Mobile will only be a threat to the retailers who view it as a consumer-controlled channel. The coming revolution is how mobile moves from being a threat to a way to expand the service footprint of your store.
Expanding how we think about a store footprint, geo-fencing with mobile web and/or apps (existing platforms or branded) can be used to virtually expand the footprint of a retail presence. A store now can have a concentric footprint that can provide offers, merchandising, experience, rewards and relationships/services.
By arming sales associates with iPads or other mobile devices they could interact with consumers outside the direct footprint of a store. A sales associate could be alerted to customers within the pre-determined concentric footprint (5 miles, 1 mile, 2 blocks etc.) and even be connected to offer information, make an appointment or have an item ready for a consumer’s arrival. By viewing mobile as a two-way service channel customer service can now have a first touch much earlier.
This same strategy can be applied to the actual store. Macy’s and Best Buy are said to be rolling out an in-store mobile tracking and service — looking at the ability to engage with consumers in-store.
Tracking phones on aisles and with a mobile-enabled staff will allow them to engage directly or indirectly. Consumers would also be able to find and engage a sales associate and perhaps even know their expertise to help them find the person who can best answer their needs. These sales associates armed with deeper rich content along with inventory in-store and online can help close the sale.
Service will always be a differentiator in value and relationship. Mobile is opening new ways to cross information with intimacy. It is not a question of when, but how well retail uses mobile as a retail enabler.