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Thumbs-first retail strategies to attract the eyes-down shopper

Thumbs-first retail strategies to attract the eyes-down shopper

By Taylor Brookhouse

Smartphones have been disrupting lives since 1992, a fast fact to remind us the world’s youngest consumers have never known life without them. In a game to win modern consumers, one might think this means that failing to reach Gen Z through mobile is a big miss—especially as they now make up 40% of U.S. consumers. But retail patterns from this generation are not as obvious as they seem, and your retail strategies shouldn’t be either.

For a mobile-first generation, e-commerce still only makes up 10% of total retail sales, and a good majority of Gen Z consumers still prefer shopping trips to physical stores, where they can actually experience what they are buying. Pair that stat with this one: though these consumers are heading straight for physical shelves, 93% of Gen Z prefer to shop without the help of a sales associate, and only 19% of retailers have adapted to provide this experience. 

So with interest for old-school shopping trips still present, but the obvious observation that the world lives in a constant scroll, brands must look for a mobile assist to enhance the brick-and-mortar experience. 

Information Overload: For these shoppers - there’s no such thing.

According to Mobile Marketer, 71% of shoppers now access their phone while shopping in-store, using them to get more information than what’s provided on the shelves. They’re comparing prices, checking product ratings and navigating aisles faster than ever. 

One such retailer tapping into this enhanced customer experience is Kroger. The grocery chain is partnering with Microsoft to use Enhanced Display for Grocery Environment, or EDGE, which replaces traditional paper price tags with digital displays that can be altered in real time. It also displays digital promotions and nutritional information when available.  Half of all shoppers say they would use this technology if its expanded beyond its test markets.

But it’s not just large retail brands making the first move. Tech companies are harnessing their own innovation in an attempt to convince brands to opt-in. Mobile app Coolhobo is a location-based augmented reality technology used to merge the physical and digital worlds of shopping by guiding consumers through stores. When users scan products it responds with information like nutrition facts or preparation instructions, as well as reviews from other customers. 

TAKEAWAY: Providing consumers the ability to access information instantly, rather than having to look or wait for assistance, translates to a more satisfying shopping experience and a method that brands need to adopt. 

Personalization: It’s all about number 1.

In addition to a thirst for more information, consumers now have little fear of sharing private details for a more personalized shopping experience, unveiled in 3 Ways Physical Retailers Can Keep Up with Direct-to-Consumer Monsters. Recently, in-person customization is taking a digital turn with augmented reality, a technology that superimposes computer-generated imaging onto a user’s view of real life. Brands are getting an experience-assist with this trendy tech so much so that now 70% of consumers expect retailers to launch an AR app within the next six months and 40% of those consumers say they’ll pay more for a product if they have a chance to experience it through AR. 

Some stores are pulling customers in through AR experiences, including Timberland which is using AR to create virtual fitting rooms customers can step into before even entering the store. They strategically placed innovative AR mirrors in window displays, giving passersby an inside look from the outside and in the end, converting window-shoppers into buyers.

Another brand innovating retail is one that was once falling faster than its customers still learning to walk. Toys R Us has figured out a way to push engagement and drive traffic through its new in-store AR experience with an app called PlayFusion. Instead of targeting the adult decision-maker, the app is designed for the real users of their products: kids. They can unlock AR-enabled experiences as they wander the animated aisles of a digital playground, interacting with toys and even the brand’s mascot, Geoffrey the Giraffe. This move alone is generating some momentum for the once beleaguered brand: the app already has more than 100,000 Google Play downloads and a 4-star rating. 

TAKEAWAY: Today’s consumer is all about personal connection and brands that relate to them. If you can give a shopper a sense of belonging in a crowded retail space, you may start to belong in the consumer’s mind. 

Frictionless Purchasing: What do you mean I can’t pay with my phone?

Banking has been a frontrunner in the acceptance of mobile innovation, quickly putting the power of money in users hands with mobile banking apps, photo check deposits and digital transfers. Digital payment platforms are taking over and said to replace physical wallets in the near future. More than 40% of consumers under the age of 45 have used a mobile payment method in the past year. And 82% of the 18-24 age group are familiar with in-app payments, 27% of them having already loaded a debit card onto a mobile wallet. Pulling out a card or cash is so yesterday and brands need to adapt to this kind of instantaneous purchase process to attract more consumers.  

Starbucks knows better than anyone what its customers are looking for and they’re not willing to let a long line or chip malfunction make their brand fanatics late for their morning meetings. With 23.4 million users, Starbucks reigns as the most popular digital payment method in the US, ahead of ApplePay (22 million), Google Pay (11.1 million) and Samsung Pay (9.9 million). 

Dirty Lemon, a direct-to-consumer beverage brand has cut out almost every obstacle possible in their staffless, vending-machine like store in New York. Customers can access their drink of choice through a QR code scan-and-text response system that allows payment through mobile and keeps track of inventory through radio-frequency identification technology and traffic flow around the pop-up from heat map trackers. 

TAKEAWAY: Lapping a store to find a sales associate, waiting in a long check-out line, or having to run a card more than once – these are all things turning the consumer away from brands that haven’t adopted the frictionless purchasing model. Gen Zers were born with instant gratification at their fingertips and if your brand’s purchase process doesn’t allow consumers to skip steps, and complete tasks with the touch of a button, you’ll lose them. 

Momentum around e-commerce will only continue to increase as smart retail brands find opportunities to convert engagement into sales. Start with a scan of consumers in your store—try to catch their eyes when they’re locked in their phones. Mobile is transforming retail, whether your brand chooses to shape the experience or not. Engage with consumers where they’re already living, both in digital spaces and through analog experiences, and you may find strategies that do both are the ones with the most impact.

Barkley US

Feb 04, 2020

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Brand Culture, Culture, Marketing, Modern Consumer, Purpose, Retail, Whole Brands
Consumer Products, COVID-19, Millennial, Purpose, Retail, Scratch, The Useful Brand
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