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Revisiting Retail: Mashing-up Mortar & Mobile

Mortar: Response & Relationship in Retrospect

A significant part of my early career was spent developing store designs for some of the world’s top retail chains. Back then we often cited a BusinessWeek finding as a premise for our perspective on store design. It stated that 82% of all buying decisions were made in the store – talk about a direct response opportunity.

The design of a store was typically informed by technologies like data-mining, heat-mapping and traffic flow studies and built on a framework of best practice space planning, enhanced inventory management, vertical merchandising techniques, and the like.

But we were keen to never forget that a customer’s decision to buy was driven by in-store experiences. Experiences that were, in fact, a complex orchestration of carefully selected emotive interactions cued by design, brand voice, sound, lighting, color, imagery, textures, and even smell.

In those days, when retail was essentially a brick and mortar experience we often used relational statements like, delight the customer, to remind ourselves that if age-old tactics like vertical merchandising didn’t rise to the level of visual merchandising and evocative experiences, and traffic plans didn’t elevate to customer journeys, revenue expectations would languish.

Mobile: A Relevant Reflection

But the contemporary consumer buying experience is no longer confined to brick and mortar. The buying experience has gone mobile. 91% of all U.S. citizens have their mobile devices within reach 24/7 (source: Morgan Stanley). Combine this fact with the knowledge that smartphone users now far outnumber basic cell phone users and you have a marketplace where consumers can research and purchase nearly anything from their hip pocket.  Customer expectations of what constitutes a retail experience have forever changed.

Whereas earlier in my career I focused on designing physical retail experiences, the latter part of my career I’ve concerned myself with helping customers define their own experience through preferential self-selection and engagement – both online and offline. Now, a premium is placed on creative execution and assisted vision-casting on behalf of the consumer – with both tangible and digital merchandising.

Obviously some tenets of customer engagement have changed. However, the fundamental mandate of emotional connection has not. The retail experience must still be consumer-centric to elicit a positive consumer response – be it an in-store or in-device experience.

Mash-up: Real World, Real Revenue, Right Now

Tie mobile innovations to real-life, real-time retail experiences and the path to revenue becomes more clear and rewarding.

An innovative example of coupling mobile to real-life retail is international retailer Tesco’s South Korean Home Plus supermarket brand. Tesco’s subway-to-store-to-home grocery delivery service – facilitated by a (brick and) mortar & mobile mash-up – increased online sales by 130% in a single quarter. Tesco has since added bus stop shopping panels to the experience.

Home Plus created actual-size imagery of the chain’s in-store shelves, then wallpapered Korean subway walls with them. During their commute, and armed with mobile devices, time-starved customers scan QR codes printed next to the products they want delivered. Tesco takes care of the rest.

In another example of need meets innovative experience, Square creates mobile apps and products designed to transform smartphones into portable credit card scanners and cash registers – redefining a user-centric shopping experience altogether.

By bundling customer-informed, well-designed user experience with innovative mobile, or mobile & mortar mash-up experiences you can create a more entrenched and visceral connection with your customer – and real revenue for your brand’s bottom line.

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