We live in an age of physical and digital convergence — when traditional in-store shopping is paired with the use of mobile devices for viewing, comparing and purchasing products.

To be sure, brick-and-mortar stores remain the cornerstone of the retail environment. According to research from A.T. Kearney, 90 percent of all retail sales are still transacted in stores and retailers with a brick-and-mortar presence capture 95 percent of all retail sales.

Seamless Cross-Channel Shopping

But the ways shoppers are making those in-store sales are changing, thanks to growing dependency on mobile devices. Mobile, which accounted for 30 percent of all online sales last year, has gained new traction in the physical world, too.

Consumers are constantly consulting their phones — whether they are at home, near a store or even while commuting. They're constantly creating shopping mobile moments that perceptive retailers can recognize and capitalize upon.

Consumers increasingly perceive shopping as a unified experience, blending the online and offline journey with mobile as the constant shopping companion.

Retailers Need a Mobile Strategy

It is therefore imperative that retailers have a mobile strategy in place that they can use to reach customers while they are actively shopping, targeting them with relevant ads to encourage a purchase – either on their mobile device or in-store.

Nielsen’s most recent mobile wallet report, based on the shopping activities of Americans in the fourth quarter last year, found 63 percent of consumers research items or check product prices on their mobile device while at home.

The mobile device has emerged as the gateway to the in-store experience, with 72 percent of all smartphone owners using their mobile to locate a store and 84 percent of shoppers use that device to either compare prices or search for promotional offers once at the store.

Mobile Shoppers Spend More in Stores

Mobile shopping isn’t just influencing product discovery and in-store traffic, it’s leaving a mark on store sales, too. Frequent mobile shoppers are spending 25 percent more on in-store purchases, than shoppers who occasionally use their mobile when shopping.

Retailers are embracing this new mobile paradigm. Target, for example, leveraging research that shows three-quarters of its customers begin their shopping journey on mobile, now treat mobile as “the front door to their store.

Others are using geo-tracking to draw customers into stores, and creating options like mobile videos to generate excitement and a sense of urgency among shoppers on the move.

User Context with Location Targeting

Retailers can profile customers and build deep contextual insights with location based mobile signals obtained through user consent. For example, based on a mobile location signal received at an airport, a company could identify an airline passenger as a frequent business traveler.

Location information shared by users, interspersed with demographic data such as income range and device ownership, can be used to identify audience segments based on criteria including religion or economic group. Based on this segmentation, retailers can better personalize their messaging and reach out to their intended target segments with precise user context rather than using an assumptive framework.

Translating Mobile Discovery into Store Footfall

It’s imperative for retail stores to have a mobile strategy that targets customers while they are actively shopping, whether that shopping occurs at home, at work or at a shopping mall.

Retailers can contextually target audience segments by understanding the location patterns of users. For instance, a millennial sports enthusiast who frequently visits stadiums can be targeted with ongoing promotions when nearby their neighborhood sports store.

Similarly, hypermarket chains can target working professionals with relevant location-based offers about new store launches or lunch menu updates.

In conjunction with user context, use of the right creative medium such as videos and rich media can capture customer attention and help drive purchase intent.

Video as a medium is highly engaging and effective in delivering the retail store promise. For example, a video of the latest fall collection for women in an apparel store in a mall can generate excitement and a sense of urgency among fashion aficionados to help them stay on trend.

Interactive maps at the end of videos can also guide users from their current location directly to the store, translating mobile discovery into store footfalls.

Enriching In-Store Experience

In an age when customers are alternating between showrooming and webrooming, contextual in-store targeting can enrich the shopping experience.

In-store targeting accentuates product discovery and accelerates purchase intent, especially among interested shoppers, leading to higher store sales — both by volume and value.

Using rich interactive ads, retailers can fuel product discovery by guiding customers around the store and sharing ongoing promotional offers. Similarly, retailers can convert shoppers with high intent by facilitating mobile transactions.

Fulfilling the Omnichannel Promise

Mobile today has given rise to the omnichannel experience, a shopping experience that is consistent across consumer touch points on both online and offline channels. Retailers can reduce friction in the shopping journey by fulfilling the omnichannel promise with backend integrations across their online and in-store systems.

While consumers prefer to "click and collect" — i.e. purchase on mobile and collect in-store — they also like to choose their products in-store, but make payments through mobile as a point of sale. Adopting a device agnostic approach to provide a mobile-optimized checkout process for all customers can make the journey from interest, to purchase, as seamless as possible.

Formulating a retail strategy that addresses mobile merely as an alternative medium can do more bad than good. Customers today are treating mobile as a contributive shopping companion for navigating between the online and the physical stores.

Retailers, with a channel-agnostic approach, can aid consistent product discovery and further purchase intent using powerful geo-targeting and captivating creatives, while improving conversions with seamless transaction fulfillment across devices and stores.

Keeping pace with changing customer expectations on the omnichannel experience, and delivering it, is the key to in-store success.

Title image by Derick Anies