RSR Research: What Role Will Mobile Play in Stores?
By Nikki Baird, Managing Partner
Through a special arrangement, presented here
for discussion is a summary of an article from Retail Paradox, Retail
Systems Research’s weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers.
operations have rarely taken the time to understand e-commerce — the technology
or the channel — a group of six chief information officers (CIOs) from an
array of retail verticals told me at a round table discussion at RIS
Executive Summit event. And so mobile is yet another development in an area
of poor understanding,
What’s different about mobile vs. online retail is the visibility that stores
have into the effect mobile has on shopping behavior. Online shopping was an
at-home activity, so it had little direct effect on store operations. Mobile,
on the other hand, is often an at-the-shelf activity, and front line employees
find themselves dealing with a whole new set of questions from better informed
Unfortunately for the CIOs at the table, the discussion with store
operations has revolved around a fear reaction — a “Can we wrap our stores
in tin foil” kind
of discussion. So, given that stores’ response to mobile right now is to basically
freak out over consumers using their phones to price compare at the shelf, what
is the current thinking on the role of mobile in stores?
CIOs apparently have
more imagination than their store operations counterparts. This is where the
discussion turned in a completely new and positive direction. The consensus
was that kiosks are simply too expensive and need to be replaced. Retailers
are thinking about mobile to replace the kiosk as a customer service tool or
some kind of customer mobile concierge. But, back in the land of practicality,
what most of the CIOs at the table are currently striving for is parity. They
want to make sure employees are at least even with what customers have and
know when they walk in a store.
the same time, the retailers at the table were also very concerned with how
to manage the relevancy that a mobile in-store experience can provide. Yes,
they want increased relevancy and see mobile as a way to provide all the mass
elements of a kiosk, personalized to the person holding the device. But, they
are not sure how to increase in-store relevancy (especially with an employee
as part of the service mix) without creeping out customers.
Discussion Questions: Do you see mobile technology as a tool to work with
in-store kiosks or a replacement for the units? How can in-store employees become
part of a personalized selling/service environment using mobile technology without
crossing a privacy line that would “creep out” consumers?