I bet I have you thinking about Robert De Niro in Taxi - and just like that - you have a split second to grab my attention and my business – in-store or online.

Companies are increasingly using multiple channels to interact with their customers, and in the online world mobile apps are the latest ways in which retailers are trying to grab the increasingly sparse customer attention span and even precious ££.

Although, I believe that there might be room for improvements, most businesses are doing well in investing in the online channels – fixed and mobile. Where I believe the gap is widening is between companies I enjoy shopping with and with those that I don’t - in-store.

In really taking care of me online, some companies have forgotten that they do have a physical store, and that interactions with me face-to-face are even more precious. With the high street's transformation taking place, leading to diminishing foot falls, it is even more important to reimagine the in-store experience and introduce mobility within the four walls. Let me illustrate with a personal example.

My real-life shopping experience always starts with a 'Google'. 

I recently renovated my house and had to buy carpets, floorings and some white goods for the kitchen. The buying experience started with grabbing the phone and Googling ‘carpets in Reading’ (where I live) and up popped few websites. One company looked like it had a sale on so I shortlisted it for a visit later.

Back to Google and this time I pressed the microphone like symbol and said ‘Fridge sale Reading’, voila, the first result was for a shop with a sale on and was in the same retail park as the carpet shop – spooky or BI (business intelligence)? I decided to do some further research and checked the mobile website for the carpet shop, unfortunately it didn’t have a very good mobile experience as it just recreated its website on my mobile device.

Thus frustrated I moved on to the shop for white goods. Their website was simple to navigate on the phone and gave me a lot of useful information – in bite size. Emotionally, I was more attracted to the second shop and looking back as I write this blog I am amazed how a company can capture my attention and my emotions at a very early stage of our interaction.

How many customers are clicking away from your website because you haven’t bothered changing the format from a normal website to a mobile website? Plus, do you have an app, surely you do, right? 

What about the technology enabled in-store experience?

Right, all excited to go shopping I checked the route to the retail park and the traffic en route. ‘I depend a lot on this smartphone’ I mused, how did I ever do all this prior to smartphones hmmm, I parked the thought to be thought another time and jumped in my car wondering why hasn’t the car picked up the directions from my phone and tuned in to my fav radio channel yet? It knows I am in the car, doesn’t it? My phone increasingly is my digital identity, it knows everything about me and if I wanted it to then it should share that information, securely – internet of things! I digress. Back to my shopping experience.

I was curious to understand whether these retailers would somehow blend the digital experience, with the physical in-store experince, something which often is refered to as 'digical'.

I went to the carpet shop first. After ages looking at the samples displayed and the rolls and rolls of carpets hung neatly in the shop I got frustrated and decided to seek help. There began my problem. The showroom staff was helpful, at the start, and enthusiastically walked me through the different choices. The problems started when I started asking questions as she had to walk back to her desk to get information on pricing, designs and other configurational information (does this go with that vinyl floor?) and it wasn’t helping that I had never bought carpets/floorings before, so I was indeed asking silly questions. As a consultant in workplace transformation and with a keen interest in business processes I could feel her frustration but as a consumer I was getting frustrated myself.

After making some initial choices on fabrics and floorings we had our house measured the next day and were told that a quote would arrive in 4 days’ time – whoa!! 4 days?? Who waits 4 four days for anything nowadays. The problem was that the person measuring the house took all the information down on paper, he would then send it to the shop and the sales agent would then prepare the quotation. He couldn’t prepare a quote for me and close the sale, while in my house – how intimate can you get with your customer – you are in my kitchen?

Eventually and pressing through the antiquated business processes of trying to sell me some carpets and floors I did eventually buy my carpets and floorings from this company – purely because they were the cheapest and had a great buy now pay later offer.

Smart retailers are utlising mobile technology to enhance the in-store experience

On the same day I had walked into the carpet shop, I also went into the white goods companies’ store. I was only after a sink for my kitchen that day and after the usual gawking at various models displayed I asked the sales assistant for some help. I was happily surprised to find him picking up his mobile POS tablet and following me around the aisles. He had all the information I needed at the finger tips. He managed to upsell me to a more expensive model that had to have these expensive taps to go with it. Onto the fridge and after helping me choose the best fridge for my kitchen he also told me about the great offers that the store had on washing machines and dishwashers – and as they were colour co-ordinated with the fridge, they would look great in my kitchen. Of course they would.

Oh, and he did take my payment on the spot and sent the receipt to my mobile device and email.

What a difference between the two experiences. Customers shopping in a shop are increasingly becoming a rarity, are expensive to acquire and retain and therefore the experience in-store needs a complete re-think to cater to the always on/informed customer – like I am.

Here are three things you could be doing straight away:

  1. Identify mobile instances and re-engineer your business processes to capture these instances,
  2. Define business objectives, craft an in-store mobility strategy, ensure cross-organizational alignment, and identify enabling technologies such as cloud, big data
  3. Partner with technology service firms throughout the digital transformation journey – from conception to execution to review and iteration.

In summary, brick and mortar still matters and it is important to capture my mobile instances within your four walls.

For further insights into how these new technology enabled in-store experiences are disrupting retail, check out this e-book: Engage With Today’s Customers: 4 Ways Retail Can Reimagine Business.