Why Retailers Must Embrace the Mobile Mind Shift

Mobile has fundamentally changed consumer expectations. Already, 65 percent of online consumers use their smartphones in stores. Among those under the age of 34 years, more than half use this device to research products online while browsing the aisles.

Consumers have come to depend on the immediacy that mobile offers, be it access to their grocery list on their device, or the ability to buy groceries while waiting for the bus, knowing they can be delivered home later. This is the mobile mind shift - the expectation that you can get what you want in your immediate context and moment of need.

For retailers, the new customer battlefield is in these mobile moments. Those brands that are there for their customers in the moment of need will be loved; those that aren't will lose business.

Retailers Can't Afford To Ignore The Mobile Mind Shift

By the end of 2014, there will be more than two billion smartphones in consumers' hands globally. In the U.S. alone, 21 percent of online consumers expect to be able to do anything on this device, with another 29 percent in the midst of making this expectation shift. In Southeast Asia, the percentage who demand to be served in the mobile moment is even higher.

The good news is, this shifting consumer behavior equates to new ways to drive sales. Retailers have three primary opportunities do so by serving consumers in their mobile moments, through impulse buys, influenced sales, and assisted sales.

The Impulse Buy

Impulse buys offer net new revenue to retailers if they can create mobile moments with buyers who are looking for deals or exclusivity. Take Wines Til Sold Out (WTSO.com), for example. WTSO sells wines discounted on average by more than 40 percent off the retail price, with a guaranteed best online price. When a sale commences, WTSO pushes out a notification to mobile phones with the sound of two glasses clinking together. The current item will be available until sold out as the name implies. This creates a sense of urgency within the context of offering a great deal. Today on weekends, 70 percent of digital sales are mobile for WTSO.

Exclusivity combined with limited supply also offers a unique opportunity. Both cosmetic and athletic shoe brands have tapped into global communication platforms such as WeChat or Line to sell limited quantities of goods. Consumers without mobile miss out. Why? Because the sale begins and ends so quickly.

The Influenced Sale

Despite the convenience, fun, and competition associated with mCommerce, revenue from mobile sales pales in comparison to the revenue mobile will influence in stores. In 2014, Forrester Research forecasts mCommerce revenue to reach $43 billion. In contrast, Deloitte Digital estimates mobile-influenced commerce will be $583 billion this year. Mobile will influence sales by helping consumers with research (e.g., price comparisons, product reviews), the ability to search local inventory, and to find stores nearby. Retailers might panic at the idea of "showrooming," but studies by Deloitte Digital show that consumers are actually more likely to convert in-store if they are using their mobile phones for research than if they don't.

The Assisted Sale

Retailers have the opportunity to empower their sales associates with information and services to assist consumers in making product decisions for everything from mascara to air conditioners. Arming sales associates with tools such as apps on tablets to help customers make the right decisions can be very powerful. Giving sales associates past purchase history, educational content, and tools to guide product selection have all proven to drive revenue and improve conversion rates. In fact, double digit increases in conversion rates are not unusual at the same time revenue and profit margins are growing.

All of this discussion around consumers with control and power thanks to the mobile device might frighten retailers. It shouldn't. It is a myth that consumers want the lowest priced product. They want the right product at a fair price. Helping the customer make that decision is the most important element in building their trust and earning their loyalty. And in doing so, retailers will help themselves win in their customers' mobile moments.