The increasingly mobile retail environment is changing consumer expectations about shopping experiences. At the same time, it is putting new tools in the hands of retailers to help them reach, engage, and ultimately convert new customers. This does not only mean sales, but the new normal in the retail industry requires ensuring happy customers who will drive success.

While e-commerce retailers are the primary beneficiaries of the rise of mobile devices, brick-and-mortar establishments can also take advantage of mobile innovations. These stores, or brick-and-mortar establishments, can differentiate themselves by making shopping fun and effortless, and by deploying tools that enhance business intelligence and training across the physical storefront and stockroom.

The Neon Sign Goes Mobile

MIT research shows that over 80 percent of in-store shoppers first visit online, and then in-person. Having some kind of online presence became important years ago, but customers are now becoming used to finding the information they want in whatever platform they are on at the moment.

This means that users looking to shop will likely still access their smartphones for reviews, price comparisons or alternative products. If you're not careful, you might be victim to the so-called "showrooming" phenomenon, in which prospective customers go to your store only to see and touch the product in the flesh, but then purchase online where it might be cheaper.

Retailers can empower their customers to find them anywhere with an omni-channel approach to marketing.  A website, a mobile app, and a few social media accounts can be easily created and linked together, and there are many tools and guides to help brick-and-mortar stores establish an omnipresent online presence.

Another way for retailers to reach customers through mobile is location-based marketing, which alerts a device owner about offers from nearby businesses. Less than 10 percent of retailers are currently

Building a Personal Connection

A 2015 survey from mobile marketing company    Apptentive found that over half of consumers use retail mobile apps while shopping in-store. The question here is: what do they need the app in the store for? They are already in the store, with the products right in front of them.

The answer is simple. Customers want to know more than the price and size. In the past, information was listed on signs, labels, and price tags, and the rest came from staff. Now customers can browse product details, comparisons, and customer reviews online while they are on location shopping.

By using mobile innovation to shift the burden of listing off features and specifications to the shopper's device, retailers free up staff to add value by acting as a specialized assistant to the customer. Teach the customer how to use the product or app on the spot - in-store.

Personalizing the in-store experience with product information embedded in augmented reality (AR) apps is becoming easy with investment from major tech companies like IBM and Google, and it provides a fun new way for customers to learn about products they are interested in. Retailers are just beginning to leverage AR, but Lenovo recently released a mobile device with support for Google's retail AR app Tango, which can help AR take off.

An effective customer loyalty program provides the fun of progressing towards a reward. Retailers can give customers access to their loyalty program through a mobile app, to track their progress and consider their reward options on their own time, reinforcing their relationship with the retail brand even while miles away from the store.

POS System Innovation Replaces Friction with Style

One key area of mobile technology innovation for brick-and-mortar stores is the development of point of sale (POS) systems.  The modern POS system is no longer limited to a tool for the person processing the checkout.

A connected POS system provides robust store management tools, along with a frictionless experience for the customer. Mobile technology is bringing different payment methods into the mainstream, and with the right POS system retailers can take payment however the customer prefers. It is particularly important to offer mobile payment options like PayPal and Apple Pay to appeal to younger customers, as 63 percent of adult millennials don't own a credit card. 

Mobile POS systems for restaurants can enable staff to take any form of payment wherever the customer is sitting, including out on a patio. Allowing customers to pay how, where, and when they want removes friction from the payment experience.

Using an innovative point of sale system that is mobile, connected, and flexible allows retailers to complete the closure of the item, while enhancing shopper's experience with options like email receipts and customer accounts.

A good example here is Vend, which works on different devices, such as the iPad, Mac, and PC. Aside from simply providing POS capabilities, it also has a built in loyalty program and inventory management. Vend works online and in-store, and integrates with other retail apps to provide a custom management and customer experience solution.

Running out of stock is another common source of friction for retail customers, one which is mitigated by a connected system with inventory management capabilities.

The same platforms that make up an omni-channel marketing approach can be integrated with a POS system like Vend to sell products, making a brick-and-mortar store into the flagship of an omni-channel retail operation. This allows customers who leave without buying an item to change their minds and make the purchase from the store - from their computer or mobile when they get home, or even from their device on the way home.

Innovative On-Site Retail Always Has the Edge

Mobile technology has become so pervasive that it can be leveraged by the physical store just as much as the ecommerce-only shop. The difference is, as always, that the brick-and-mortar retailer can smile at a customer, shake their hand, and make a personal connection that is not available to online mega-stores like Amazon and eBay.

Businesses that take advantage of mobile Innovations and provide the personal touch can provide a customer experience that cannot be matched by e-retailers with only one way to do business.