A Guest Post by Monika Götzmann
Mobile commerce has changed the shape of the sales industry in recent times. Indeed, a study of the 2016 holiday period revealed that mobile retail sales had increased by 23 percent from the previous year, according to research carried out by Adobe Digital Insights, highlighting just how much mobile shopping has taken off.
Clearly, mobile commerce offers numerous advantages over the traditional in-store retail experience, including convenience, 24/7 availability and tailored recommendations based on previous history or purchases. In this article, we take a look at the ways in which retailers can combat this and continue to thrive in the m-commerce era.
While mobile commerce is clearly in a state of continued growth, and while many physical retailers have experienced a decline in the number of in-store customers passing through their doors, it is important to be realistic about the current state of the retail industry. In truth, very few people have a clear ‘mobile only’ preference.
In a study of 46,000 shoppers, carried out by the Harvard Business Review, it was found that just 7 percent of customers are online-only shoppers, while 20 percent are store-only shoppers. The vast majority, some 73 percent, uses multiple channels throughout their shopping journey, indicating that they are ‘Omni-channel’ customers.
However, there is another layer to this Omni-channel phenomenon, which involves simultaneous use of different channels. In fact, a recent survey from SessionM found that 90 percent of retail shoppers turn to their smartphones while shopping in a physical store, in order to compare prices or look up reviews or product information.
This presents an ideal opportunity for retail companies looking to stay competitive in the m-commerce era. By optimizing your website to include reviews and product descriptions, you can actually improve the overall level of retail customer service on offer at physical stores. Moreover, the aforementioned HBR research found that customers who conduct online research ahead of a store visit spend an average of 13 percent more money.
Accepting mobile payments can further improve the physical store experience by helping to introduce some of the convenience associated with mobile checkouts. Meanwhile, beacon technology potentially allows retailers to send alerts or special offers to customers’ phones at the most opportune moments, based on their physical location.
In truth, retail customer service, in of itself, provides an advantage over online and mobile commerce brands. People often go shopping for the experience and when retail staff have the right customer service skills, the experience is enhanced further, as customers can rely on them to provide expertise.
Additionally, providing an excellent customer experience will give you a hugely significant competitive edge over rival sales and retail organizations. A 2011 American Express Survey found that 59 percent of customers would try a new company or brand if they thought it would provide them with a superior service experience.
It is for this reason that customer service skills should be an absolute priority, and retail companies should invest sufficiently in high-quality sales training and coaching, in order to ensure these skills are developed.
“Retail sales training is still uncharted territory for many retailers,” says Bob Phibbs. “They just don’t value putting money into the one physical thing that can most juice their sales – their employees.”
In particular, there should be a strong focus on developing a working product knowledge and allowing employees to become experts, who add real value to the in-store experience. With that being said, this is an area where many companies are currently failing. As a consequence, they are hindering their own chances of success.
“We have an army of retail workers who have become mute,” Bob Phibbs adds. “You need to give your employees training so they get their own voices back.”
In the end, success in the era of m-commerce requires an acceptance of the modern, omnichannel approach to shopping; the provision of cross-channel material and content to aid with the in-store experience; world-class customer service skills; and expert employees, who make the physical store experience genuinely worthwhile.
Monika Götzmann is the EMEA Marketing Director of Miller Heiman Group, a global sales training and customer experience company. It specializes in providing exceptional customer service coaching to provide organizations with sales-ready solutions for their employees. She enjoys sharing her insight and thoughts to develop better sales and customer service skills in salespeople.
Also published on Medium.