Do mobile devices really make our lives easier? It depends. Some things, like sending email, isn't necessarily as easy as it could be. But online shopping is another story. It's one of the things mobile devices do pretty well.
However, given that mobile commerce is still a relatively new phenomenon, companies like SAP are working to create even more engaging shopping experiences to combat things like showrooming.
With the 2013 holiday season firmly behind us, retailers are looking back at their numbers to see what went right and what went wrong. The same analysis has been going on over at the International Data Corporation (IDC), a market research firm. More than half of those surveyed in a recent IDC poll acknowledged they purchased at least a little more online than in retail stores this holiday season than last.
Furthermore, 47 percent of smartphone shoppers are open to personalized offers from retailers. And while the majority may still have some lingering privacy concerns, the gap is closing. More and more shoppers are giving permission here for retailers to offer more relevant offers via mobile devices, Allen Fromen, VP and consulting partner for IDC's global Buyer Behavior Practice, said in an interview.
"Mobile shopping has to be about more than just adding items to a virtual shopping cart and buying them there instead of at the checkout counter," Fromen said. "Personalized experiences are the key."
Concierge services are one example, Fromen said, but really retailers simply need to start thinking beyond those basic features if they want to combat showrooming. Showroomers are shoppers who browse in stores and buy online. One in five IDC survey respondents said they bought from an online competitor while they were in a retail store.
Additionally, mobile shoppers look to their social networks for advice while shopping, IDC found, a signal retailers could offer similar resources in order to keep people engaged in their stores.
SAP Shopper Experience App
SAP, a company that often supplies large retailers with their IT, is trying to address these issues with a new shopping app. The SAP Shopper Experience includes features shoppers might need before, during and after purchasing their items, the company claims.
While most sales still happen inside of stores, retailers are concerned about the growing threat of showrooming, Brent Cohler, director of mobile product marketing at SAP, said in an interview.
"We need to change the in-store experience to keep shoppers engaged," Cohler said.
The app allows people to scan items to look up more information, for example. Those items can be purchased either from within the app or at a point of sale terminal. That way, shoppers can do more of the things they would do anyway, but all within that retailer's app.
For things like groceries, for example, customers can create shared lists that can be edited by more than one person. SAP research shows shopping lists are traditionally problematic, and shared lists could be an answer, Cohler said.
The app also has buying and loyalty features.
Items could be purchased in app or transferred to a POS terminal as the retailer needed. The settings can be configured in multiple ways depending on the type of business. On the loyalty side, customers can check into a particular store and be shown special offers, and they can track their points levels or reward tiers.
The Shopper Experience app works with SAP's Mobile Platform, a separate service that allows for more security, customization and branding organizations so often need when they are building mobile apps. This tool powers the app, and the app itself comes in a variety of configurations. The loyalty, payments, and shopping elements can be purchased separately or together, but this is in addition to the Mobile Platform.
Grocers, big box retailers and some convenience stores — the kinds of businesses most affected by the Amazons of the world — took part in the testing of the app, Cohler said.