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Report on Retail Bulletin Mobile Summit

In this second part of our report on the Retail Bulletin Mobile Summit held last week, we report on presentations given by speakers from DigiPos Store Solutions, New Look, Tesco.com, Javelin Group, Chiltern Railways, Phones 4U and Barclaycard.

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Report on Retail Bulletin Mobile Summit

Phil Parry, group technical director at DigiPos Store Solutions said that ecommerce and physical stores are often seen to be competing with one another for sales.  He revealed that the focus at DigiPos is about mobile sitting in the middle and helping to pull the entire sales strategy together, bringing together a store solution and an ecommerce solution through a mobile solution.

He pointed out that if customers liked a retail brand, they are likely to enjoy the retailer’s in-store experience as much as its online offering. Therefore they want retailers to marry the online and in-store experiences, avoiding a silo approach.

Parry pointed out that there are some emerging risks for mobile retailing. Firstly, if retailers fail to manage their customers’ in-store experience well, other retailers will steal a march on them. Secondly, retailers run the risk of random searches in-store which exposes customers to competitor offers.  In addition, there is also a problem with many retailers opting for quick solutions that lead to half-baked sites that are a turn-off for customers. 

Another issue is the prospect of retailers needing to accept that customers are often more knowledgeable than staff on specific products so the challenge is how to convey product information instantaneously  to staff in-store to enable them to fully engage with the customer.

But above all, he said it will be customers who are driving their shopping experiences not retailers. They will expect a consistent experience across all channels otherwise the retailer will be considered a weak brand. He added that retailers needed to take a paradigm shift with regard to mobile retailing and take account the following factors:

- Customers will expect a consistent and seamless experience across ALL channels
- Retailers will need to ensure that sales staff can deliver an enhanced level of in‐store service
- Retailers will need to make fundamental technology choices in order to deliver a successful, personalised and differentiated multichannel experience

Alison Maguire of New Look spoke next. Before relating how her company developed its mobile site, and she gave some interesting facts about its customers.

Maguire said that research shows that 66% of New Look’s customers are multichannel shoppers with the biggest adopters being the 16-24 age group. But perhaps the most intriguing insight was the fact that experiences of mobile shopping are polarising depending on which handset their customers are using. 

When developing its mobile site, New Look wanted to reach out to all customers. Other priorities had been to offer a seamless engagement with customers, and create what Maguire described as that ‘mobile moment’ for them. They also wanted to promote offers and benefit from social media, SMS, and NFC.

Regarding the future, Maguire said New Look is working to develop a mobile contact strategy where the company gains an understanding of the demographic with a single view of the customer.  This will be helped by smart phones being regarded as customers’ personal mobile computers.
Other factors coming into play that will enhance a customer’s experience on mobile included augmented reality, social networking and the inclusion of CAD and 3D.

Following the success of the mobile site, New Look is now developing an app that Maguire said will complement the experience of the mobile site by helping to bring the products to life by including more rich content.

Jeremy Waites of Phones 4U examined how mobile could be integrated into social media initiatives.

He said that he found the biggest challenge had been the huge disconnect that existed between social media and what was happening in the stores.  Staff in store were often suspicious of social media and found it difficult to see how it could benefit their sales, so an education process had to be initiated.

A second challenge was the difficulty in persuading people who are being social to actually go and make a purchase. He cited a recent campaign by Carphone Warehouse that had been successful in generating interest, but had not resulted in the sale of a huge number of phones.

Waites said that sales at Phones 4U benefited from the social media function becoming a business department in its own right and not something where responsibility is shared between different departments.

Waites told the audience that Phones 4U now has a social media team of 25 which adds value to every part of the business.

Thomas Ableman, marketing director of Chiltern Railways described how the train company is using mobile to engage customers, reduce queues and costs, and to increase profits.

Ableman said that Chilterns Railways is a company that is keen to respond to innovation. It was the first train company to enter mobile retailing world in 2007 by sending text messages which customers could use as a ticket.  It is also keen to help customers make better use of their time whether it be on board a train or in purchasing a ticket.

Doing “something mobile” was an obvious way to give people better use of their time. So they introduced what was quite a complicated app that enabled customers to buy tickets via their mobiles, although  it looked very simple to the customer.

The move made very good business sense as it helped sell more tickets and reduced the selling costs, although Abelman stressed that Chilterns was not planning on a move away from selling tickets at stations. It was all about giving customers more choice.

Abelman said it is now looking to develop its mobile offering further by offering an app that provides real-time information on train departures and car parking information.

Fraser Davidson, director of Javelin Group explored the various options regarding mobile technology.

He stressed that retailers need to step back and identify what they want when launching a mobile site. Questions retailers should ask themselves include:

- Who are your customers?
- What are they likely to want to buy from you?
- How rich does the offer have to be?
- Why do you want an mobile site or app?

Regarding mobile apps, he said retailers should consider if they want an app because they want to get something out there quickly or because it offers more functionality.  And with mobile sites, retailers need to decide if it will be part of the main website or a standalone.

He said retailers who build a mobile site on the back of an ecommerce platform should remember that if they change their e-commerce strategy they will also need to change the m-commerce strategy. Whereas with a standalone m-commerce site this is less of an issue.

Finally Davidson pointed that as mobile sites become richer, there will be less need for retailers to have an app.

Annabel Thorburn, head of web and mobile development  at Tesco.com explained how Tesco had  built a mobile strategy for a multi-channel multi-category business.

She described how the retailer had decided very early on that it wanted to pursue a customer-centric approach with regard to mobile and wanted to appeal to a broad church. And to achieve this it conducted extensive research with customers.

For the company, the decision was not to choose between an app or a mobile site, but to have both as there were merits in each.  From research, Tesco had found that when a customer builds a relationship with a retailer, they quickly move from the mobile site to the mobile app.

Thorburn stressed that mobile will change the retail landscape as it enables customers to spot pick up on what a retailer is doing or offering very quickly. And regarding the future she pointed out that retailers need to be ready for the next big thing as customers are connecting to the internet through an increasing number of devices and not just mobile

And lastly she concluded that m-commerce is just one factor in creating a successful customer experience.

The final speaker of the day was James McDonald head of strategic development initiatives at Barclaycard.

He talked about how mobile contactless payment was still in its infancy in terms of adoption. However the launch of new handsets will speed up the process. Customers can benefit from many features including being able to see a week’s worth of transactions on their phones as well as the remaining balance. There was also no need for paper receipts as they were all stored on the customer's phone.

Although the technology has a long way to go before it reaches 50% penetration, McDonald said he envisages that one day all payments will be made via mobile phones  and be used for both low-value and high-value purchases.

The Retail Bulletin Mobile Summit raised a number of key issues regarding the development of mobile retail and how retailers can create a successful mobile strategy. However, panellist Sienne Veit, head of new technology business at Marks & Spencer, summed up the day’s discussions perfectly by saying that all mobile retailing needs to“delight the customer” and make purchasing via mobile a pleasure in order to speed up its adoption as a mainstream method of shopping.  

Mobile-The Biggest Opportunity In Multichannel Retail is the topic for an interactive panel discussion at The Retail Bulletin’s 3rd Multichannel Retailing Summit 2012. Confirmed panelists so far are: Jon Asbury, Multichannel Development Manager- Halfords; Rajeev Aikkara , Project Manager, Mobile Solutions - asos.com; Simon Smith , Head of Multi Channel Customer and Employee Experience - o2 Telefónica.

The event, in London on 1st February 2012, will examine how retailers can maximise profits and market share through cost effective, engaging and seamlessly integrated multichannel strategies. Other confirmed speakers include Tesco.com, Schuh, Santander UK plc, Marks & Spencer, Boots.com, Game Group, Alexon Group plc, , Everything Everywhere, Penhaligon, Joules Clothing, Adnams Plc, Best Buy UK, Collect Plus, Norbert Dentressangle. Click here for full details.

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