive of their efforts on mobile,” said Gaurav Pant, research director for EKN Research, Austin, TX.

“The reason mobile can play a big role is because of the dexterity it affords retailers – it combines ecommerce, social media and native mobility such as location sensitivity, device features and app features into a powerful, portable customer channel,” he said.

“We see retailers leveraging mobility to enable omnichannel integration across four key areas: customer engagement, commerce and payment, delivery/fulfillment and the in-store experience.”

Mobilizing the fitting room
While many retailers recognize the growing opportunity provided by mobile, many are not willing to make the investment, with the report finding that IT spending on store technologies will remain relatively flat in the next three years.

One retailer that is doing a good job of leveraging mobile to create a strong omnichannel retail experience is Hointer, which enables in-store customers to scan QR codes placed on each item of clothing to build a virtual cart in Hointer’s mobile app.

When customers are ready to head to a fitting room, they indicate this within the app and are directed to one of Hointer’s private stalls where the items from their virtual cart have already been delivered via an automated picking system originally used in shipping warehouses.

Mobile immaturity
Store associate mobility is high on the priority list for retailers, with 71 percent planning to provide a mobile device or tablet to store associates by 2015.

Currently, only one in four offers a smart device to their store associates.

However, the maturity of these strategies is still slow, with only one in two retailers planning to deliver competitive pricing information to their store associates, according to the report.

With mobile users increasingly comparing prices via their smartphones while in a store, it is important for retailers to embrace this behavior – not avoid it – while focusing on benefits other than pricing to encourage shoppers to make a purchase.

Retailers also do not have plans to deliver insightful customer profiles at the point of interaction via mobile devices or tablets, thereby missing an opportunity to support store associate’s efforts to have a more meaningful interaction with customers.

Another key finding is that only one-third of retailers use the store as a delivery hub for online orders.

When it comes to omnichannel integration, store systems focused on traditional retail operations such as product, price and inventory are the farthest along, while systems focused on the customer – loyalty, customer information and promotions – have the lowest integration levels.

In-store helper
Mobile can be used to drive customer engagement in store by offering a mobile loyalty card that acts as a digital version of a physical card and by engaging customers via mobile coupons in an app.

Delivery/fulfillment is another area where mobile can be leveraged to enable delivery tracking and checking in to stores to initiate the pickup for online orders.

In the area of payments and commerce, mobile can be used in a variety of ways for digital receipts, mobile point-of-sale and via integration with contactless payment technologies such as Google Wallet.

Mobile can also enhance the in-store experience by enabling QR code scanning to receive interactive product information.

“Retailers are realizing that having a mobile site or app for the sake of being mobile won’t cut it and poorly designed, scraped Web sites or apps actually harm the brand,” Mr. Pant said.

“Progressive retailers have been investing across the four enablement areas and are trying to create an experience that is integrated with the other channels and is native to the device,” he said.

“The ones that have done a good job in the areas of engagement and commerce are the usual suspects like Walgreens, Apple, CVS [and] Target, but it’s newer retailers like Hointer that offer an interesting vision of how things can be.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York