For nearly a decade now, there’s been a growing opinion that online shopping would lead to the death of retail. That opinion has translated to actual numbers over time, with Forbes reporting last year that retail is in fact suffering because of many people’s preference for online shopping. But now something interesting is happening that could give in-store retail an unexpected boost: mobile apps enable some of the perks associated with online shopping to work in stores as well.
To get a feel for what exactly that means, consider these three potential uses for apps in brick-and-mortar locations.
Even a few years ago, Mashable posted a very interesting article about the different ways apps could drive revenue for businesses. Several points were made, but the primary focus was on geo-targeted push notifications, advertisements, and alerts. The implication is that businesses can now engage with customers in close proximity to their actual stores by sending information to those customers through their own apps. That can mean alerting the customers to sales or new product inventories, sending out coupons or opportunities for rewards, or even simply letting them know they’re near a store location. Ultimately, the idea is to provide incentives for customers to visit stores through a channel that really wasn’t widely available (or at least widely utilized) even five years ago.
We’ve begun to see a transition away from cash and credit cards and toward something called “contactless pay” in retail stores. Basically, it’s the use of cards that can be scanned or even mobile screens that can be scanned to transfer funds. Indeed, Worldpay points to several ways that accepting these types of payments can help businesses. Moving to digital pay allows stores to accept a full variety of cards, serve customers in seconds, and implement strong payment security. But what sometimes goes unsaid is that the use of contactless pay also invites customers to engage with businesses via their mobile devices. And when apps are in play, that can mean further incentive to buy. Specifically, a business offering an app with reward points or coupon accumulation built in can do very well by letting customers pay through technology. Payment can be processed and rewards earned in a matter of seco
Beacons are essentially small sensors that can be placed throughout stores to reach out and connect with customers’ mobile devices. The idea is to use this technology to optimize the shopping experience for those customers. According to a study posted at MediaPost, close to 46% of retailers will soon be using it. Beacon technology does not necessarily require that a customer have a retailer’s app downloaded in order to connect, but with an app in place there can be additional capabilities (such as accessing the customer’s purchasing history).
Consider all of these innovations and ideas together, and you can begin to see a shifting nature of in-store retail. Largely through apps, stores are finding ways to engage with customers and offer special deals and convenience that mimic some of the advantages people have previously enjoyed in online shopping.
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