It is late September, which means marketers and retailers are in full Holiday season freak-out. The majority of retail commerce is still done in store, yet a recent MasterCard study http://bit.ly/1FyEDh5 found that “eight out of 10 consumers globally use a computer, smartphone, tablet or in-store technology when shopping.”
Let’s take a look at how in a fantasy world, marketers could use smartphones to increase sales and cement repeat business.
Jane Doe has just entered a busy wine shop. Her smartphone beeps,
“Welcome Jane! Looking for a good Pinot? James has 6 on display in the back left corner of the store for between $19-$25.”
Jane ignores the message and stops in front of California blends. Her smartphone beeps,
“If you’d like to see the Wine Spectator rating, hold your phone over a bottle in camera mode. If you’d like multiple reviews of that bottle, press#.”
Jane scans a couple of bottles for reviews. Her phone beeps,
“Would you like suggestions for food pairing? Type or say “food” and scan a bottle. Type or say “recipe” if you see something you’d like to try to make.”
Jane settles on two and starts heading to the door. Her phone beeps again.
“Would you like to checkout instantly with PayPal, Visa Checkout or MasterCard MasterPass? Type or say it. We will check you out now and send you a PDF receipt.”
Jane says PayPal, waves to the clerk and walks out of the shop. About ten minutes later, Jane receives another message
“Thanks for stopping by, Jane. We have noted your purchase in our database. With more purchases, we will be able to create a profile of your particular tastes and be able to make recommendations based on it. On your next visit, please accept a $2 off coupon with our compliments. We will apply it automatically. Feel free to send us a message if you have questions about wine. Have a great day!”
Such a fantasy retail experience would require a lot of things, particularly a sophisticated database management system. But look at what could be included and accomplished in a seamless manner – two way personalized communication, couponing, product research and instant checkout/payment. This can lead to the highly valued ongoing relationships that successful retailers thrive on.
The fantasy retail experience is a fantasy today for reasons you might not have considered. The technology, piece parts and back end systems exist to make all of this possible, but efforts are thwarted by cost, retail priorities and the battle over who will deliver it.
The most natural delivery option is a dedicated retail app. However, only a select few retailers carry enough weight with consumers for them to download and actively use a dedicated retail app. The other options for the vast majority of retailers are:
- Payment network apps. Leveraging their instant payment services, Visa, MasterCard and PayPal could become retail engagement platforms which could serve cardholders and a vast number of retail partners. There is potential appeal to consumers because they could use the payment network app of their choice across most retailers. As an extension of that idea, some major retail banks, such as Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, could offer such an app to their own payment card holders.
- Social Network and Messaging Apps. Facebook/Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Kik, Viber, Twitter are very likely candidates to offer such retail engagement services. They are widely and actively used by consumers with the appeal of viral marketing. They are all capable of offering SDKs for seamless notifications and fast checkout via the payment networks. What’s more, they are all experimenting with buy buttons and other commerce and advertising integration. The greatest challenge for the social and messaging apps would be seamless coupon distribution/integration.
- Travel Apps Like Expedia, Yelp. Some apps have consumer appeal in specific verticals, but are natural companion apps for when consumers travel. It would make sense they could be potential platforms to enable the fantasy in store experience.
- Uber. Particularly intriguing is the potential Uber has as a partner to retailers. This Summer they released an SDK to enable third parties to send/receive notifications to consumers. They already have payment mechanisms in place and could extend instant checkout to the payment networks. Uber will become a platform for much more than ground transportation.