The future – and present – of retail is mobile

By On3 Marketing In Mobile Development, Sensors, Software Development, User Experience (UX) February 12, 2015

Online shopping is still a relatively new concept in the grand scheme of things. Chances are that a great deal of people who buy goods and services on the Internet these days have some sort of memory from a time when this wasn’t viable, let alone possible. But as the capabilities of mobile devices have improved over the years, shoppers are finding themselves interacting over smartphones more often than not – even when they are in a store’s physical location.

Smartphones and tablets are more than just mobile devices. They are tools that can help to improve a user’s experience. It’s not just about being able to make calls while on the go anymore – it’s about possessing an asset that is used to streamline activities and tasks while ultimately providing a stronger outcome in any given situation. The retail industry is one area in particular that’s seen the potential for mobile engagement, and the companies that understand how to unlock it will help to drive device trends through the next couple of years, at least.

There is one thing to remember when attempting to improve customer engagement through mobile devices – it can’t be done without custom software solutions. Retailers need to get serious about providing their clients with specialized applications meant to enhance their existing experiences. It is getting to the point where if a business does not enable this sort of functionality, consumers are likely to move on to a competitor that does.

Making clients part of the process
Patrons of any given enterprise like to feel connected to the organizations they support. According to Constellation Research principal analyst and vice president Guy Courtin, more companies are seeing the value in making customers feel more involved. There has to be more effort made to foster business relationships with consumers.

“These trends all revolve around the continuing amplification of the consumer voice in the retail supply chain,” Courtin wrote for ZDNet. “As consumers gain more influence within the retail supply chain, retailers will continue to focus on areas that allow for greater cooperation among all entities. Savvy retailers realize they can no longer expect to dominate the relationship but instead should allow for an atmosphere of cooperation.”

Generally, the kind of actions described by Courtin are not possible to obtain through the use of a mobile website. These interfaces are often clunky and poorly executed, leaving much to be desired and often failing to meet basic expectations. It’s this sort of thing that drives customers away, and the biggest reason why custom mobile app development is the way to go when trying to engage smartphone and tablet users. Not only are these apps normally much easier to operate than their website counterparts, but they are more focused in their engagement – users are not able to navigate away from the brand without leaving the app. Additionally, mobile software is able to tap into the abilities of the device itself. GPS positioning, for example, can show a shopper where the closest physical stores are from where they are standing at any given moment.

Getting serious about the mobile experience
While there has been incredible demand from consumers for improved engagement, there are still a great number of companies that have not optimized their mobile experiences. Protecting the brand is important, and in the present day, that means optimizing consumer-facing applications, according to TMCnet contributor Steve Anderson. Anderson wrote that one of the biggest reasons mobile software falls off the priority list has to do with budgeting.

It’s possible that this has to do with one of two things: Either a company is behind on the times or it believes that an existing solution is cutting it as-is and further investments aren’t needed. But the only thing worse than not having a mobile app is possessing one that doesn’t work. Mobile development is an ongoing process. Even when custom software solutions are cleared for release, there will always be changes or fixes to make as merited. To beat an old phrase to death, making sure that customers are actually satisfied with the interfaces they are provided with is not a destination, but a journey.

In order to best satisfy the modern consumer, there has to be an investment made in custom software development. Prepackaged solutions often lack the personalized touch of a customer portal that is constructed with the user in mind and don’t do much in the way of brand awareness. Retail organizations, especially, have to make sure that mobile engagement is occurring both in and out of the actual store. The only way to ensure this is to build an app that meets their specific needs as well as the expectations held by patrons.

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