More Mobile, More Problems?
It’s been a great night out with friends. You’ve enjoyed good food and some laughs. Then the bill arrives. After some mental (or scribbled) math and some uncomfortable chatter (or silence), you’re handing the waiter a check cover filled with six pieces of plastic and requesting change for two $20 bills. As the use of smartphones continues to increase – an estimated 56% of American adults are adopters as of June 2013 – retailers and restaurateurs will be afforded new opportunities to replace this awkward moment with a more efficient and better customer experience. Here are some technologies and trends for merchants to consider in the year ahead:
- Point-of-Sale Mobile Payment – We first highlighted the power of mobile payment technology and its potential to engage consumers back in the Fall of 2012. Since then, mobile payment has continued to grow and the competition among big players like Pay Pal, Isis, Google, Apple, and Square remains fierce. Given the variety of mobile payment options out there, merchants may be tempted to watch the mobile wallet wars to see who emerges victorious with the mobile wallet before adopting the technology. But merchants could be missing out on existing opportunities to connect with consumers using technology that is specifically designed to meet their needs. Starbucks has integrated a variety of mobile payment systems and as a result more than 10% of its in-store purchases are processed using mobile phones. Entrepreneurs have recognized that “different merchants will use different technology for different reasons” and have designed mobile payment systems for particular types of users. For example, one recent post highlighted six different mobile payment options catering to restaurants, each of which is designed to make paying (or splitting) the bill a little bit easier for everyone involved. While the next big mobile payment innovation may be just around the corner, the one that fits your niche may already exist.
- Mobile Technology is Revolutionizing the Shopping and Dining Experience – Consumers are using mobile phones not only to pay, but also to enhance their in-store experience. According to one study conducted by Google Shopper Marketing Agency Council and M/A/R/C Research, 8 in 10 “smartphone shoppers” use their mobile device in-store to help with shopping. Moreover, the study found that shoppers who use mobile more, buy more. As a result, “retailers need to continue to focus on providing a great integrated experience between that phone and that retail environment so that there is a value add for a consumer.” Merchants can consider a variety of options to integrate and enhance the in-store mobile experience, including, designing apps with store-mode, using “beacons” to push coupons and notifications to customers, adding phone charging kiosks, installing free Wi-Fi and adopting pricing strategies designed to prevent “show-rooming”.
In 2014, merchants must develop effective business strategies for integrating mobile technology while managing the associated legal risks. Consumers are adopting mobile technology at a record-setting pace – twice as fast as consumers adopted internet technology in the 1990s – so it is not surprising that laws and regulations continue to lag behind the technology. Thus, it will be equally important to understand how existing rules and regulations apply and to watch closely as lawmakers address the novel issues mobile technology presents. In addition, while it is not unique to merchants using mobile technology, companies at the forefront of integrating mobile technology must constantly watch for threats to the security of their customers’ private data. While adopting mobile technology will present retailers with a range of new challenges, failing to address these issues now will result in a much bigger problem – being left behind.