6 Tips to Leverage Mobility for R.E.T.A.I.L.

Niamh Madigan

There has been a lot of media debate about the popularity of self checkouts at supermarkets in the UK recently. Some columnists are anti, wanting machines replaced by people - whilst others love the anonymity that they get from checking out themselves and like not having to have conversation with a person behind the till.

From my own point of view - I'm a bit old-fashioned, I like conversation and I often find that I require assistance every time I use a do-it-yourself till, which doesn't work well when you have an impatient toddler at your side wanting to run everything across the scanner! But this technology is here to stay and another step in the direction of giving the customer more power when buying, which is coming out of the digital online shopping era that we now live in.

Smartphones and tablets have made it so much easier to shop and buy what you want, when you want it. There is no longer a closing time in place for many retailers and just about everything is available for you to buy online once you have a credit card at the ready (and checkouts are much more efficient than instore!).

Retailers can leverage the mobility age in many ways - not only to increase profits but just as importantly, to see how mobility can breed customer loyalty while providing new innovative ways of pricing and targeting location-specific offers. As a result many retailers need to review technology they have in place and gain a new understanding of how this can transform their business.

Retail spending online is expected to account for 12 per cent of total retail this year (ã35.3 billion), but by 2017 this is expected to rise to 15 per cent, as new devices, clever apps and enhanced delivery options continue to make online shopping more attractive for today's savvy shoppers (Retail Week, Sept 2013).

However, on the other side of the coin, recent survey results suggest that 88% of smartphone shoppers have had a negative experience making a retail transaction on their phone. "Many retailers still think that mobile isn't working - and as such aren't investing in it - but the reality is that their mobile website is just hard to use from a consumer perspective," said Danielle McCormick, senior director of marketing at Skava.

As Amazon is one of the key players who seem to be getting this right with over $4 billion in sales in mobile in 2013; how can retailers leverage mobile opportunities to drive business online and indeed across the traditional retail store? We have spoken to some key companies to get advice on making this successful for your business and taken each letter in R.E.T.A.I.L to give you some tips.


Nadia Shourahoura, CEO of Hointer and ex VP at Amazon, advises in order to be successful as a retailer in a mobile age, 'think from the customer backwards. You have to think what it is the customer needs and then just do it.'

This can be done in a number of ways, from good-old fashioned asking the customer what they want, but also through data collected from historical purchases to see what exactly it is your customer is buying and the comments they may make around those purchases.


One of the caveats about leveraging mobility for the retail industry is around integrating new solutions into the business and integrate these with existing and legacy systems. Paul Bernays, General Manager of Field Service at Telstra shares his number one tip when investing in mobile technology to drive improvement for customer service; 'engage the field and office based workforce, the learnings that we have had over the last ten years is the earlier you engage your workforce, the better the outcome will be.'

To enhance stakeholder and customer engagement, a mobile strategy needs to be simple and include the workforce along the way from design to implementation.


As the retail world has been turned on its head by the advent of online technology, it's a key element of competitiveness, Paul Coby, IT Director at John Lewis is keen to point out that online is supporting the store experience and not taking away from it.

As part of an omnichannel approach that John Lewis takes, he explains it is about how you bring all retail channels together and serve customers seamlessly, between and across channels. "The aim is to integrate the proposition for customers, because sometimes you want to go into a store and get advice, sometimes you want to buy things online, sometimes you want to research things online, sometimes you're on the train, and you want to see what John Lewis has got available, and sometimes of course, you want a warning, when your click and collect parcel is about to arrive, so it's about how you join all these things up, and that's what we've been trying to do," Paul explains.


The wealth of information that can be gathered through mobile technology when a customer makes a purchase is a huge bonus to retailers. More than ever, there is a is a move now to leverage analytics.

Paolo Cinelli, CIO, IKEA explains how mobile technology is really helpful to IKEA and in general to retailers in the entire industry. "It specifically helps IKEA is by providing customers and our co-workers with more up to date information, more exciting views of our products and stores, and the possibility to interact based on a different type of communication," he adds.

However challenges around information management can deviate from the success of this. Implementing clear data definitions and using them with discipline in systems and processes is a key challenge, but can also be viewed as an exciting opportunity.


The future of the in store experience is to give customers a powerful tool to rival the experience of the online sopping cart. Organisations need to develop a back-end system to take control of inventory and re-use that information across all stores for things like same-day shopping.

There will be a lot of testing and pilots moving towards the future to establish what possible solutions will be, and of course critically, listening to customers and getting their feedback on what they will like, what works and what doesn’t work. To quote Tim Hundt, Senior Enterprise Architect – Experience Solutions & Innovation at GE Capital, ‘Today if you don’t innovate, you’ll become irrelevant.’

Like me please!

The growth of Social Media is also driving mobility in the retail sapce. Everything we buy online we are asked to review. We're asked to 'like everything,' and when we think about it, how many things do we buy that just get one star - we generally look for 4-5 in any product reviews.

The real value from social media comes from the way it is used to influence and inspire purchases, with £3bn of retail sales predicted to be influenced by social media by 2014 (Guardian). EBay recently launched a new social shopping tool called Help Me Shop. It's designed to be an easy way for consumers to get shopping advice from their social network, which mobile facilitates faster than any other medium.

Categories: Research, Innovation, Customer engagement, technology, anayltics, social media, leveraging mobility in retail, IKEA, Hointerm John Lewism GE Capital.