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The rise of the Robo Shopper

Both the mobile phone and a good dose of retail therapy are much loved by the UK public. Now it appears the two have joined forces to take the high street by storm.

A recent Ofcom report, which set out to examine consumer’s use of smartphones in the purchasing process, has shown that consumers are becoming increasingly reliant on their mobiles to ensure they make the correct purchasing decision. For example, 31 per cent of people surveyed for the report said they had used their handsets to take pictures of products that caught their eye in a store, while 21 per cent claimed they read product reviews on their mobiles. Even more progressive is that 25 per cent admitted to scanning a product bar code while on a shop floor in order to find out more about that item.

Consumers’ increasing reliance on the mobile phone as their own ‘personal shopper’ highlights the step change in consumer behaviour and habits that smartphones have triggered. No longer are they happy to simply walk into a store and listen to a sales pitch, consumers are becoming increasingly savvy and prefer to use all the data available to them in order to make the most informed decision possible.

While the rise of the ‘Robo Shopper’ may throw up new challenges to UK retailers, it also provides a key to a treasure trove of information about a consumer’s individual needs and wants that retailers need to harness if they want to get ahead in this new digital shopping age. They can do this by developing a joined up proposition that not only allows them to gain access to such information, but also utilise it to push out bespoke offerings to consumers.

For example, if a customer’s data footprint shows they are in the market for a new gadget, a retailer could be alerted to this fact from activity such as scanned bar codes via their app or browsing on their e-commerce site. Using this information, a tailored offer can be sent directly to a potential customer’s phone, offering them a link to a website where they can purchase the gadget or maybe even a digital coupon which can they can take to the store. Furthermore, using GPS technology would allow their location to be recognised and should they come into close range of a certain store, the offer may be activated.

As well as utilising the information available for more targeted marketing some retailers are also using mobile technology to boost sales. Tesco for example recently trialled a virtual store at Gatwick airport, where by passengers could flick through a screen in the department lounge with images of its most popular products. These can then be scanned via their mobile phone to create a shopping list, which is then placed with Tesco and the goods delivered to the customer’s house when they return from their holiday. In a world where consumers are increasingly unfaithful to their favourite brands, tempted by products that suit their lifestyle and their wallet, this is a shrewd move by Tesco to build customer loyalty. By offering consumers value for money as well as convenience, they are able to blend offline and online shopping habits and meet the demands of their customers’ lifestyles.

The fact is that with more information available to consumers directly at their fingertips, its vital retailers embrace mobile technologies at the same rate as their customers in order to continually meet customer expectations and keep revenue streams healthy.



Comments: (3)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 04 September, 2012, 17:03Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Any idea why in-store comparison shopping - of the type enabled by a mobile app like RedLaser / equivalent - has been missed out?

Can you also throw more light on how a retailer can access the "customer’s data footprint" that "shows they are in the market for a new gadget", come to know about their purchase intent based on "browsing on their e-commerce site". As far as I know, extracting the visitor's name, email and other PII from website clickstream is illegal in most parts of the world, assuming that it's technically possible in the first place.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 05 September, 2012, 09:14Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Apologies if it's not clearer - the reference to "scanning a product bar code" is very much in the context of Red Laser et al ...

With regards to leveraging data, I am merely making reference to techniques already in wide use today via traditional e-commerce activities - for example, if I were to be searching for a product on Amazon today, they track this and start to make recommendations to me about very similar products and services. Additionally, if I then visit other other sites where banner advertising is being used, these can be contextualised to show other organisations offering these products. None of these activities need my email address, account details, name, etc ...

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 05 September, 2012, 12:50Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Okay, TY for the RedLaser clarification.

Yes, I'm familiar with recommendation engines and retargeted ads described by you. But, as far as I know, (a) Their outputs are not called 'digital coupons' and (b) Since retargeted ads use Flash technology, they don't even get displayed properly on mobile web, let alone be capable of being sent to a specific smartphone. Which is why, when I read "digital coupon" and "a tailored offer can be sent directly to a potential customer’s phone...", I assumed it meant email or some other form of communication needing PII.

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