Through a special arrangement, what follows is an excerpt of an article from Retail Paradox, RSR Research's weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers, presented here for discussion.
When we recently asked retailers to rate what role mobile plays in the retail experience, their top-rated response was that mobile's primary ability is to enhance the overall value of the brand.
The survey was part of our The Impact of Mobile in Retail study and RSR believes enhancing the overall brand is precisely how retailers should be viewing the tremendous value that new mobile technologies afford.
Unfortunately, much of what retailers share in the remainder of the report — their actions — does not line up with this purpose. Instead, many of the findings of this research are in closer alignment to the second-most popular choice to the question: that the current purpose of a mobile strategy is to serve merely as an extension of the existing e-commerce offering.
For instance, 52 percent of retailers responding to the survey believe that mobile devices are used — at any point along the myriad paths-to-purchase modern consumers travel — less than 25 percent of the time. Only 16 percent believe they are used more than half the time.
RSR strongly believes that these numbers are very low compared to the reality of mobile's current role in the consumer's paths-to-purchase. While it is difficult to quote precise numbers on just how frequently consumers enlist their personal mobile devices during the shopping process (including product research, reviews, availability, social network feedback and price comparisons), multiple quantitative consumer studies have gauged consumer mobile-device use.
One extensive global study from IBM last year showed that 45 percent of consumers use two or more technologies to shop (usually a combination of PC-based internet search and mobile). Seventy one percent were willing to shop digitally and 85 percent agreed social networking can save shopping time by allowing them to connect and get recommendations from their peers.
Another reality disconnect we believe arrived when we asked about their store-based staff's ability to service the new mobile-empowered consumer in stores. The most common retailer response is that it's not yet an issue. Again, we disagree.
For those retailers who do agree that their employees are struggling to meet the needs of newly-empowered shoppers, it is worth noting the differences in how they plan to make their store associates more valuable to consumers: the best performers (Retail Winners), are more likely to provide mobile devices to store and department managers than competitors with average or lagging sales (26 percent to 16 percent).
What is the most effective way for retailers to meet the challenges posed by mobile-informed shoppers?