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Updated Jun 21, 2024

Beacons Are Beckoning: How Mobile Technology Is Changing Retail

Explore how businesses are leveraging mobile technology to transform the retail space and enhance customers’ mobile experience.

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Written By: Sean PeekSenior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
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Mobile technology is taking the retail market by storm. With technological advances occurring all the time, companies must adapt. Companies such as PayPal, Amazon, Samsung and Apple have implemented media for consumers to conduct transactions in the palm of their hand. Here’s how mobile technology is changing retail.

The impact of mobile technology on retail

Embracing mobile technology, which has become an integral part of our daily lives, is a necessity for the retail industry and a gateway to numerous opportunities for growth and development. Adopting mobile technology allows businesses to:

  • Create personalized, multichannel customer touchpoints and experiences. Brands can create customer journeys through their websites, social media profiles, mobile apps, email marketing efforts and brick-and-mortar locations. However, businesses must ensure their customers experience a seamless transition from one touchpoint to the next — or their efforts could fail to deliver the desired results.
  • Automate in-store inventory processes for brick-and-mortar stores. Through mobile associate apps, employees can receive real-time notifications on new order shipments, help customers find items at another store location and place customer orders for home delivery. Together, these can provide a more streamlined and personalized experience for shoppers.
  • Develop augmented reality touchpoints to elevate their brand reputation. Augmented reality applications may include virtual fitting rooms, pop-up sales, exclusive discounts for customers using the app and interactive virtual displays in brick-and-mortar locations.

How retail businesses can use mobile technology

Retail businesses can incorporate mobile technology into their overall sales strategies in several ways. Here are a few of the most common and effective solutions.

Retailer apps

A retailer app enables customers to make purchases online. Every retailer should have an app. A good mobile app is more than just a convenient platform for making purchases; it must also provide a personalized “experience” that relates to consumers’ interests and conveys details about items for sale. These personalized experiences include emailing receipts, a 24/7 online store and inventory updates. [Related article: Financing Your Retail Store]

FYIDid you know
Retailers should determine if they are better suited for a mobile app or a mobile website.

Push-based apps

The first apps were pull-based, meaning the user had to do something, such as request information, look up a product or put an item in a shopping cart. Today’s apps are push-based, which means they anticipate user requests and provide pertinent information based on users’ needs. So if an app “knows” a user is interested in a certain product, it will automatically send updates about pricing information or availability without any action from the user. Push-based apps allow for personalized user engagement that can target inactive users to enable re-engagement. The best feature of push-based apps is that no personal information is required to opt in.

TipBottom line
Push notifications can engage inactive users and serve as reminders for active users.

Beacons and mobile ads

In-store beacons — small and relatively inexpensive Bluetooth devices placed throughout a store — add another dimension to the push concept. If the shopper allows beacon notifications, these devices transmit not only product information, but also sales notifications whenever the shopper is within range. Beacons can also be used to display ads customized to individual shoppers’ preferences and interests. If a customer previously clicked on a company’s online ad and then walked into the store to browse, the beacon would link the customer’s ad visit data and could interact with the customer while they shop — for example, giving them additional details about a certain item or offering a coupon to incentivize a purchase.

Mobile payments

Apple Pay and Google Wallet are well on their way to widespread acceptance. Retailers have had to upgrade to top point-of-sale (POS) systems to accommodate the EMV chips major credit cards now have in place of magnetic stripes. These new systems typically also have the capability to accept credit card information (as well as store loyalty cards and gift cards) from a mobile app. The convenience factor here is twofold: There is no need to carry physical cards, and the customer has the ability to simply tap and purchase at a product display to quickly complete a transaction.

The benefits of using mobile technology

Mobile technology provides businesses with another avenue for customer connection. Although only 48 percent of small businesses currently have a mobile app, about 27 percent plan to build one to increase their sales, according to a survey by Top Design Firms. Here are some of the reasons businesses are using such technology.

Reaching shoppers via mobile

Online shopping has become increasingly popular in recent years — a trend that’s only expected to continue. According to Statista research, the number of e-commerce users in the U.S. is expected to reach a peak of 335.5 million users by 2029. Many large companies are joining this mobile retail world by implementing mobile payment apps, which allow customers to make mobile payments through their own personalized medium, such as PayPal or Venmo, to conduct transactions.

Improving the customer experience

Mobile technology makes the shopping experience more efficient, personalized and convenient. A positive customer experience is essential to any retailer. Mobile apps can help locate items, provide customer service and simplify the checkout processes. This benefits the retailer’s bottom line as well. Enabling customers to get information and make purchases means less need to staff cashier positions. That can reduce labor costs and eliminate the time and hassle of scheduling a workforce frequently characterized by high turnover and unreliability.

Giving customers more immediate information improves the consumer experience and can save a company time and money. That is why mobile technology is an important part of the retail business landscape.

Did You Know?Did you know
In addition to seamlessly processing payments, upgrading your POS system can provide you with in-depth inventory tracking and extensive operations-reporting capabilities.

Allowing sales to be processed anywhere

Upgrading your POS technology can help improve your customers’ shopping experience with lower upfront costs. Mobile POS systems use a smartphone or tablet instead of a cash register, allowing you to accept credit cards, digital wallets (such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay) and contactless payments wherever you are. Upgrading to the latest software can also help protect customers’ personally identifiable information (PII).

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Written By: Sean PeekSenior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
Sean Peek co-founded and self-funded a small business that's grown to include more than a dozen dedicated team members. Over the years, he's become adept at navigating the intricacies of bootstrapping a new business, overseeing day-to-day operations, utilizing process automation to increase efficiencies and cut costs, and leading a small workforce. This journey has afforded him a profound understanding of the B2B landscape and the critical challenges business owners face as they start and grow their enterprises today. In addition to running his own business, Peek shares his firsthand experiences and vast knowledge to support fellow entrepreneurs, offering guidance on everything from business software to marketing strategies to HR management. In fact, his expertise has been featured in Entrepreneur, Inc. and Forbes and with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
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