How traditional retailers are using mobile apps to fight back

This post is part of our series on the impact of Mobile technologies across various industry sectors. If you’re a player in the Retail sector, we would love to grab a cup of tea and discuss how we can help you stay ahead of the curve!

We all know that online retailers such as Amazon have put traditional “bricks & mortar” retailers under tremendous price pressure, making it much easier for consumers to find and compare product prices across a wide range of brands, consult user reviews and complete a purchase within a few clicks.. oh, and did we mention free delivery?!

For a while traditional retailers lagged behind web-first players in their use of Internet technologies to power convenient user experience, but in many ways mobile apps are now opening a new battlefield and bricks and mortar retailers have an opportunity to develop innovative apps that leverage their physical assets (e.g. stores & product catalogues) to deliver multi-channel experiences that pure-play online retailers cannot match.

     IKEA’s app lets you see relevant content including 360-view of furniture displays when you scan the IKEA catalogue with your smartphone. More importantly, the app also uses augmented reality so you can “virtually” place IKEA furniture pieces in your own home and better choose the products, colors and sizes that work for you, without having to actually go into a store

     Walgreens, the US pharmacy retail chain, uses its mobile apps to give customers reasons to visit its stores more often, with app features like prescription transfers, refill by scan (one-second refill) and QuickPrints (ordering photo prints via smartphones). Walgreens is also partnering with MDLive, to provide patients with mobile access to doctors via smartphone cameras

     Target, the US discount retailer, improved in-store shopping experience with its Cartwheel app (over 10m downloads across iOS and Android). The app offers in-store navigation, quick & easy mobile payment integration and special offers powered by iBeacons infrastructure


What next?

As customers we value expert advice and any educational content that can help us in our buying decision, especially for goods that we do not purchase regularly or that require deep knowledge. Maybe it’s that DIY job we’ve been postponing for the last 3 years. Or maybe it’s that awkward moment when we’re looking to buy a decent bottle of wine for a dinner party. 

We believe retailer apps could go a long way to deliver timely advice and educational content that give customers not only the confidence to go ahead with a purchase but also the warm and fuzzy feeling of having learned something new today. Retailers already have in-house expertise and knowledge about their goods; apps are a great medium to convey this to their customers with rich and highly engaging content.

For instance, a DIY retailers’ apps could offer ‘how to’ content detailing the step-by-step process for typical jobs (e.g. painting a house, replacing a window, changing a room’s wallpaper) and make it easy to book all of the required equipment and consumables for these jobs (‘checklist’). Or they could use augmented reality to let customers visualise what their house would look like under different paint colours.

What about wine retailers? They could use apps to let wine lovers learn more about wine (‘fun facts’, history, typical flavours found in different grape varieties, etc..), keep track of their grape variety preferences, get food pairing recommendations, establish wish lists, manage a digital wine journal (with pictures of previously consumed labels and tasting notes), or learn about latest tech wine ‘gadgets’ (you have to try that electric corkdriver...). You could even use some gamification to keep people engaged and wanting to learn more. All of that data would then help retailers stock the right wines and push targeted promotions.