At the recent Mobile Retail Summit in London some 300 attendees from a diverse range of retailers (including major supermarkets, department stores and multi-outlet retailers), suppliers and technology innovators came together to discuss the rapidly changing retail sector, as it tries to respond to evolving consumer behaviour, particularly around the use of mobile in the shopping process.

The consistent message to come out was that retailers who do not embrace mobile technology will be left behind, borne out by research that shows mobile (phone and tablet) access to websites and applications is expected to outstrip desktop access for first time by end of 2013.

So what do retailers need to do and why?

There is compelling evidence that free public WiFi in any retail space (along with cellular access) is a given – consumers simply expect it wherever they go.  They are frustrated by the restrictions and cost of mobile data plans and consequently footfall is driven by WiFi accessibility as much as other factors.

So how do retailers embrace this technology whilst delivering real value and return on that investment back to their business?

Capturing better insight into their customers and their behaviour is key as well as understanding those who are potential customers and what is needed to convert them.  Simple intuitive user access, unobtrusive data capture, comprehensive analytics and embracing other platforms such as social media can all combine to make this possible.  In addition, driven by location data (GSM, GPS or RSSI), there is an emerging case for the use of presence analytics.

The acquisition and effective use of such data is critical for success, but retailers must be considerate in their approach ensuring that the customer interaction is:

  • consistent with its brand, what it represents and what its customers expect
  • respectful to the customer at all times – ‘invitation’ not ‘interruption’
  • using the most appropriate method to engage
  • always an enhancement to the customer experience

So embracing mobile is vital for survival as a retailer.  However, developing and implementing a mobile strategy should be a step by step process – don’t try and change the world overnight, because it will have changed on its own by tomorrow!