What Does “Mobile First” Really Mean For Retailers, Anyway?

Headlines urging retailers to focus on mobile shopping are everywhere these days, but very few are giving any explanation of what “mobile first” actually means and what you can do about it.

If you’re tired of reading statistic after statistic only to be left scratching your head and need an introduction to mobile retailing in 2014, here it is.

Before diving any deeper, you’re probably wondering what’s driving the big push toward mobile. It’s simple: convenience.

Shoppers live busy lives and will take any opportunity to save time when it comes to finding and purchasing products. With powerful smartphones already streamlining other parts of their life, more and more people are using them to shop.

As retailers start turning to mobile apps that let their customers search and find what they’re looking for from almost anywhere, consumers are starting to see mobile retailing as more than just a special perk some stores offer––they’re starting to expect it from everyone.

Mobile Tools Are Changing The Way We Shop

Thankfully, retailers are realizing that changes aren’t coming––they’re here––and they’re doing something about it.

Concepts like omnichannel––the unifying of channels to deliver a consistent customer experience––were one of the primary points of focus for retailers last year. This year, retailers are discovering how to use mobile tools to connect the offline channels with the online ones in ways that fundamentally change how people shop.

Retailers who simply “check the box” when it comes to moving toward more omnichannel strategies have turned to simple fixes like allowing customers to return items bought off the web inside a store, or conversely, pick up web purchases through brick and mortar locations.

While these are important, they don’t go far enough if you truly want to differentiate and show consumers you’re all about giving them something they didn’t have before.

Mobile shopping tools make for a more convenient shopping experience at an even more basic level. Instead of simply bringing an online shopping experience into the store, mobile tools change the basics of shopping itself.

What You Can Start Doing To Put Mobile First

If you want to do more than simply “check the mobile box,” simply having a mobile presence is not enough. You have to think strategically about how mobile functionality can actually improve your customers’ experiences in new and exciting ways.

One way to do this is to look to those already reaching for that goal. The local shopping app Pavo, for instance, is planning to streamline the researching process consumers use to find clothes and other products online by providing custom ads and alerts based on where the user is.

Using the Pavo app, retailers and other stores can have their products displayed to consumers even if they’ve never shopped there before––a brand new way to attract first-time shoppers.

Based on what you like to buy, the app will give you smart suggestions about what other items you might like from that store, and let you buy them right from the phone for in-store pickup if you want.

To get customers to download and use your app, it has to do something beyond what your website already provides. Another good example of this is Amazon’s mobile app. Utilizing the phone’s camera, users can search for items using a picture they take. This allows super-convenient searching while you’re out and about.

So what’s the first step you have to take to get there?

Understand Your Customers’ Needs

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for every retailer because customers are looking for different things from each store they shop at. That’s why you need to have a deep understanding of your customers so you can design a mobile strategy around them.

Whether it’s designing your own mobile tool or partnering with those already trying to change the game like Pavo, shopper feedback needs to come first.

Using customer experience evaluation programs like mystery shopping, and customer intercepts designed specifically to ask what customers would like to see from a mobile tool, you’ll can be confident you’re investing your resources in a mobile solution that will set your strategy apart from the rest.