This is part of a series of how location services is a core part of the mobile evolution in various industries. In a previous post I looked at the growth of mobile  location, data and context based advertising, and there is no doubt from the evidence that this market space is already big, and predicted to grow exponentially over the next 4 or 5 years.

While this is very interesting at a macro level, for most of us what does that really mean, what can it be used for, how can we get some value or benefits from it….

Let’s look at this from the point of view of various industries, both looking at the uses of the consumer and of the business in a practical manner.

Today we look at the Retail Industry, and ask a few questions to understand the landscape.

  • How are consumers habits changing
  • What are retailers doing about this
  • What can we expect to see in the coming year(s)?

How are consumer habits changing?

We already know that today over two-thirds of all U.S. consumers have a smartphone (expected to be >90% in about 3 years) and the capabilities that this brings is changing the face of retail business as we know it. Specifically looking at mobile retail and advertising the patterns are undeniable, we as mobile retail consumers are doing things differently and happy to engage and be engaged in new ways.

◦    Remember the coupon cutting days…well mobile coupons are starting to become the norm…recent research among mobile users shows significant numbers redeemed mobile coupons… 41% at grocery stores, 41% at department stores, and 39% @ clothing stores (source: Business Insider 2014)

◦    Show-rooming – where we check the price of items while in the store via our phones, in a recent survey by IDC,  70% of respondents said they check prices on their phones, and 53% looked for deals while in the store.

◦    In-store purchasing…..well it now appears that almost 20% of us are making purchases while in the store using our smartphone (IDC 2014). Evidence that there is very little barrier between the bricks and clicks from the customer perspective.

ref: Nielson 2014

Even our own personal interaction with retailers mirrors these statistics, just last weekend I found myself in the retail store of a mobile operator looking at a new phone – while on the way in I searched online for the prices of the phone, spoke in detail with the sales person in store about the features, facts and functionality of the device, even got a demo, however because I knew the price elsewhere was $50 less I was never going to buy in that store…clearly I fit the Nielsen research findings, but I’m in the majority these days.

What can/are retailers doing about this?


Retail Mobile App

There are very few retailers who don’t have an app or at least have one in under development at this stage. This is almost expected now by consumers. Not that that drives adoption or usage by any means – the app has to deliver value to the customer on every visit to the venue – otherwise it is soon discarded on the ‘app heap’. Leading retailers are layering various services to their apps that are useful to the customers and gives them a reason to use the app on each visit and between visits.

Navigation and Product Details

retaillbs4Retailers are now delivering more and more information to assist with the customer experience in-store and help make that purchase decisions. In venue navigation is fast becoming a must have for any credible app. Shopping malls, convention centers, airports are all beginning to provide this service to their customers.

Additionally having a product search capability as a part of its app is important and combined with navigation so that I can find it in the venue easily. Also when customers are holding or looking at the product  providing more detailed information about the exact product just at the point of the decision to drop it into the shopping basket. Furthermore combining social information such as ratings and reviews, product videos or recommended products  enhance the customer experience and its e much more likely they will to buy that product and perhaps  and its recommended complimentary accessory right now.

Real-time offers and Content

Retailers are beginning to look at smart engagement techniques. This includes combining multiple sources of information and data to create a ‘context’ that is highly relevant to the consumer. For example combining CRM data that provides customer shopping likes, history and spend, with location data and movement data from the venue, along with current promotions on offer, together with social information such as likes and friend likes – all together creating a highly targeted, relevant and contextual message that can be delivered to the customer at exactly the right moment in exactly the right place.

Promotions and Price Match Promises

We all get email and mail coupons and occasionally give or receive gift cards, however many of us never seem to have them when in one of the stores!  The growth of mobile apps makes storing coupons and gift cards easy and retailers are now looking at reminding customers of these by triggering a notification when in or near the store or the particular department in the store that is of interest – all designed to provide a better customer experience as well as increase basket size.


Many retailers now have a price match policy as part of their strategy. Taking this to the mobile device and delivering it while the customer is within the store and ‘show rooming’ is the next evolution of that strategy. Retailers are using this as just another conversion technique (or channel to consumer)  to compete in this world where we, as consumers, are blending our online and offline shopping experiences.

Leveraging Mobile & Digital to enhance customer in store experience


Blending digital techniques with in-store experience is an area that is growing. Using digital displays to engage the consumer in various ways such as showing a much wider array of products that could be kept in the physical store. Retailers are also using virtual reality techniques to show how the particular product would look on the customer (kind of digital fitting room so to speak) – especially to provide a 360 degree view where the customer can rotate and view how the product looks on them from every side and angle in a  real life-size display.


Two Way interaction

retaillbs7Engagement between customer and retailer is helping refine the shopping experience. Taking it to a really personalized level is helped by having the customer tell the retailer exactly what they want, like, dislike and need. Retailers are combining various sources of information to identify the preferences and likes of customers, such as shopping history, browsing, history, movement in store as well as enabling the customer to like, dislike and share things they are interested etc.

Some are even looking at enabling customers select the type loyalty offers, promotions or incentives that they are interested in  – all designed to improve customer experience as well as bring customers back to the store.

What can we expect to see in the coming year(s)…

Some of the leading adopters of these digital capabilities are beginning to share their results and show how important and valuable mobile consumers are and how in-store engagement is becoming a vital ingredient of continued success.

Recently Walgreens estimated, that customers who spend online, in-store and via mobile spend at a level six times higher.

The mobile retail trend is here to stay and growing, today almost 50% (Cisco, 2014) of all shoppers use mobile devices as an integral part of their shopping experience and smartphone shoppers are 14% more likely to convert than non smartphone shoppers while in-store (Deloitte, 2014).

Retailers are rapidly innovating to catch up, exploit and enhance the shopping experience of their customers in a manner that blends digital, mobile and the in-store experiences.

Cisco with our Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX) solution is providing a key enabling technology for indoor location services helping drive this evolution and enhance the value of the mobile retail revolution.

For more information on CMX visit: www.cisco.com/go/cmx.


Brendan O'Brien

Director Global Product Marketing

Connected Mobile Experiences