Tech and appliance retailers are already using mobile to spread the word about their products and discounts. But should they also be focusing on mobile transactions?
Most consumers still want to buy large, complex and expensive items in brick-and-mortar stores — but not without researching them on a variety of channels. While we're not at the point where the majority of people feel comfortable ordering a big-screen TV or French-door refrigerator from their phones, retailers can still use mobile for more than marketing. Those that create customized mobile experiences to drive in-store sales are seeing real results.
Figuring out how to best tap the power of mobile is a priority for all retailers, since more and more shopping is occurring via our portable devices. According to Forrester Research’s 2018 Retail Best Practices: Mobile Web study, U.S. consumers are expected to make $93.5 billion in purchases on their smartphones in 2018, compared with only $7.8 billion just six years ago. By 2022, Forrester says, that figure is expected to grow to $175.4 billion.
That growth is shifting how retailers reach consumers. In research on the 2018 holiday season, RetailMeNot found that 72 percent of retailers were focusing their investments on mobile.
None of this means that consumers are abandoning brick-and-mortar stores, though. In fact, Pew Research found in a 2016 study that 65 percent of the online shoppers surveyed actually prefer to buy from physical stores. Other findings from the Pew report specifically pointed to why consumers still liked to visit a brick-and-mortar store when purchasing large appliances or home electronics. Those are often items that a shopper is buying for the first time, or for the first time in several years. In these situations, consumers value the opportunity to ask questions and to see or try the product in person, the report showed.
At the same time, consumers were also likely to incorporate mobile into their in-store shopping experiences, Pew found. For example, 45 percent of respondents had used their phone to look up reviews or better deals while shopping in a brick-and-mortar store. That echoes RetailMeNot’s findings about so-called “household enthusiasts,” a cross-generational category of shoppers with enormous influence on household purchases. In a survey of their in-store shopping habits, 47 percent said they use their phones to look up the retailer’s offers and discounts; 43 percent use their phones to compare prices at other physical stores; and 37 percent use their phones to compare prices at online retailers.
Deal ’Em In
Tech and appliance retailers can work with partners to develop solutions geared toward customers who use mobile early in the shopping funnel but who still want to transact in-store.
Earlier this year, one large U.S. electronics retailer created a customized mobile landing page to target in-store customers within the RetailMeNot app. The page collects all of the store's current deals, including unique offers for in-store cash back. That alone is important, considering that more than three-quarters of household enthusiasts say a deal is the deciding factor in their purchases.
Additionally, a 2018 study conducted by Forrester Consulting for RetailMeNot (Turbocharging Strategic Promotion) confirmed that consumer electronics is one of the categories where discounts have the strongest influence on final purchasing decisions. Fifty-seven percent of shoppers surveyed said they look for deals and discounts on tech products before they purchase, and 73 percent said discounts influence the CE brands they buy from.
A Look Ahead
Using mobile experiences to spur in-store sales, like the one cited above, is the strategy we're most excited about right now for sellers of large or complex tech and home appliance products. But we have noticed some signs that the future might bring an increase in mobile purchasing. While most people still buy these items in-store overall, one exception is an increased willingness to purchase directly during Cyber Week, when shoppers are aggressively seeking the best deals.
Another area that retailers should be continuously monitoring as we head into 2019 is the mobile payments space, including single sign-on capabilities for mobile apps. Integrating payment options that remove friction on the mobile device will push consumers to begin transacting on these devices across all categories.
Until then, we recommend that retailers continue to use mobile to reach deal-savvy customers and to offer in-store mobile experiences and discounts that encourage sales-floor purchases.