Apps Vs Screens: The Future of the High Street
In the last decade we have seen an increase when it comes to big in-store technology; particularly in the area of digital displays. Whilst usually impressive to look at, the actual benefits may be less apparent. Some retailers dazzled by slick, exciting technology, have made impulsive investments without much thought around their customer journey – and the resulting ROI (or lack of). Today’s leading retailers are, however, telling a different story. By focussing on apps that further enhance the customer experience, the more savvy players are meeting customer expectations and ultimately driving more sales.
A sense of familiarity
To some customers, walking into a store and being approached by an iPad-tapping employee can feel pushy, or somewhat intrusive. While attempting to interact with in-store screens, understanding their purpose and navigating the store may prove too time-consuming. Enabling customers to use their own device which they are already familiar with can be a more empowering route; and that’s where apps come in. No longer thought of as a standalone channel, apps are proving their value by greatly enhancing the in-store experience – such as providing customers with a ‘self-serve’ option. When retailers get this right, in-store staff are free to help other shoppers offering a more personal service; resulting in an improved customer experience and a better brand perspective.
High Street Retailers answering back with Apps
Competition from online retailers is fierce. As such, bricks-and-mortar businesses need to consider how to bring the speed and customer convenience of ecommerce into their stores. The challenge is not only how to achieve this – but how to do so without asking customers to learn new technology.
One such success story is Marks and Spencer (M&S), who following in the footsteps of Amazon Go, recently completed a pilot scheme for a new ‘checkout free’ service in two stores. Focussing on their lunchtime shoppers who are inevitably pushed for time, the trial saw over 20%1 of all sales made on smartphones; with 170 items purchased through the app every hour. When in store, customers simply open the app, scan their products, and pay using their M&S.com account or Apple Pay.
High Street giant Tesco is another retailer trialling a similar shop-and-go technology. Its “Scan Pay Go” app allows customers to scan barcodes and pay for shopping on their smartphone, leaving the store without having to visit a till. The app has been installed on the mobiles of 100 staff, who are currently testing this in a purpose-built convenience store at the Welwyn Garden City headquarters.
Targeting customers in real time
Along with providing a sense of familiarity and convenience, apps are also being used to personalise the shopping experience. Geofencing is the term used to describe technology that creates a ‘virtual boundary’ around an area that triggers an event, when a person enters it. Starbucks is one such retailer utilising this technology for location-based offers, sending app users notifications when they are close to a store with a running promotion. When used in this way, Geofencing offers the ability to target specific users with a relevant promotion – at the right time in the right place. And with a recent survey3 showing 73% of consumers are happy for apps to use their location, the potential market is huge.
Don’t do tech for tech’s sake
According to Forbes, 83% of goods purchased globally in 2022 will still be bought in store4 – this suggests bricks-and-mortar retailers need to keep up with in-store technology for the foreseeable future. That said, fancy looking interactive in-store screens, whilst having that ‘wow factor’, may end up gathering dust as customers stick to what they know best.
By thoroughly understanding the customer journey retailers can make better tech decisions. And, as the retail leaders are demonstrating, pursuing an app-led customer experience strategy that is more fit for purpose may result in happier, engaged, and subsequently more loyal shoppers.
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