07/19/2012 05:29 EDT | Updated 09/18/2012 05:12 EDT

Want to Boost Sales? Go Mobile -- Your Consumers Already Have


Retail has been turned on its head. Consumers are actively using mobile devices in larger stores to access hundreds of e-commerce, forums and social sites that hold product information, reviews and competitive pricing. This means they are disrupting the retailer's messaging and experience in-store, thus leading to reduction in sales and brand equity.

It's time for you, as retailers, to recognize that it will be too difficult to get people to put down their devices and also to expect them to only trust your opinion. So, how do you deal with this increasing menace? I suggest that we look for perspective in two key areas -- "information democracy" and "disrupting the disruption."

Firstly, let's look at information democracy. The number of products available to consumers is increasing, as is criticism and commenting across social channels. Democracy comes from having free reign to make the choices we want based on feedback from others that use those products and interact with those brands.

An IBM global-shopping survey, that talked to 30,000 consumers in 13 countries, including more than 2,000 Canadians, highlights that the number of Canadians willing to use mobile technologies to shop increased by 160 per cent year-over-year, second only to U.S. consumers in uptake. That's incredible especially when we see what they are doing via mobile. Deloitte and the Retail Council of Canada, in their "Rise of the Connected Consumer" study, have also identified that the following amount of people that are flexing their democratic right to:

• Check prices (35 per cent)

• Look for discounts (31 per cent)

• Research product reviews or recommendations (28 per cent)

Brands like Canadian Tire and Ikea know this and have launched apps to help consumers in-store however they only sing from their own hymn sheet rather than democratizing their information with external resources, reviews and consumer feedback. These apps provide some utility but do not guarantee a sale and it is still just an option to interact through mobile at the discretion of the consumer.

We see the changes in consumer mobile behavior and recognize that this goes beyond just interacting with your brand. Consumers are now expecting more:

1. Creating a consistent experience -- across channels where you can go from web site to mobile to store with consistency.

2. Connections -- to social media channels, entertaining and informative content, and product reviews from other consumers

3. Checking -- prices across products but also in other online stores

4. Personalization -- of the web, mobile and in-store retail experience using preferences and learned behavior from interactions and purchases

If you can do this then you will be heading in the right direction however we still have the issue of disruption in your store and we have to "disrupt the disruption." This is a human-centred solution. We don't send our mobile devices out to shop for us. We need to touch, see and feel our way around products (certainly more complex or different products from what we normally use). Consumers will still walk through your doors so we need to fight old school, in-store and on the front lines.

Sales associates can see people on mobile devices in-store -- it's right in front of them. Personality and engagement is real and this is where we will disrupt those consumers that are trying to disrupt us with their trusty mobile in hand. In reality a mobile device doesn't do anything to truly engage consumers but, if it provides enough utility, then they will pick it up.

Using that idea, we can think about our retail staff in the same way. We need to arm them with mobile devices gives them that extra advantage and ignore the hard sell and just be really personable and informative using external and internal resources.

A useful sales associate will be more effective than a useful web site for a consumer. If you give that sales associate a mobile device then that will takes their knowledge and ability to persuade consumers in-store to the next level. Our advice is to deploy this tactic and work person-to-person in retaining the sale and build a huge amount of credibility with the consumer. This will get results for you and your business very quickly.