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The Challenge of Mobile-to-Physical Retail and How to Change the Dynamic

Guest Blog by Scott Pulsipher

Mobile retail is facing some major challenges today.

More and more shoppers now turn to their mobile devices for product information and advice. But their trust of retailers has diminished. A Retail System Research survey found 54 percent of shoppers want knowledgeable store associates more than any other service. Yet 59 percent of them believed they knew more about the products than the people paid to help them.

These stats illuminate two important facts. First, shoppers want knowledgeable help they can trust to help them make their buying decisions. Second, they feel they are more likely to get that kind of help online—or on their mobile devices—than at a store. This shows shoppers want their product information from unbiased, knowledgeable, and available sources before they buy. This behavior also demonstrates that retailers are largely viewed as biased and untrustworthy.

This isn’t for a lack of trying. Retailers are staying on top of quick-developing trends and shopping habits. They are combatting general consumer distrust toward traditional marketing. As retailers accept these challenges as opportunities, they are ways and tools to help them adapt quickly in order to make up ground and change the web/mobile/in-store dynamic.

The Challenge of the Mobile to In-Store Dynamic

It starts with mobile devices. Consider what happens as a shopper enters a store with a mobile phone on their ear or staring down at one in their hand. Inherently, the shopper blocks themselves off from in-store associates. And 49 percent of shoppers do this. What hope do in-store associates have of interacting or building trust with shoppers?

This problem is only compounded by the broad availability of information on the Internet. Couple that with the general feeling online of distrust toward marketing messages. Now more than one-third of consumers trust a stranger’s opinion on websites more than branded marketing, according to recent article in Forbes.

It doesn’t stop there. The more shoppers use their mobile devices to shop, the more they turn to online retail sites from their mobile devices. Unfortunately, too many retailers fail to make their sites responsive to mobile devices. Although this may seem like a trivial concern, studies show that mobile responsiveness has significant effects on shoppers. Sixty-one percent of mobile shoppers will move on if a site is not responsive. Fifty-five percent said a frustrating experience on a mobile website would hurt their perception of the retailer’s brand.

This has created a startling deficit of trust between retailers and shoppers that threaten to keep 84 percent of shoppers away from the brands that have lost their trust.

At this point, retailers have two choices: wage a war on mobile devices and the Internet or use mobile and the Internet to regain the trust they’ve lost. The first has a low probability of success. The second is really the only viable way forward for retailers. Their adoption of technology to interact in personal, meaningful ways with their shoppers could make all the difference.

The Pathway to Restoring Trust

First, embracing mobile has to be at the top of the list for any marketer looking to overcome these challenges. This inevitably has to include updating any web properties connected to retail to deliver a fluid, responsive experience for mobile users. Considering that 67 percent of users are more likely buy or convert after a visit to a mobile-friendly site, the development will be well worth the investment.

Second, retailers need to ensure they have the right people talking for them online. According to BazaarVoice, time spent on social media is not always about personal relationships. Users also use these tools to gather feedback from experts with common interests to inform purchasing decisions. These advocates are two to three times more effective in persuading others to buy recommended brands, according to Comscore.

If your shoppers distrust marketing messages, who better to help them regain trust in a brand than unbiased, knowledgeable advocates? They might just be the most powerful—and often underused—tool retailers have at their disposal.

The Benefits of Embracing Mobile

Mobile has threatened most retailers because they are unprepared for the shift and evolution it created in shopper behavior. But mobile could also be the thing that keeps them relevant. Using advocates to regain the trust of mobile shoppers have been shown to significantly increase conversion and customer loyalty alike. When credible, trustworthy advocates directly engage online shoppers at the moment of decision, they are more likely to make a purchase. This avoids the sale-killing delay that results when shoppers postpone buying until they get back to their computer. Better still, retailers who do this successfully will have built up priceless trust with shoppers.

Scott Pulsipher is President & COO of Needle and previously served as the general manager of Amazon Webstore

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