Exploring the Future of Retail

By Charles Wiedenhoft, Director of Strategic Planning at Red Door Interactive

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to moderate a CommNexus panel discussion on the topic of digital in-store marketing. CommNexus is a San Diego-based organization whose mission is to support and accelerate the growth of the city’s technology industry. The event attracted a large crowd eager to hear the latest thinking on retail trends and rapidly changing expectations of today’s always-connected consumer. An expert panel of marketing and technology thought leaders shared case studies of recent work as well as their perspective on where the industry is headed. Key takeaways included:

  • Retail is everywhere. Consumers expect to shop for products wherever and whenever they choose. Therefore, consumer-centric brands are exploring new ways to engage shoppers at the point of purchase. Rip Curl created a wetsuit selector application for the iPad with the aim of helping consumers find the best fitting wetsuit in retail stores. As a result, merchandise returns and exchanges for wetsuits that don’t fit correctly have declined sharply. Rip Curl’s wetsuit selector is also available via the brand’s mobile optimized and desktop websites where it delivers a seamless “omni-channel” customer experience.
  • Mobile technology platforms are rapidly evolving. Marketers face a multitude of choices when evaluating service providers for things like mobile payments, loyalty programs and digital couponing. The selection process can seem overwhelming because the players are constantly changing. Even so, it’s important to experiment with new ways to interact with customers.  Panelist Tim Hackbardt, Sr. Vice President of Marketing, Johnny Rockets, shared how the iconic restaurant franchise is learning about the mobile habits of diners. He teamed up with mobile payment and loyalty platform LevelUp to reduce check wait times and clear tables faster.  The speed of table-side mobile payment seems to be especially helpful for parents needing to appease impatient children.
  • App “walled gardens” face significant limitations.  When prioritizing mobile efforts the question of whether to develop a native device application versus a mobile optimized website will undoubtedly surface. Benefits of the mobile web are difficult to ignore. From a user experience perspective, it’s far easier to share and link to content from a mobile-friendly website compared to an application. The mobile web is also search engine (SEO) friendly so customers are more likely to discover your content. Finally, developing for the mobile web tends to be less costly than device-specific applications through techniques like responsive web design.
The panel discussion concluded with a lively Q&A session between panelists and attendees. The crowd’s engagement showed that digital in-store marketing is poised to receive significant attention in 2013 and beyond. Visit CommNexus’ website to view presentation slides and case studies from the panelists.

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