Mobile technology is increasingly integrated into the physical retail store experience (Google 2013), as part of the continuing evolution of omnichannel retailing. By incorporating digital features into the store environment, retailers aim to exceed customer expectations, compete more effectively with online pure-players and offer a unique, sensory and personalised shopping experience (eConsultancy 2016). Consumers increasingly use their mobile devices to research information while shopping in-store (Verdict 2013; eMarketer 2014b), as they enhance their ability to research and exchange product and brand information (Berman 2012), compare prices (Piotrowicz and Cuthbertson 2014) and purchase at any time and place (Brynjolfsson et al. 2013). As technological advances improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the online channel, and penetration of mobile devices increases to allow more consumers to shop anytime and anywhere, how do consumer-facing mobile technologies in the physical store contribute to the omnichannel retail experience? This chapter considers the value of consumer-facing mobile technologies as a component of the in-store shopping experience and their role in bridging digital and physical retail environments. We begin with a review of the various types of these technologies currently utilised in the fashion retail sector, their benefits and challenges, and a discussion of relevant theoretical models, which may be used to predict the success of the technologies from a consumer adoption perspective. Three mini-cases show how fashion retailers at different levels of the marketplace integrate consumer-facing mobile technology into their store experience.
Retailers are increasingly required to offer products and services through multiple channels (Verhoef et al. 2015). Using more than one channel to sell to customers is described as multichannel retailing (Beck and Rygl 2015). Alternatively, Bagge (2007) proposed a definition that distinguishes between retailers with multiple channels and multichannel retailers. Essentially, a multichannel retailer aims to achieve brand consistency not only in each channel but across all channels to the consumer. More recently, the concept of omnichannel retailing has arisen from the need for retailers to extend their multichannel activities (Retail Week 2014a, b; Brynjolfsson et al. 2013). This refers to “a channel-agnostic view of how consumers experience the retailer brand” (PWC 2012, p. 30) and allows the consumer to be served by any channel at any point throughout the shopping journey (Napolitano 2013). Since a single consumer shopping journey may well consist of multiple channel interactions, retail channels can no longer work independently of one another (McCormick et al. 2014). An integrated experience between channels may be achieved through the development and use of innovative technology, such as Click and Collect services or interactive fitting rooms that connect with social media platforms (Blázquez 2014). This focus on integration and consistent experience across all customer touchpoints and a single view of inventory and customers defines an omnichannel approach (Retail Week 2014a, b). It allows consumers to look for, purchase or reserve products across all channels, while being able to collect or return the items at a convenient place (Verdict 2013). Consequently, omnichannel retailing must be organised as a synchronised operating model presenting a single face to the customer (Carroll and Guzman 2015; Fujitsu 2016).
Experiential shopping spaces are becoming increasingly important for retailers (Antéblian et al. 2014) and the use of consumer-facing technologies in-store represents one way of enabling an enhanced customer experience (Verhoef et al. 2009). The physical retail environment can be used as a theatre to display, entertain and delight consumers through the increasing use of innovative in-store technology (Kozinets et al. 2002; Kent 2007). Interactive displays and other engaging forms of information technology evoke emotions and other sensations that make consumers’ experiences unique and individual (Kozinets et al. 2002; Pantano 2015). Concept stores use multi-sensory experiences, with an emphasis on design and consumer-facing in-store technology, to create retail environments for interactivity, socialisation and communication (Kent 2007). Experiential retail environments refer to spaces where the consumer is totally immersed in a fantasy world and undergoes an extraordinary experience through service value, great store interiors and product display (Antéblian et al. 2014). These witness an increasing use of consumer-facing in-store technology and innovations, used to enhance the shopping experience and store environment through the stimulation of consumers’ interaction to confer a pleasant and entertaining experience. In addition, in-store mobile technology innovations present retailers with an opportunity to offer an improved in-store experience, blending the best of digital and physical retail (Retail Week 2014a).
The Mobile Device in Omnichannel Retail
The mobile channel is both an online retail channel in its own right and also facilitates the integration of the physical and digital retail experience (Brynjolfsson et al. 2013; Blázquez 2014). It encompasses three dimensions: connectivity, the physical devices themselves and the content, usually delivered via mobile applications (apps). Mobile becomes a channel by combining all three dimensions:
Connectivity is enabled by the penetration of faster 4G networks in professional development goals, the falling cost of sending and receiving data on mobile devices, and the increasing provision of free Wi-Fi in public spaces such as shopping centres, food outlets and retail stores, which allow consumers to get online more easily when out of their home or workplace.
With regard to the physical device itself, modern mobile devices generally accompany the user and are nearly always switched on, thus symbolically placing the retailer in the consumer’s palm throughout the day and night. The key features and unique value propositions of the mobile medium include ubiquity, convenience, personalisation, localisation, flexibility, spontaneity, immediacy, accessibility, time-criticality and instant connectivity (Chaffey and Ellis-Chadwick 2015).The trajectory of technological development has led to larger screens, lighter weight, greater interactivity, longer battery life and more powerful processors that allow consumers to perform many more functions on their mobile devices than ever before.
Content for the mobile channel is delivered via a mobile web browser or a mobile app. Mobile apps are defined as “end-user software that are designed for a cell phone operating system and which extend the phone’s capabilities by enabling users to perform particular tasks” (Purcell et al. 2010, p. 2). These include interactive information, entertainment or location-based services (Chaffey and Ellis-Chadwick 2015) to pay for goods, take and share photos or videos, and use maps to find locations. Mobile apps are a key development in mobile communications as they highlight a change in the method of delivering interactive services and content via mobile phones. Before mobile apps, the web browser was the main method. However, viewing websites via a web browser on the smaller screen of a mobile device can be frustrating if the website is not optimised for mobile. Mobile optimisation involves designing and coding web pages to provide the user with the best possible experience on their device, for example by ensuring content is legible and fits on the page without the need for horizontal scrolling or zooming.
Consumer purchasing patterns have changed significantly due to technological advances in e-commerce, the rise of social media marketing and mobile device penetration, with many consumers now searching online for ideas and inspiration, to compare prices and to discover new retailers and brands (McCormick et al. 2014; Barclays 2016). Market penetration of internet-enabled mobile devices is facilitated by the falling prices of entry-level smartphones and tablets in recent years, making mobile devices accessible to more consumer segments. In October 2016, global mobile internet traffic eclipsed desktop internet traffic for the first time (Statcounter 2016). Since they have become a central component of consumers’ daily lives (PWC 2012; Google 2013), mobile devices have taken a significant place in the consumer shopping journey, empowering consumers with access to greater information and more choice than ever before (eConsultancy 2016; Barclays 2016). Retail Week (2014, p. 3) thus described UK consumers as “ultraconnected, mega-mobile and extraordinarily well-informed”. Empowered by digital connectivity, knowledgeable consumers are now more judicious in their purchasing behaviour by conducting research prior to purchase and considering a wider range of information, examining user reviews and seeking advice (Aubrey and Judge 2012), with mobile devices increasingly used for many of these activities (Fujitsu 2016). Millenials (born between 1980 and 2000) are highlighted as a digital generation for whom online and mobile channels are particularly important, providing the information they need to find the best products and services (Accenture 2013).
Mobile devices provide a unique synergy between physical and digital shopping environments as they can be used in both contexts, separately or simultaneously (Piotrowicz and Cuthbertson 2014; Kearney 2012). Outside of the store, they can be used as a retail channel for purchasing items as well as everything related with the buying decision such as price comparison, finding stores, researching products and availability. Within the store, consumers may also use their mobile devices for information and research purposes (Verdict 2013; eMarketer 2014b), for example photographing products, comparing prices and barcode scanning (Holmes et al. 2013; Nielsen 2013, 2016). Even if consumers ultimately purchase an item in a store, they may have researched options online first, reading reviews and acquiring input from others through social media to find the best price and availability for the chosen solution (Table 1) (RSR 2016; Nielsen 2013, 2016; Berman 2012). Evidence suggests that the mobile channel’s share of total online spend is increasing, but its main potential is to provide consumers a valuable medium for research, comparison shopping and retailer interaction (Verdict 2013; Nielsen 2016).
My rule: “You only catch people when they are doing something right. When they’re wrong, you teach”. That’s a learning experience because you don’t learn from right, you learn from wrong. So you sit down and you ask, “What can we learn from this so that when we see it coming again, we don’t do this again?” So we’re going to dissect it, take it apart, look at the dynamic, and remember that dynamic. And when we see this problem coming next time, we’re immunized against this problem now. We’re building antibodies to this, and we’re not going to get this one again. No one should ever get into trouble for a mistake! Big problems come when employees do not make decisions.
My father, when I was born, was a sharecropper. That’s about the poorest of the poor jobs you can get. Then, he worked in a coal mine, and then eight years later, he became one of the largest plastering contractors in California. It was a big success story. I went to work for him one summer when I was fourteen. I was spreading plaster at age fourteen because I could reach eight feet high, and so they didn’t need to put up the scaffold.
One day, we were sitting down having lunch and there was a 60-yearold man with the white plastering hat on. He had skin cancer and sunburns and he was alcoholic, and my dad said, “Do you see that man?” I nodded. He said, “That’s you.” I was shocked. He said, “When you’re sixty, you’re going to be just like him.” Then he said, “I’m going to give you the secret: You play when you’re young, and you will pay when you are old. That fella, he played when he was young and he’s paying every day now. Or, you can go the other way. You can pay when you’re young, and then, you will play when you are old. The choice is up to you. And the way you pay, is you go to school, you go to college.” Nobody in my family had ever gone to college, no one. So I’m the first one to graduate from college and then I got addicted to college spent a total of six years in day school and nine more years in night school. Fifteen years total of college. So I paid, and I paid, and I paid.
Limits to Thinking… in Handcuffs
If you focus on what you can’t do, you overlook what you can do. Rules tell you what you cannot do. Rules are handcuffs. If you have the right culture, then people are free to think. Rules limit the thinking.
Listening and Creativity
In companies, creativity can be facilitated by an “open” leader who structures the culture to be free enough to listen to everyone and not judge any idea. That means listen to all ideas and not be critical of it. No one knows where the next great idea will come from. In Radica, I held two “ideation” meetings a year. I started these meetings for salesmen. At first, the salesmen think they know the market they don’t. The creative people think they know the market—they don’t.
The marketers think they know the market—they don’t. They are statisticians. I found that if a salesman thinks he cannot sell a product, he can’t. Salesmen always criticize the creative staff. So, to get the salesmen “on board,” I created the ideation meetings to get all of the departments together in a room for the purpose of creating the next products with input from each department to make them part of the process (own the monkey). Everyone is exposed in this room when forced to create; the truth comes out that it is very difficult to create. The details of the steps of these ideation meetings is another subject.
In the end, creativity is a disciplined process where all departments contribute; it takes an experienced and disciplined thought leadership to milk out the ideas and get them to be a marketable product.
Listening and Ideation
I took my technique from the think tank at GM. We started with additive logic. We would “add”: write on a white board all of the concepts from attendees. Every idea was recorded; a visual on the board could spark an idea from another member. When all of the ideas were offered and fatigue sets in, I would switch to subtractive logic. I would ask, “Which one of these products has the customer appeal that would create the highest income in the shortest time?” We would start ranking the ideas. As we progressed, someone would offer a new idea. I would stop and say, “OK, now we are back to additive logic, let’s add.” When the new additions were added, I would go back and start over the subtractive process of ranking the ideas. These “additive” interruptions are both healthy and tiring. The staff caught on that this was a lot of time consuming and exhausting work. I think fatigue is part of the creative process. We would end up with new product lines and product extensions to existing lines. But everyone was now onboard, because they had the base line info on how difficult it is to create. Now the salesmen were on board. But the problem was not over.
The development process is time consuming and the other departments (i.e., accounting, sales, etc.) do not fully understand how much detail goes into product development. The product development people are usually the most educated department in a company and their work is the least understood. I found that the sales department understood the least about how much time/work was involved. After we prioritized the new-products list from the ideation meeting, the salesmen would keep adding, subtracting, or changing; this drives the development people crazy. The seemingly smallest proposed change usually means a “start-over” for the development team. This causes the schedule to start over, but the sales would say, “It’s just a small change, why a year longer?” This led me to create a “gestation period” for product development.