Retailers Are Using Mobile Apps To Fight Back

We all know that online retailers such as Amazon have put traditional “bricks & mortar” retailers under tremendous price pressure. They’ve made it much easier for consumers to find and compare product prices across a wide range of brands, consult user reviews and complete a purchase with just 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. Now, in many ways, mobile apps are 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. These are just a handful of examples of where this is happening already:

  • IKEA’s app lets you see relevant content, including a 360-view of furniture displays when you scan the IKEA catalogue with your smartphone. More importantly, the app also usesaugmented realityso you can “virtually” place IKEA furniture pieces in your own home andbetter choose the products, colours and sizes that work for you, without having to actually go into a store.
  • Walgreens, the US pharmacy retail chain, uses its mobile apps togive customers reasons to visit its stores more often.Their app features include 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 experiencewith itsCartwheel 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 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 there’s a DIY job we’ve been postponing for the last 3 years because we don’t know where to start.
  • Or perhaps it’s that awkward moment when we go looking to buy a decent bottle of wine for a dinner party and don’t feel confident that we have the knowledge to choose wisely.

We believe retailer apps could go a long way todeliver timely advice and educational contentthat 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 of their goods. Apps are a great medium to share this with their customers through 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 with different paint colours.

What aboutwine 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 thatelectric 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.

In conclusion…

Mobile apps provide the means for bricks and mortar retailers to fight back against the web-first retailers and achieve their customer experience objectives.

When mobile apps are combined with other technologies such as augmented or virtual reality, or geolocation technologies and data analytics, retailers have the means to differentiate themselves and deliver a superior customer experience that is easy, fun and valuable.

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! Call us on +44 20 3141 9800 or email