Every year, online sales over the festive period go up. Boxing Day 2012 saw over 14 million hours spent shopping online, an increase of 17% from 2011. This year will no doubt see this figure bettered and we should expect to see many of these sales happening through mobile and tablet.
The mobile threat to retailers
Last year around 25% of shoppers admitted to “show rooming”, i.e. going into a shop to check out a potential purchase then ordering it online. Understandably this upsets many retailers who are paying premium rents and staff.
25% of shoppers admitted to “show rooming”.
Show rooming will happen but retailers can take steps to make an in-store purchase more compelling. This can be done through mobile and by enhancing the in-store experience.
Competing with online shopping is hard. It has a number of advantages over physical shopping:
- No crowds, so it’s less stressful.
- Greater choice as a wide variety of websites can be browsed. Customers are not restricted by the local shopping centre.
- Read reviews of people who have used the product.
- More competitive pricing that’s easier to check.
However, all is not lost. Online shopping does have downsides and the Xmas period is a great time to exploit them:
Xmas is a good time to exploit online shopping weaknesses.
- Difficult to compare goods because you can’t actually see or hold them. This is important for expensive items and ones where you want to get it right.
Your sales team can add value to a purchase by helping customers make the right decision.
- Harder to judge quality – you don’t want to be seen as a cheapskate.
There is no substitute for physically holding an item and making a judgement about whether it is a good purchase or not.
- Delivery can be pricey, unreliable and inconvenient. No one wants to take time off to wait for a home delivery, especially one that may not arrive. If it’s a must-have item, online shopping is riskier as it might not arrive on time or in good condition.
Risk is reduced with in-store shopping as the product’s condition can be inspected and the item immediately taken.
Using mobile to increase in-store sales
Customer behaviours have changed and it is normal for them to:
- Have completed research online before entering your shop – this is usually via desktop to read reviews and check prices.
- Use their phones while shopping to check prices, reviews and stock.
- Search on their phone – 23% make a purchase in-store and 25% online.
You cannot change these habits but you can put your business in a better position to deal with them.
Optimising your site for mobile
Mobile websites are becoming standard for retailers. Whether customers are browsing on their tablets or out and about, they will expect your website to deliver the best experience.
Amazon have led the field in creating a mobile website and app that makes it quick and easy to order (and show room). Big retailers have followed suit (Argos, Tesco etc) – if you are competing against a big retailer and don’t have a mobile website, you will lose out on business.
Creating a mobile website requires planning and investment, and there is no cheap route. Smartphone and tablet ownership will continue to rise, so any work you do in this area will be worthwhile.
Do the hard work for them
One reason customers whip out their phones in-store is to check prices and reviews. Ultimately they want reassurance that they are:
- Getting a fair price
- Making the right choice
- Checking the item can be secured
Creating trust that they are not being ripped off is important. John Lewis have mastered this by providing iPads and self-service kiosks in their stores so customers can make the right decision.
However, not every company can afford to do this. An alternative would be to select key products in your store and display relevant customer reviews and (selected) price comparisons. This will reassure customers that you are fair and reduce the need to check on their phones.
Apple, Hamley’s and clothing group Aurora use iPads to take customer payments and help them avoid queues. This reduces the pain of waiting, and opens up the opportunity for sales assistants to sell more by raising awareness of complimentary products.
This does involve investment in hardware and software, however you can use it throughout the year.
Customers may not be ready to buy when they come into your shop but want to remember what they looked at. Many will do this by taking a photo of the product, but you can make it easier by providing QR codes that would include a photo, description and link to your website for them to save. This keeps your company front of mind when they decide to purchase. You can also encourage customers to share the link via social media, and potentially increase the product’s reach.
QR codes can be generated for free online so it is an activity worth experimenting with if your budget is tight.
A necessary evil
For many, Xmas shopping is an inescapable task. Anything retailers do to make it less hassle, easier and convenient (either in-store or on mobile) will win customers over and increase sales.