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Mobile 2.0: new retail strategies

Whether we’re online or in store, at home or out and about, there’s one thing we’re never without – our phones. It’s no surprise that retailers are exploring new ways to reach shoppers on mobile. From social firsts to reimagined apps, here are the smartest mobile innovations of the summer.

Social shoppers

Instagram ads are seductive. Always aesthetically pleasing and often spookily relevant, they’ll have you browsing the brand’s website and reaching for your bank card in just a few taps.

Now, Instagram has made the experience even more seamless with its new shopping feature (currently only available in the US). Launched this month, Instagram Shop allows users to browse and buy products in the app, using Facebook Pay to complete transactions.

Currently, shopper success on Instagram relies on whether a user happens to see a shoppable post or not, and if they’re in a ‘shopping mood’ when they see it. With Instagram Shop, users can search by product to easily find what they’re looking for and sign up for personalised product recommendations.

Also launched this month: Brand Profiles on Snapchat, which allows brands to permanently show all their content in one place; and Google’s Shoploop, a shopping app that combines social video content, influencer marketing and customer reviews.

‘Appy customers

As an e-commerce tool, the app is nothing new. But at the Nike Rise store that opened this month in Guangzhou, China, it’s been completely reimagined.

With new location-based features, the app gives customers a compelling reason to use it both in store and when they’re in the local area. Users can access local fitness activities, as well as in-store workshops and events with Nike ambassadors.

It’s an app based on selling customers the Nike lifestyle, rather than just products – but it has smart features that helps users shop in store too. Customers can have their feet scanned and store shoe sizes in the app to make shopping for trainers quicker. Plus, they can alert sales assistants when they want to try something on.

Similarly, Brown’s East in London has optimised its app for in-store shopping by allowing customers to message staff, in a variety of languages. While this feature was rolled out pre-Covid, it would be handy for masked-up customers wanting to limit their time in store. It’s also a great tool for customers who just don’t have time for, or aren’t comfortable with, face-to-face interactions, which leads us on to our next innovation – messaging. Or rather, the new role messaging plays in the customer experience.

Getting the message

Around the world, SMS is used as an accessible payment method and to deliver great customer service; as a marketing tool, it’s even more successful than email – with an estimated 98% open rate versus 20%.

Now, SMS and WhatsApp are being used in every part of the shopper journey, proving that straightforward messaging is far from an old-fashioned way to communicate.

(In fact, 83% of millennials say they would rather communicate with a brand through text than with a voice call.)

During the pandemic, Lidl Ireland started a WhatsApp service to help customers avoid queues. Customers can message with the day and time they’re planning to visit, and Lidl tells them how busy their local store will be at that time.

Reliance Brands Limited, India’s biggest luxury goods retailer, has used WhatsApp to connect to 500,000 customers – resulting in 20,000 transactions. During the pandemic, the Reliance Brands Limited sales assistants have been following up WhatsApp chats with video calls to showcase products in real time, providing an even more intimate shopping experience than they could offer in store.

The future of mobile-first

For brands that still think being mobile-first is about having a responsive website, it’s time to rethink mobile. Being truly mobile-first is about reaching people wherever they are in the digital and physical world: scrolling through Instagram; chatting to friends on WhatsApp; or just checking their phone while they’re out shopping.

Now is the time to be truly mobile-first. Because, whether we continue to socially distance for years to come, go back to the way things were before, or find a new normal that’s somewhere in between, one thing’s for certain – most of us will still live on our phones.

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