Mobility and E-commerce set the stage for Retailtainment

It is no surprise that the worlds of consumerism and technology have collided. You can see it in the hands of the youth shopping in stores, on QR codes in store shop windows, and you can even see it from your living room couch while you’re wearing your pajamas. The rise of mobility and e-commerce is apparent everywhere you look. The connectivity of the consumer has changed the way they operate on a daily basis. There is a very obvious shift from brick and mortar shopping to e-commerce and mobility. In 2011, brick and mortar store sales rose at only 3%, while online sales grew at 15%. At this point, it is obvious that there is a long-term trend in online sales making it crucial for retailers to adjust their strategy. Large retailers falling short of mobility and e-commerce strategies are soon after failing in business. Surely this isn’t the death of brick and mortar stores, but retailers need to adjust their in-store tactics in order to compete in the brick and mortar aspect of retail.

One way for retailers without on-line strategies could adapt is to adjust their brick and mortar experience. In fact, even retailers with an online strategy need to adjust their traditional in-store experience. If a customer can easily jump on a computer or mobile device to buy a product, there must be something in the store that differentiates the customer experience. This can be anything from exceptional customer to a non-traditional atmosphere. Apple, for instance, is once again re-inventing its already innovative approach to retail. The new store that opened in Grand Central Station gives a new meaning to the concept of “retail without boundaries.” The store literally has no walls. It is located down a staircase and is portrayed as a type of museum or art gallery. It is a complete hands-on experience, with no product on shelves. Customers can even buy accessories with EasyPay through apps on mobile devices. The store offers exceptional customer service, with associates that act as trusted advisors the whole step of the way. Additionally, customers have the opportunity to sign up for classes, which keeps customers educated. Because of this approach, Apple finished 2011 with an astonishing operating profit margin of 22.1%. Other retailers seem to be following Apple’s lead hoping for similar results. The new Google retail stores will be set up with a similar layout and the ability to try out products while interacting with onsite experts. Other retailers, such as Williams Sonoma, offer classes to their customers in their stores.

So what do retailers need to completely re-define their brick and mortar experience? I’ll give you a hint – Apple has it all. According to ERP analyst Michael Koploy, there are three things that retailers need to do to keep their customers in their stores:

  • Interact, Entertain and Educate – The store is no longer for shopping. Customers come to stores for an experience and they need to be kept engaged.
  • Rethink the Store Inventory and Layout – Because online shopping is so quick and easy, brick and mortar stores need to adapt. Customers must be able to locate their products easily in order to compete with mobile or e-commerce.
  • Replace the Sales Associate with the Likable Expert – This is one of the most beneficial qualities of in-store shopping. Customers in retail stores want to have their questions answered by someone who is knowledgeable and trusted by the shopper.

As proven by Apple, retail stores with these strategies built into their business are the ones that will flourish in a changing market. Retail stores need to adopt similar approaches or they will fail. As technology continues to advance, and shoppers continue to become more mobile, retailers will continuously have to adapt in order the meet the needs of the ever-changing consumer. Just as retailers are attempting to offer the best possible mobile and web customer experiences possible for their customers, they need to do the same within their stores. The retail industry revolves around the customer, and shoppers like to know that. Wherever the consumer is, the retailer should be waiting with bells on – whether it’s on a phone, a computer, or face-to-face.

Sources:

  • http://www.integershoppermarketing.com/shopper-behavior/
  • http://www.slashgear.com/the-future-of-retail-apples-grand-central-station-store-23204181/
  • http://seekingalpha.com/article/317167-impressive-margins-for-apple-retail-stores
  • http://www.mobiledia.com/news/110447.html
  • http://blog.softwareadvice.com/articles/retail/how-to-differentiate-your-store-from-online-retailers-1010312/

Mobile Usability: The Empowering Mantra

Let me share my thoughts on usability on enterprise mobile applications. Over the last few decades, our lives have changed drastically with the emergence of newer and rapidly changing technologies. May it be on the Cloud Computing front or Enterprise Mobility, Disruptive innovations have created needs that did not exist a decade ago. Today, technocrats and inventors are making people believe that their lives are incomplete without these technologies. In fact, gadgets are increasingly being seen as a natural extension of the human body and the way we interact with the same on a day to day basis.

On the other hand, unlike usability, user experience is all about feelings. The aim here is to create happiness. Usability answers the question, “Can the user accomplish their goal?” While user experience seeks to answer the question, “Did the user have as delightful an experience as possible?”

Taking SAP into consideration, the usability of mobile devices like iPad is clearly the front runner for their rapid adoption. So, it’s no surprise that SAP clients or customers are beginning to take mobile applications seriously as a replacement for current manual or traditional application processes. We recently deployed a project in which we used SAP Mobility (Sybase Unwired Platform) to develop an iPad application to facilitate field sales operations.

The User Experience drives everything that we develop at Net4Site. We conducted a study to understand how the user would interact with the iPad, to influence every step of their business process while on the field. What we came out with was an interface driven by the users and how they actually think with some key differentiators that include

It requires less mental effort to use
The frequency of mistakes when using it is less
The learning curve is less

Mobile Applications can be really easy to use but on the contrary if they are not useful then there is no point at all. We at Net4Site worked closely with stake holders to understand their business processes and mapped it to the right user interface and day to day workflows. This in turn had to involve the push and pull capabilities of SUP as well as incorporating the offline & online functionalities.

The mobile application would not be thoroughly useful unless we are able to give the end users the right information at the right time. We developed the interface in a way that would leverage the real time information capabilities by incorporating up to date product catalogs and appointments. Certainly, the way that businesses use SAP and other enterprise systems differs immensely, but that’s why we focus so heavily on User Experience giving our customers the use once forget never experience.