The Green Sheet Online Edition
October 08, 2012 • Issue 12:10:01
Get ready for 21st century shopping
I like to think that I'm pretty much on top of things technological. But every once in a while, I'm struck by how those brought up entirely in the digital age seem to be hardwired a bit differently than those of us who encountered the Internet - and all that comes with it - as adults.
I'm humbled to admit how many times my daughter has had to say, "Just Google it, Dad," with that look of affectionate exasperation that daughters have for slow-witted dads who have to be reminded occasionally that answers to many questions are available on the web.
She's part of what I call the "Just Google It" generation - the millennial cohort of consumers accustomed from birth to having information available at their fingertips at any time, from any location.
Playing to the millennial generation
How do we meet the expectations and demands of those who take the instant availability of information as an inalienable right? To borrow a slogan from Target Corp., these consumers definitely expect more.
They also believe they should pay less because new-media tools allow them to effortlessly know, for example, whether or not something they are about to buy is available down the street at a lower price.
Some of the big players clearly understand the higher expectations and are rolling out mobile apps that are changing the nature of the shopping experience for those who, like my daughter, are ready for and demand it.
The Home Depot U.S.A. Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are putting their store layout plans on smart-phone apps. Features include display-aisle numbers on items the consumer has searched for, which speeds and simplifies the shopping experience. These apps help capture impulse purchases and increase sales.
Merging online and brick-and-mortar sales
Mobile can, in essence, bring the online store to physical brick-and-mortar locations. As an indication of how meaningful the connection is between the mobile app and in-store sales, Wal-Mart found that within two weeks of launching its indoor navigation app, about 15 percent of page views came from shoppers in stores.
This is an astonishing figure, one that says that in implementing such apps, the retailers are not ahead of the shoppers. They are behind them, playing catch-up. That is both exciting and alarming.
Today's connected consumers are completely ready for the next innovation that will combine mobility and information access to speed and enhance their shopping experience. In fact, they are beginning to demand it.
Navigating uncharted seas
Where will this lead? If consumers are that ready for navigation apps like the ones mentioned above, what else are they ready for? The core need is to access information easily and quickly, whether the consumer is online at home or on a mobile device in or on the way to the store.
Retailers that find success in the future will create ways to interact with their customers on a higher level than they have ever had available to them before.
They will involve them in social media, ask them sincere questions and answer their questions promptly and thoroughly. By taking such steps, these retailers will provide value and increase their sales.
The change is not just evolutionary. This is a sea change, and it's happening all around us. We had better be ready, or we'll end up as crusted barnacle-covered wrecks at the bottom of the 21st century ocean. It's time to set our sails to the wind and get underway.
Rick Berry is the President of ABC Mobile Pay Inc., a Valencia, Calif.-based company specializing in providing affordable, software-as-a-service POS solutions. Rick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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