How Technology is Rewriting the Rules of Mobile Shopping

December 4, 2017         By: Michael Rittler

As technology changes, so do shopping habits.

This has been true throughout human history. In the beginning, people relied on what they could grow or make on their land, or trade for in their local marketplace. As ships and other long-distance trading methods improved, many consumers were exposed to an ever-growing number of goods from around the world. Then with the development of cars and public transport in the 20th century, many shoppers began flocking to brick-and-mortar stores and mega-malls that offered one-stop shopping.

This was the norm right up until the turn of the century, when the Internet came along, and ecommerce abruptly took off. According to TD Banks’ Retail Experience Index, 41% of Millennials (consumers ages 18 – 34) are shopping online “all the time,” with 26% of Gen-Xers and 17% of Boomers citing they also are turning online for their retail needs.

And now, with the proliferation of smartphones and mobile shopping, the next big shift in shopping behavior may just be around the corner.

To take the pulse of where mobile shopping is today, we surveyed the more than 100 retailers in attendance at the Mobile Shopping Summit, an annual forum for retailer and brand executives to discuss mobile strategy. We found that a majority (58.5%) offer a mobile app and nearly all are looking at ways to enhance their mobile offering.

A mobile app is typically the first foray for retailers into mobile shopping, and will likely soon be a must-have for any retailer that wants to stay relevant, as more consumers upgrade to smartphones and younger generations embrace online shopping.

But a mobile app is just a small, and relatively simple, piece of technology. What will really make mobile shopping the next big thing are all the tangential technologies that promise to significantly boost productivity and efficiency, and therefore sales revenues.

Here are four technologies that retailers are paying attention to in 2018 as they build out their mobile shopping capabilities.  

 

A/B testing

Nearly a quarter of respondents (23.7%) named “A/B testing” as the technology they were most focused on enhancing in 2018, more than any other kind of technology. A/B testing, or split testing, is a commonly used method in marketing and analytics that allows a company to compare two versions of a webpage or app against each other to determine which one performs better.

Forward-thinking companies know that just launching a website or a mobile app isn’t enough. The most successful companies are constantly innovating by making various changes intended to boost productivity and efficiency while also creating a more holistic customer experience. A/B testing allows retailers to accumulate valuable data on how different features perform, which in turn allows them to make better decisions about which specific features to ultimately implement.

For example, a retailer may be considering adding a game to their mobile app that encourages shoppers to complete challenges to earn discounts. But what type of game do shoppers prefer to play—basketball, target practice, puzzles, trivia, etc.? A retailer could run a simple experiment where each shopper is randomly presented with just one of two games. If one game significantly outperforms the other, then that’s a clear signal that it belongs on the app.

 

Customer tracking

Customer tracking came in a close second with 21.4% of the vote. Although customer tracking systems are nothing new, recent advances in technology have made them more powerful than ever.

One potential application is building an algorithm that tracks where in a store customers are and for how long. Using this information, a store manager can dictate to his or her sales staff about where to go and targeting the shoppers that seem to be having the most trouble making a decision. This increases conversion rates and helps make shoppers feel like they are getting the help they need.

Of course, not all consumers are going to want to sacrifice their privacy by constantly broadcasting their whereabouts. But for the right retailer and the right target demographic, customer tracking could help optimize the shopping experience.

 

Mobile payments

In third was mobile payments technology with 17.6% of the vote, a potential indication that many retailers are already comfortable with their mobile payments systems. At its most basic level, a mobile payment system should allow a customer to easily link his or her bank account or credit card to a retailer’s checkout system. Sounds easy, right?

There is no shortage of functional mobile payment systems available to consumers and retailers alike. But as more shopping goes mobile, these payment systems are increasingly likely to become a target for hackers around the world. No retailer wants to go through a hacking scandal, so it’s important to identify a mobile payment system with state-of-the-art cybersecurity capabilities and a 24/7 support team.

 

Geotargeting

Geotargeting, with a 11.2% vote share, is a close cousin of customer tracking and involves delivering content or advertisements to a potential shopper based on his or her geographic location. Although the vast majority of consumers are used to having GPS in their phones or in their cars, the technology behind GPS is still not commonly used in the retail world. Many retailers are still trying to figure out how to best take advantage of knowledge about a customer’s location.

One commonly cited example of how geotargeting could be used is to more precisely target shoppers in large urban areas. For instance, if someone is walking within 10 blocks of an electronics store, and their purchasing history suggests they like to buy electronics, then the retailer could send the potential customer a message offering an instant discount and encouraging them to the come to the store.

While some consumers may balk at receiving unsolicited advertisements from businesses, younger generations are used to a constant stream of marketing content in their daily lives and are well-equipped to filter out what they don’t want. For retailers, geotargeting offers an opportunity to optimize their sales funnel by allowing them to focus on the consumers with the highest potential conversion rates.

 

This is only the beginning. A decade ago, mobile shopping was next to impossible. Today, nearly every American is shopping online and a significant percentage are shopping with their phone. In a few years, mobile shopping may become so ubiquitous that many retailers may decide they no longer need any physical locations.

Technology is reshaping the shopping experience every day, and these latest technologies promise to accelerate that shift.


About the Author: Michael B. Rittler

 

Michael Rittler is the Head of Product Development and Merchant Relations for the Retail Card Services division of TD Bank, N.A., managing a diverse portfolio of private label credit card programs in the United States and Canada, including Raymour & Flanigan, Fred Meyer, Diamonds International and The Yard Card program.

Mike Joined TD bank, N.A. in 2014 from JP Morgan Chase, where he held a number of leadership roles within Card Services, most recently as General Manager for Affinity & Retail Partnerships.  In that capacity, Mike managed premier partner programs including AARP, British Petroleum, AAFES, and Mary Kay cards.  Mike also managed the Partnership Analytics group.  Prior roles within JP Morgan Chase included CFO, Partner Credit Cards and various leadership roles within the finance organization.  Mike has a deep knowledge of the credit card industry, including Vice President of Financial Planning & Analysis at CitiFinancial; Director of Business Analysis for Small Business Credit Cards at Advanta Corporation and Division Controller at American Express.

Mike holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Drexel University and he passed the Certified Public Accountants examination in 1987.