A smartphone is a consultant that retailers can tune in their favor

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to any retailer now that mobile technology has become a massive sales driver and needs to be leveraged in commerce for brands to stay relevant. The ability of brands to connect with their customers outside the store is vital to prosperity. And mobile is the way to do it.

In fact, research published by Google in April suggests mobile shopping-related searches increased 120% in the last year. For retailers, it means that mobile is the channel to increase foot traffic and sales in physical stores. Smartphones have almost become the extensions of our hands as we reach for them for any question related to shopping or otherwise.

The ability of retailers to answer those questions when we ask them can determine our interest to come to their stores. Marketers have never had a better opportunity to tailor offerings and get customers on the hook via mobile to bring them to physical stores. Smartphones contain vital information for marketers, like a potential customer’s locations, gender, specifications of the products they are searching for (from their queries), etc.

The moment a potential customer uses a smartphone to make a shopping-related search is the moment for retailers to mediate with the highest ROI. One of the retailers, Target, has performed a research to find out that 98% of Target’s customers shop digitally, and three-quarters of them start their experience on a mobile device. Moreover, one-third of guests who click on a mobile search ad later go to the physical store. The application of the finding is in ads. Web andmobile-friendly ads can significantly affect the store traffic and potential in-store sales.

Another important insight from the research suggests that customers are heavily using the “near me” search. “Near me” is a such a powerful driver in localized searches that it has grown almost 2.5 times on YoY basis. Moreover, half of the users using “near me” in their search through mobile are ending up in a store within a day. And the conversion into purchases happens in 18% of the cases, as Google suggests.

The fact that ads that show local inventory drive shoppers into stores speaks in favor of localized focus. The research suggests that a quarter of potential store visitors don’t go to the local store because they don’t know if a product is in stock.

Half of the battle for customers in the store is in showing the local item’s availability. As proof, a study cites Sears’ example, whose store witnessed a 122% increase in store visits after the ads were tailored to show the availability of particular items in particular stores. Localized inventory ads are a major force driving potential customers to the stores for a particular product they are looking for.

A smartphone can both drive customers to the store and ruin a potential sale (the study suggests that almost a quarter of customers are changing their minds about the purchase right in the line to checkout after they perform a research on the phone). A smartphone is a consultant that retailers can tune in their favor. Given that the research found 82% of customers performing a research on the items on their smartphones, retailers can aid in finding the necessary information to facilitate a potential purchase. Retailers can’t afford to leave the results of the research to pure luck, they need to channel it to the right place with the right information to aid customers in their decision (preferably, positive). That’s where proprietary apps could come in handy. Not to let customers wander around the web looking for information on the product, it’s better to control the search with a proprietary app to ease the process of research on a particular product from the retailer.

Last but not the least in insightful encounters is the power of omnichannel approach. According to the auto-ID developer CYBRA, companies with omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain on average 89% of their customers. For comparison, companies with weak omnichannel customer engagement are able to retain only 33% of their customers. Moreover, the company suggests that 56% of clients fail to become returning customers if the company doesn’t have an omnichannel strategy implemented.

To strengthen the argument for omnichannel approach, Macy’s suggests that omnichannel customers are eight times more valuable to the retailer than customers shopping through a single channel.

While it’s clear that the mobile has a tremendous impact on customer behavior and in-store sales, it’s also important to fill the mobile experience with appropriate and relevant information. If retailers fail to fill the gap of information on a particular item near customers when they perform a research on smartphones, other retailers will fill that gap with their items and information. It is not only important to catch the research at the right moment, but also to be able to find touch points again and again to lead customer behavior to desirable results.