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Five things retailers can do with mobile

By David Delony / July 29, 2013

Consumers love shopping online, and are increasingly doing so on their mobile devices. To lure shoppers back to their brick-and-mortar locations, retailers are making their way to the mobile space. So how can they use smartphones and tablets to boost sales? Here are five tips:

1. Roll out the apps

Stores love mobile apps because they can target their most loyal customers wherever they happen to be. They can alert shoppers to special offers or remind users of their loyalty programs when they walk in the door. Apple’s Passbook is a good example of an app that can push special offers to consumers based on their location.

Starbucks is another great example of mobile enhancing the in-store experience. This industry-leading app keeps customers informed of seasonal offerings and deals, while offering another means of paying for their beverages. The ease-of-use and popular rewards program put the Starbucks mobile payment feature on par with Isis and Google Wallet.

If you don’t have the infrastructure or capital it takes to create your own mobile app, however, you can always partner with one of the bazillion mobile rewards programs that have launched over the last couple of years. Apps like Belly, Shopkick and LevelUp all help retailers increase customer loyalty by offering small discounts for repeat visits.

2. Use tablets and smartphones at checkout

Mobile technology has transformed the way customers check out. Equipped with smartphones and tablets, cashiers can simply walk up to shoppers and ring them up, no matter where they happen to be in the store. By swiping credit cards using services like Square, consumers avoid long lines and retailers expedite the checkout process.

Another breakthrough in mobile payments comes from NFC sensors, which streamlines the checkout process for both customers and vendors by making the transaction as easy as tapping a phone against a payment station.

3. Support salespeople

Retailers can also build mobile apps to train their employees, either when they are first hired or whenever they need to refresh their skills. A company that requires a lot of specialized knowledge can load tablets with videos, manuals and instructions to deliver the training and education employees need, where they need it most — on the sales floor. Instead of shipping workers off to a training center, companies can ensure employees learn in store.

4. Get in on dayparting

TV stations have figured out that people want different things at different times of day: light news and “breakfast shows” in the morning, entertainment in the evening and talk shows late at night. Thanks to mobile, retail stores are also starting to realize this, but many still underestimate the power of dayparting. In the same way McDonalds uses digital billboards to promote Egg McMuffins in the morning and Big Macs in the afternoon, retailers can use a dayparting-assisted texting or mobile banner campaigns to do the same time-focused promotions.

5. Help customers help themselves

Tablets are becoming convenient kiosks where customers can do things like schedule service appointments, look up information on products and even buy them on the spot. Every time a customer scans an item and begins the checkout process, it presents a golden opportunity for retailers to recommend other items that would go great with their current purchase, increasing the store’s average order size.

Considering 72% of 18- to 29-year-olds and 69% of 30- to 49-year-olds have smartphones, it only makes sense that retailers would implement a mobile strategy to get these coveted consumer demographics back in their stores. And with younger generations practically born with phones in their hands, those numbers are guaranteed to grow. Creating a mobile-friendly shopping experience now will make it easier to grow your business as these tech-savvy customers get older.