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Mobile Apps: A Sign Of How Far The Retail Experience Has Fallen

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story, Mobile Apps Draw in Shoppers, Marketers. In it were highlighted successes such as this, “On the Monday after Thanksgiving, for example, Shopkick offered triple the regular number of reward points to its users at one retailer and found a 68% increase from the previous day in people using the app in participating stores.”

Just more checkins is a success?

But if those checkins don’t lead to additional purchases, what’s the point?

Yet the story concluded with Martine Reardon, executive vice president of marketing at Macy’s saying, “We think mobile is going to be the end-all and be-all of how we are going to communicate with the customer.”

So mobile is the answer and not employees?

Terry Lundgren, CEO of Macy’s reminded the audience at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York a couple weeks ago that retail was responsible for 1 in 5 jobs in the US.  And yet Reardon said mobile is going to be the “end-all and be-all of how we are going to communicate with the customer.”

That cold mobile app is a great way to make a store interesting but no way can it replace a warm, interested employee.

Dacher Keltner, author of Born to be Good says that rooted in our nervous system is a desire by humans to connect to one another. In a talk to Sustainable Brands he said, “In the study of human relationships and social networks, the prevailing view is that we connect to others because of a fear, an anxiety of isolation, of dying and the like and that moment of connection brings us a calming of that anxiety.”

C-level executives need to take a hard look at mobile shopping and its implications:

  • Technology will take the shopper out of your physical space.
  • Technology only works if you train customers to ignore their surroundings and shop solelessly.
  • An app can’t react to a customer, an employee can.
  • Average check is bound to go down as customers only purchase a need that is popular- not their wants.
  • Technology is making stores into a live catalogue or worse…a car showroom.

Do you already see your store as a point and click app rather than a great retailer?

If that cold world is not where you want to be, view the introduction and download the full manifesto: Bricks and Mortar Retailing At Risk in the Digital Age: From Silicon Valley to Main Street now.

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Posted by Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor on February 2, 2011.

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4 Responses to “Mobile Apps: A Sign Of How Far The Retail Experience Has Fallen”

  1. Love how you’re presenting this, although as I’m sure you’ve noticed we (people) are continually using technology to isolate and not have to truly connect with one another. I fear that people don’t want to interact with employees at the store, they would rather get in and get out which is why the demand for apps is so high and why retailers feel they have to meet the demand.

    Pushing the human connection in retail (and in our world) is vital before we all become cold robots. It’s up to each of us to choose connection over convenience. But, will we??

    • bobphibbs says:

      Well that’s my point isn’t it Heather? Look at the uprisings in Egypt right now, people know it isn’t working. They want to come together for a greater good, for a better life. I think that is happening in small communities as well. Next week I’m going to intersperse my blog with a non-profit I am championing for young entrepreneurs. 99% of people I contact are thrilled by the idea of it. They say, “We’ve been looking for some way to connect to our youth.” Connections – my buzzword for 2011-not technology. People don’t want to feel isolated and alone – why are we enabling more of same? Especially in retail as customers or employees.

  2. Andria says:

    Great information, but I think you misunderstand this app?? Shop kicks or kick bucks provide a way for physical retailers to communicate with shoppers online and get them through the door, as well we should be able to compile great consumer behaviour models from it. Not only that but, when the shopper checks their smartphone from the cafe around the corner to see where they can buy “xyz” book or cd from, if your shop is mentioned under the app then they are likely to get it from you rather than Amazon.

    Retailers get on board. If you can encourage shoppers to check in 10 times on foursquare, and give them a free coffee for their trouble (I’m a cafe) then the mere fact that they are engaging with your business on a regular basis due to a social media site is likely to pay off over time. Surely it cost no more than getting a bunch of flyers printed and delivered. Regards, Andria in BONDI Australia

    • bobphibbs says:

      I understand Shopkick and Foursquare and the like Andria. The point of the post is mobile is not the “be-all, end-all” to communicate with customers – people are. I’m glad you like what you are doing and it is meeting with success for you in AU.