As a brick-and-mortar retailer, you have the advantage of connecting with customers in person, and putting a face on your brand can go a long way when it comes to forging strong relationships. But if you’re ignoring your store’s mobile presence and spending little time maximizing the use of this technology, you’re foregoing some major sales opportunities.
A study from mobile software developer SOTI Inc. found that 92% of consumers want to shop in stores that are equipped with mobile shopping experiences, and the trend isn’t slowing down.
"The mobile influence factor is now over a trillion dollars, which means most people on the go are consuming media through mobile,” says Adam Meshekow, executive vice president of strategy and national sales for SITO Mobile.
Being local to those people is crucial to driving brick-and-mortar foot traffic. If you can influence them as they are moving throughout the day, and while they are near your location, you have a terrific opportunity to drive sales.
Photo credit: SOTI Mobility Management
But making sure your shop is mobile friendly goes far beyond the basics like in-store WiFi access. Here are seven things to do to maximize your mobile sales potential:
1. Create a mobile-friendly website
First and foremost, ensure that your store’s website is accessible and responsive on mobile devices, says Peter Sena, chief creative officer and co-founder of Digital Surgeons, a marketing firm that helps businesses with branding.
More than half (61%) of consumers will leave a site if it isn’t easily viewed on mobile devices, according to Entrepreneur magazine. And this likely contributed to Google’s latest algorithm update, which will phase out sites that aren't optimized for mobile in 2016.
“Consumers today have been conditioned by their smartphone’s ability to satisfy their every want and need at any given moment,” says Sena. “Even small brick-and-mortar shops must capture consumers through mobile sites.”
Not sure whether your website is optimized for mobile? Check to see if your site is mobile friendly with this Google tool. And just FYI: All of Shopify's site themes are responsive.
Here are some of the aspects of your mobile site you should ensure are working:
- Go responsive. Ensure your ecommerce site uses a responsive design that detects the type of mobile device (tablet, smartphone, etc.) used to access it. This way, your site’s layout will automatically adjust according to the device. If you're relying on an ecommerce platform, ensure that the theme is responsive. If you work with a web designer for a custom site, ask if your site is responsive and consider altering the design if it isn't. Or use a tool like Responsive Design Checker to see what your site looks like across different devices.
- Prioritize search. Put your site’s search function front and center, particularly on your mobile site. As one of the most popular mobile browser activity, search will also be one of the primary ways your customers will search for and discover your products. Again, ensure your ecommerce site theme includes a strong functionality that's easy for customers to find on mobile.
- Consider site speed. Your site’s loading time, particularly on mobile, matters. Google recommends that content above the fold should appear in a second or less — any slower, and your customers become flustered and move on to another site. You can use tools like the Google Analytics dashboard and PageSpeed Insights to measure your mobile pageload times.
- Scroll vs pages. When weighing mobile site designs or themes, consider scrolling designs (where you keep scrolling down the page) versus a site with multiple pages. Scrolling sites are easier to view on a mobile device.
2. Invest in paid search
One of the easiest and most effective tools small brick-and-mortar businesses can utilize right away is paid search, says Meshekow.
A local florist, for example, can use paid search to show up at the top of the rankings when people in their area search “flower delivery” or “floral arrangements.”
“Paid search allows you to ensure your listing comes up at the top of search engine results for your industry,” says Meshekow. “This enables you to get results in search quickly, as opposed to an SEO program that can take months.”
This step-by-step guide from Wordstream walks you through the basics of paid search. For the lowdown on finding the best keywords, check out our "Beginner's Guide to Keyword Research for Ecommerce."
In addition to putting some cash into improving your search ranking, retailers can also improve their store’s Local SEO. Boost your store’s ranking organically with a few Local SEO website optimizations, and take advantage of a few resources to become a Local SEO expert.
3. Use location-based media
Retailers can also use location-aware beacon technology that delivers a mobile ad within a specific geographic area, according to Meschekow. While this type of geotargeting isn’t new, retailers are using the technology to strategically serve up promotions to encourage nearby customers to take advantage of discounted merchandise or special offers.
The aforementioned SITO study found that nearly 40% of respondents had received targeted promotions or coupons in the past year and 85% said they would like to see more of them while visiting a store.
“You can target specific areas, like competing shops or locations outside of your store’s location, to try and drive customers to your location,” says Meshekow. “This helps you to gain market share, both from competitors, but also in the form of new customers who may be several miles away but not know you are there. Local media gives you the ability to specifically target the consumers you want to walk into your shop.”
If you’re sold on the idea of location-based ads and promotions, the following list of companies offers software and tools to help retail entrepreneurs get in the game. Many offer location-based marketing plans that send push notifications to customer smartphones when they’re within a certain distance of your brick-and-mortar store:
- Google: AdWords location targeting allows your ads to appear in the geographic locations that you choose: countries, areas within a country, a radius around a location, or location groups.
- Foursquare: The Pinpoint service uses first-party consumer data and the world’s largest place database to help advertisers deliver their message to targeted customer segments via standard and premium media solutions and generate actionable market intelligence.
- AdMoove: The company serves up geotargeted mobile ads complete with audience mapping.
- SITO: The company's VWI platform provides closed-loop attribution and reporting, identifying consumers who have interacted with an ad on their mobile device and then walked into a physical location in real-time.
- Yelp!: Yelp Ads puts your business in front of consumers nearby who are looking to make a purchase. According to Nielsen, 82% of Yelp users visit intending to buy a product or service and 89% of those who buy do so within a week.
Taco Bell, for example, has a happy hour promotion that sends customers a notification when they’re near a restaurant location during a certain time of day, including virtual coupons to entice them to stop by. While the example is food services, it serves as a great model for retailers.
4. Use mobile payment technology
Photo credit: SOTI Mobility Management
Retailers can enable mobile self-checkout with apps that allow consumers to pay on the sales floor using their smartphones. The SOTI study found that 61% of shoppers prefer using a kiosks and self checkouts instead of speaking to a sales associate.
“This benefits retailers with long line issues but also creates a dynamic that allows customers to truly be able to shop on their own terms in a way that is comfortable for them,” says Ani Collum, a partner in the consulting firm Retail Concepts. “Many shoppers, particularly millennials, are non-verbal in that they don’t always want to have to engage with store staff.”
Retailers can check out mobile self-checkout tools like Scandit for ideas and solutions to quash lengthy queues and bring the till to your customers' fingertips.
Retailers should also investigate mobile wallet payment options, such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, and PayPal, as Collum says these methods can often facilitate quicker checkouts and are the way of the future. “It’s becoming more of a baseline requirement for consumers, but yet to be totally embraced by smaller retailers,” she says.
5. Accommodate “showrooming”
According to techopedia, showrooming can be defined as the following:
"Showrooming is when a shopper visits a store to check out a product but then purchases the product online from home. This occurs because, while many people still prefer seeing and touching the merchandise they buy, many items are available at lower prices through online vendors. As such, local stores essentially become showrooms for online shoppers."
Major ecommerce hubs like Amazon are leaning into this trend, providing smartphone apps that allow customers to comparison shop while they’re in stores by scanning barcodes — and the SOTI study found that 56% of shoppers like using them. Instead of fighting this practice, which is called “showrooming,” embrace it and treat your store as an experience driver, says Sena.
“If you watch trends worldwide you’ll notice many people are buying in-store and having products shipped to them as opposed to picking them up,” he says. “The experience becomes more important, but the convenience of having items shipped makes the experience that much more memorable for the consumer.”
Fusing the physical and digital world can create powerful and lasting memories for a consumer and a brand, says Sena. The clothing store Zara, for example, is adding iPads to some of its dressing rooms to make it easy for customers to request a different size from a salesperson or ask a question.
Showrooming can also create interesting ways for brands to partner with complementary non-competitive partners to create memorable moments for their consumers and cross-pollinate their audiences in a way that drives retail and PR.
"Free shipping isn't enough anymore, that's expected,” says Sena.
Can a dress-shopper get their dress resized and a free blow-dry while they wait? Things like that are how small businesses should be thinking now to stay at the top of consumers’ radars.
If you're ready to embrace showrooming, here's a few ways to get started:
- Establish an in-store WiFi connection for customers, so it's easy to do their product research.
- Put product research right at their fingertips with reviews next to product displays and visual merchandising.
- Complimentary overnight shipping to your customers' doorstep — which accommodates that "I-want-it-now" feeling — and could tip the scale when casual browsers shop in store and are waffling on a purchase.
6. Encourage in-store opt-ins
Provide instant coupons, sweepstakes, concierge services, and other goodies to customers who voluntarily check in when entering the store or when they sign up for promotions, suggests Robert Tercek, a future-focused business consultant and technology expert.
“The retailer must offer an exchange of real value,” he says. At Rebecca Minkoff’s shops, for example, customers are offered a free drink. They provide a mobile phone number and get a text message when their beverage is ready.
While a free beverage may not be a great fit for your brand, another common option includes discount coupons for customers who opt into enewsletters in store.
Photo credit: SOTI Mobility Management
7. Offer digital receipts
Sixty percent of customers like the option of getting a digital receipt, according to SOTI.
“With the growth in digital wallets and reliance on mobile phones for commerce, digital receipt solutions are becoming increasingly more important,” says David Salisbury, vice president of sales and marketing for Star Cloud Services, a company that helps retailers engage with customers. “Obviously, digital receipts make a customer’s life easier, but on a more macro level, retailers can use digital receipts to engage with their customers. They can offer coupons and rewards, push relevant information, and even receive real-time customer feedback to make the experience better.”
This compilation of expert advice and resources can help retailers do just that — lean into the pervasiveness of mobile devices rather than lamenting it.
About The Author
Stephanie Vozza spends her days helping small businesses focus on productivity. Her work has appeared in Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur and Success magazines.