Mobile commerce and the future of retail

  • Mobile technology makes goods and services available literally at a customer's fingertips.

  • Technology and self-centered expectations are setting the stage for the future of retail innovation.

When it comes to the future of retail, let’s set aside images of interactive or magic mirrors, smart dressing rooms, beacons, and portable cash registers. The future of retail is all of those things and more. Let’s take a step back from technology and look at the trends that are shifting consumerism at large.

Stand in any grocery store line and notice the people who are engaging with their smart phones prior to check out. This behavior is crippling the impulse-buy moment in the gum, candy, and magazine aisles. There’s a reason why the phone has evolved into the first screen and why it has become a virtual window. For your connected customers (or Generation-C for connected as I refer to them), the world revolves around them whether it’s friends, companies, information, or shopping.

Want a car to pick you up and take you somewhere and make payments in the process? There’s an app for that. Want to rent someone’s house anywhere in the world with your phone? There’s an app for that. Want to have product collections curated for you and presented in flash sale format to get that next big thing, now? There’s an app for that, too.

People are literally the center of their own universes. Whatever they want, when they want it, is available through the small screen with a swipe here and a tap there. One by one, services are conditioning your connected customers to expect products and services to come to them. This phenomenon is going to impact every business.

To these customers, the idea of walking into a retail store where the experience is rooted in yesterday’s model of consumerism is outdated. POP, lines, and sales reps no longer deliver a desirable experience for Generation-C. The retail experience actually starts before someone sets foot into the store or the mall.

Airbnb recognized this when it went through a customer experience exercise to help the company scale. To design a delightful service and empower hosts to offer empathetic experiences, the company learned that the Airbnb experience started before users walked in the door of their rental. It started with discovery, learning more about the area they were visiting and more about the host, locale, and amenities.

Innovation and the future of retail doesn’t just begin with technology. Change and relevance starts with innovation in perspective. It starts with recognizing that consumers are at the center of their universes, and apps and services are becoming part of the ecosystem to cater to them. In the process, technology and self-centered expectations are setting the stage for the future of retail innovation. To rethink and innovate customer experiences, smart retailers will:

  1. Know who their customer is and what’s important to them.
  2. Identify preferences and expectations and how they’re different than what current strategies address.
  3. Identify immediate friction points in existing experiences and fix those while planning out new strategies.
  4. Consider the shopping experience and how tech becomes additive to the experience.
  5. See people first and plan for technology that enhances overall value + goals (short-term) and relationships (long-term).
  6. Research how other industries with physical locations are exploring innovations.
  7. Build a data and collaborative CX infrastructure that allows for rapid and longer term decision making about inventory, consumer trends/preferences, and ways to increase engagement.

Brian Solis is an independent business writer and the author of this blog. All opinions are his own. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.

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