Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mobile apps, e-commerce, mobile checkout, omni-channel retailing and social media

Vincent Quan
Associate Professor Fashion Merchandise
Management, Fashion Institute of Technology

Mobile apps, e-commerce, mobile checkout, omni-channel retailing and social media…These are just a few of the big industry buzzwords in wide use going into 2013.  Retailers have started to integrate one or more of these solutions and concepts into their retail strategies for next year and beyond. The ultimate retail challenge is how to use technology to solicit, engage and satisfy consumers. The goal is to deliver increased traffic, conversion and market share with faster inventory turns, higher sell throughs, and healthier gross margins.

However, is technology the ultimate panacea for consumers and retailers alike? The answer is an affirmative “not yet.”

During a visit to one of the newer stand-alone cosmetics and beauty specialty stores in New York City that has pioneered mobile POS, several customers who were in the process of being checked out with mobile devices were getting frustrated. The reason was that the mobile checkout devices were freezing in the middle of their transactions.  Needless to say, the customers weren’t the only ones getting annoyed.

Meanwhile, back at the mall…A visit to the branded denim bar (within a department store) demonstrated some wonderful technology. It had two iPads that allowed consumers to flip through their preferred cut, fit and wash while seated at the “bar.” 

However, why would a time-sensitive consumer exhaust precious minutes to play with an iPad if the product was within sight or displayed at the “bar”? Touching the product beats touching a screen any day. But this is not the end of the story. Two sales associates were observed discussing among themselves that the two mobile checkout devices (iPads equipped with credit card scanners) were not working.

Here is a conversation overheard at an eclectic specialty store between a sales associate and guest. Sales associate: “Hi, would you like to check out via a mobile device?” Guest: “That would be great, but how do I know that you’re not scanning my credit card on your phone?”

In the end, retailers must realize that technology is just an enabler. Technology does not supplant the need for great product, terrific service, a personal connection or security.

SOURCE: Retail Info Systems News

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