The idea of optimizing for mobile is far from new. But the ways in which retailers can use technology to connect with mobile shoppers have become far more advanced than the limitations we faced with the first generation of smartphones.
In a recent Facebook report, How Mobile-First Connections Drive Local Business, we learned that more than 1.6 billion people on Facebook are connected to a small business. About 66% of those visit the page of a local business or event at least once a week.
Below, let’s look at why consumers are buying local instead of online, and how you can optimize your retail store for today’s mobile shopper.
Why Shoppers Are Buying Local
According to the report, most (87%) consumers shop local because of reasons related to trust and security. Fraudulent ecommerce sites have fostered mistrust with newer or lesser-known online stores. Plus, being able to physically interact with another human instills more trust.
Second to trust and security reasons, 52% of shoppers also like the easy returns process that a brick-and-mortar store facilitates. And half like being able to experience a product in real life before purchasing.
Consumers who prefer shopping in-store to online are also after convenience. They like shopping at stores that are close by, being able to take the product home immediately, and having instant access to assistance from associates.
How Mobile Fuels the Shop Local Movement
Buying local and being mobile may not seem to go hand-in-hand at first glance. But if you think about it, the advancement and widespread usage of mobile technology is fueling the shop-local movement. The majority (80%) of consumers use mobile devices to connect with local businesses, but the key is in understanding how consumers use mobile to engage with local retailers.
For instance, two-thirds of shoppers use mobile to stay connected with local events, while 45% use it to learn more information about a business. Hosting an in-store event? Create a Facebook event page and use a geo-targeted paid ad campaign to drive interest. Consumers who use their mobile phones as their primary device are 1.37 times more likely to find out about pop-up shops and local events on Facebook.
Let’s look at more ways to optimize for the mobile shopper:
How to Connect With Mobile Customers
Learning how to connect with the increasingly mobile shopper is also important to businesses. Nearly half have begun optimizing marketing strategies and campaigns for mobile users, while 40% believe this will be even more important in the future.
Here’s how to connect with mobile users:
First thing’s first: You’ll want to adopt a mobile-first approach to design. Consider how different the experiences are on a desktop computer versus a mobile device. The layout, page design, font size, and even button copy should all be reviewed from a mobile perspective. Many website builders will provide an option to preview content in a mobile view.
This is how United By Blue has optimized their website for the mobile shopper.
“We've seen in the past few years mobile users becoming more and more prominent as our users, and today they make up 51% [of site traffic],” says Brianna Nieman, head of design. “We design first for mobile and then think of how that will apply to desktop — it's become that important.”
What’s in store for United By Blue’s continued mobile optimization efforts?
“Some of our bigger initiatives in the coming months are including the search bar on every page in a prominent feature, and adding a store locator link on the product page so the entire cross-channel story comes full circle,” says Nieman. “Both will be visible on desktop and mobile but have been developed specifically with mobile use in mind.”
What else should you do to be “mobile-first” in your website design? For one, consider the major difference of a mobile user: The device can place phone calls. Because of that, you might want to put an easy-to-find button with your phone number that users can easily tap to place a call to your store. This is obviously not a design element you’d want to highlight on the desktop browser experience.
Your store hours are also important to include. In 2016, mobile searches for the phrase “store hours” and “open now” peak in the month of December, reaching the highest volume on Christmas Day.
Optimize Your Local Listings
Moz reports that, monthly, users conduct about seven billion unique local searches on Google. And one BrightLocal survey found that nearly half of businesses think it’s easy to use, while 20% know it’s important but still don’t fully understand how to use it. That means there’s lots of opportunity for retailers that optimize their Google Business Profile listing.
The Shelley Panton Store has clearly put work into optimizing their listing, including store hours, photos, location, reviews, and even blog posts from the retailer.
Start by claiming your listing (it’s free!), and fill out your profile completely. If you don’t, Google users have the option to edit your listing, and you risk having inaccurate information on your listing.
PRO TIP: Use local inventory ads to serve up specific product ads and promotions and let shoppers know what’s in stock and what’s not.
Your GMB isn’t the only local listing you’ll want to consider to optimize for the mobile user. Consider these other directories:
- Bing Places for Business:Almost one-third of searches in 2015 were conducted on the Bing search platform.
- Yelp Business Page: According to Yelp, businesses that claim the Yelp Business Page see an average annual incremental revenue of $8,000. Yelp has a support guide that shows you how to claim and list your business.
- Yahoo Local Basic Listings: Yahoo also integrates with Localworks, which allows you to control your business listing in multiple locations.
- TripAdvisor: More than 60 million users search for local businesses on their travels on this platform.
- Local directories and sites: Is there a community directory of your businesses where you can get listed? Your local Chamber of Commerce is a good place to start, and there may also be other options. Downtown Boulder, for example, has a directory of retail shops for locals and visitors alike.
Develop a Mobile App
Flurry Analytics found that 90% of time spent on a mobile device happens inside mobile apps, so investing in your own retail mobile app could be a wise move to generate more sales. Starbucks, for example, had five million U.S. orders (20% of all U.S. orders) come through their mobile app in 2016.
There are many things you can do with a retail mobile app. Here are some ideas to get started:
- Offer in-store navigation assistance so shoppers can find what they’re looking for without needing an associate.
- Create a customer loyalty program and allow users to earn, redeem, and view their balance in the app.
- Introduce augmented reality to enhance the in-store experience.
- Allow customers to shop what’s in stock and learn more about the product without having to ask an associate.
- Send personalized marketing messages and push notifications based on user behavior and location in the store.
- Include a barcode scanner so users can see instant pricing and product information after scanning the price tag.
Offer Mobile Pay
The retail industry is seeing more alternative checkout methods than ever before. Remember when Amazon Go was the talk of the retail industry? Well, the ecommerce giant was onto something. In their brick-and-mortar venture, they removed the traditional checkout from the entire shopping experience. No cashiers, no cash register, no lines — just walk out.
While that’s a bit of a futuristic example that’s not exactly feasible for every retailer, mobile checkout is much more attainable. Though the MasterCard Digital Payments Study found that mobile wallets are used in just 1% of total retail sales, they’re growing in popularity. They were cited in three-quarters of social media conversations about new ways to pay. And Business Insider predicts a 20% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2020. There’s good news for retailers: Many of today’s point-of-sale (POS) systems can accommodate mobile pay.
Leverage In-Store Beacons
Beacons are wireless, Bluetooth-enabled devices that connect to smartphones within close proximity. The use of beacons, or proximity marketing, in the retail setting allows businesses to send personalized messages to nearby shoppers who have the required apps installed and Bluetooth turned on. The beacon technology industry was estimated to amount to more than $170 million in 2016 with a CAGR of over 80% through 2024, according to a Global Market Insights report on beacon technology.
ELLE, in conjunction with RetailMeNot and ShopAdvisor, used in-store beacons in more than 800 store locations. They successfully drove 21,000 in-store visits and more than $400,000 in revenue from the campaign.
But beacon technology is also used to engage with shoppers once they’re already in your store. Macy’s, for example, integrated gamification into their proximity marketing approach for Black Friday. Shoppers were “challenged” to use the app to try and win prizes. This type of approach can encourage customers to linger longer — and, hopefully, spend more.
Provide In-Store WiFi
Cisco data cites that 96% of consumers prefer to shop at stores with free WiFi; they’re also more likely to return. And almost 60% of shoppers demand in-store WiFi, according to Oracle. WiFi marketing is an in-store tactic that retailers can use to engage with shoppers on their mobile devices while they’re in your store, plus continue the relationship with them after their in-store experience.
Essentially, you can grow an email list or social media following by creating a barrier to the free WiFi network. To get past the barrier and gain Internet access, customers must opt into your list or follow you on social media. This also provides you with basic data that you can use to personalize messaging and promotions.
What is showrooming? Essentially, it’s when a shopper comes to your store to touch and experience the product in person, and then purchases it online at a later date. Customers showroom because they often find better deals online, but they want to make sure they’ll like the item when they receive it. This also avoids the hassle of dealing with returning merchandise purchased online.
How can retailers accommodate the showrooming trend? Here are a few ideas:
- Be competitive in your pricing. If customers are looking for the best deal, be the one to offer it if you can.
- Offer added benefits to purchasing in-store. Maybe there’s a free gift with purchase or complimentary tailoring on all jeans purchased in-store. Whatever the offer, make it something that shoppers can’t find online.
- Train your sales associates to close the sale. We’ve written up ten tips on getting your retail employees up to speed.
- Create an actual showroom. You know the saying, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”? That applies here. Turn your store into a showroom for your products.
Moving Forward With Your Mobile Optimization
While the reasons behind the trend may vary, one thing is certain: Mobile is only going to increase in popularity. Consumers are becoming more connected, and retailers that meet shoppers where they’re at will have the easiest time keeping up.
In what ways have you optimized your store’s mobile presence? Which retailers do you think are truly mobile-first?
Retail mobile FAQ
What is a retail mobile app?
How do I create a retail app?
- Keep it simple: When it comes to retail apps, simplicity is key. Your app should be easy for customers to use, and should only include the features that are absolutely essential for your business.
- Make it visually appealing: A retail app that is visually appealing and easy on the eyes is more likely to be used and appreciated by customers.
- Pay attention to the details: All the small details of your app, from the icon to the user interface, need to be well-designed and thought out.
- Test it out: Before you launch your app, be sure to test it out thoroughly to ensure that it works properly and that there are no glitches.