[Preview#4] How to NOT employ (Mobile) tech in Retail…

RetailLet’s talk about Mobile technology in Retail: in this [Preview] I’m going to debunk a couple of false myths.


False myth number one: “Dear Retailers, Mobile tech will solve all your problems!”

In other words, is it true that offering shoppers a branded Mobile App lets traditional retailers easily enter the digital world, be omnichannel, look good, etc.?

Cancel “easily”, please…

App installation

First thing first, dear Retailers: don’t count on 100% shoppers installing your App on their smartphones – you need to overcome an obstacle called proliferation of branded Mobile Apps, that is, shoppers have to (utopically) install one branded App for each retailer (…store/shopping mall/chain of petrol stations/supermarket/…) they visit.

A selection will necessarily take place, and the death-rate of Apps will be very high; the exceptions – those few Apps able to separate themselves from the pack and survive – are those that are definitely valuable to shoppers, those that tangibly improve their shopping-experience.

…by the way, this App proliferation reminds me of the (despised) ‘accordion wallets’ of some years ago, stuffed to capacity with colored loyalty-cards.

App configuration

Once installed, a shopper typically needs to invest some time and brain cells configuring it, for example:

1) link the App to the retailer’s loyalty-program (no loyalty-card? …no joy… …the App is almost useless)

2) do opt-ins: accept/activate geo-location, notifications, Bluetooth (for iBeacons), privacy-rules and so on

3) …anything else?

Troubleshooting & support

Since no two smartphones are the same (they’ve different OS, different versions of the OS, different hardware, etc.) expect some troubles. For instance, I work with iBeacon technology, and I can assure you that an iBeacon-enabled App on Android behaves quite differently compared to an “identical” iBeacon-enabled App on iOS…

Dear Retailers, have you got some sort of user-support in place? Are store-employees able to answer “technical” questions about your App and Mobile devices? …do some troubleshooting…?

Back-end integration

What I described so far are shopper-facing (or front-end) issues; actually, back-end issues are even more challenging – the basic principle is: to be effective, a retailer’s Mobile App has to be thoroughly integrated with the retailer’s IT system.

Why? Because information offered by your App must be updated in real-time: think of stock-availability, flash-promotions, loyalty point-balance and so on.

It’s easier said than done: often retailer’s IT systems are buried under layers upon layers of legacy operational systems and interfaces. I speak from experience: I know several retailers employing enterprise solutions that are more than 20 years old. It is evident that unrelated, pachyderm legacy systems – implemented initially to solve specific problems for specific channels – are not equipped to effectively serve connected, Mobile consumers.

False myth number two: “Dear Retailers, a lot of shoppers visiting your brick-and-mortar stores use their smartphones while shopping!”

Are shoppers really using their smartphones while shopping in-store, gathering information about products, comparing prices, etc.? According to some surveys, approximately three out of four store shoppers use their Mobile devices while shopping in stores; the same surveys state that 25% of shoppers who use their Mobile devices in-store make an online purchase during their visit.

Tell you what: I visit a lot of malls and down-town stores in different Countries (…after all, it’s my job…); today I witness very few shoppers interacting with their smartphones during shopping.

Tomorrow? Let’s wait and see…

I firmly believe that during their visits in-store, shoppers prefer to interact with “physical” products and with helpful, consultative store-associates, rather than with their smartphones.


A new word is becoming quite popular nowadays: showrooming, the practice of examining merchandise or products in a store and then buying the product online.

I wonder: how often are shoppers approached in-store and asked if they are showrooming? Is their feedback reliable…? What about asking e-shoppers: “Did you first examined in a physical store what you are now buying online?”.

I think that showrooming has yet to become a widespread phenomenon, so at the moment it’s better to take it with a grain of salt.


Showrooming goes hand in hand with another new, strange word: webrooming, the practice of browsing online and then completing a purchase in-store – apparently it’s the opposite of showrooming

I’m a little bit puzzled: isn’t webrooming the same as online-information-gathering (…on Google, Amazon and [insert here your favorite e-retailer])?

A final consideration about using Mobile/digital technologies in the retail environment: the most valuable opportunity for retailers is in seamlessly merging the best of what the digital world has to offer with the best that the physical realm delivers.

Mobile technologies can be indeed very valuable in-store, but only if the right approach is followed – I’m going to address this topic in my next [Preview]…

Andy Cavallini – andy.cavallini@gaia-matrix.com

PS: dear Retailers, in this Post I am sharing the fourth preview of my new white-paper titled “The importance of brick-and-mortar stores in an omnichannel world” that you will be able to download on my blogsite http://www.gaia-matrix.com very soon.

[…just to be crystal-clear: it’s a white-paper, it’s free, I’m not selling anything…]



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