Retail Growth
April 11, 2022

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Why Retailers Need a Mobile-First Strategy

Mobile-first retailers understand they need to do more than merely “optimize” their websites for smartphone screens. They must redesign their relationship with consumers.


There’s no denying the world has gone mobile.

  • The vast majority of mobile customers (92%) use their phones to hop online—to answer burning questions, browse for inspiration, shop, and entertain themselves. In fact, the average global internet user spends almost 7 hours online per day, and internet users as a whole spend 12.5 trillion hours online each year! 
  • In the grocery industry, 9 out of 10 supermarket shoppers use their smartphones in-store—up from 67% in 2015. The trend is progressively more popular with each younger generation. Mobile shoppers use their devices to view store circulars, access digital lists, place online orders, locate products in the store, participate in loyalty programs, and redeem coupons. 

With this increased reliance on mobile—particularly smartphones—in facilitating all aspects of daily life, retailers must consider how to embrace mobile as more than just an extension of their digital presence. 

To compete over the next decade, retailers must embrace a “mobile-first” strategy that meets shopper expectations for personalized interactions at every stage of the buyer’s journey, driving traffic and increasing basket size. 

A mobile-first mindset not only inspires immediate sales due to customization and convenience, but fosters lasting loyalty and higher lifetime revenues.

How Mobile Has Changed the Modern Shopping Trip

In the past, people made paper shopping lists based on catalogs and paper circulars that came by mail. Today, people derive purchase inspiration from a variety of sources: social media ads and referrals, local search recommendations, video spots, texts from friends and businesses, and retail mobile apps. Today, shoppers peruse the aisles with one hand on their shopping carts and the other on their smartphones. 

In other words, more and more shoppers (presently 68%) rely on mobile apps to make purchasing decisions while shopping in-store. According to a recent survey, 92% of respondents said they use their phones to secure the best deals or price promotions while shopping. 

But why hop online in-aisle? Consumers reportedly use smartphones while shopping to:

  • Read reviews and watch videos (69%)
  • Compare a considered purchase to similar products (58%)
  • Gather more information and product specifications (55%)
  • Consider exclusive, personalized offers (53%)
  • Check availability for out of stock items (44%)
  • Look up warranty and return policy information (33%)

A study by Google found that 64% of in-store shoppers use search and 46% use a retailer’s mobile app to inform their purchases. Nearly a third of all shoppers will navigate to a retail competitor’s site if they can’t find what they’re looking for, and a quarter will visit coupon or review sites to gain confidence before the final purchase. 

Notably, Google also found two in three shoppers who tried to find information within a brick-and-mortar store were unable to—and 43% left frustrated. In a way, smartphones function as “the perfect sales associate,” with 71% of in-store shoppers reporting that their smartphones are “important” to their in-store experiences. Retailers need to take control of the shopper experience by providing a well-connected app that delivers the goods.

What Does a Mobile-First Strategy Mean for Retailers?

A “mobile-first” strategy means shaping a business with mobile users as a top priority. The mobile-first retailer views the store app—rather than the website—as the epicenter of the customer journey, driving purchase decisions, strengthening relationships and delivering a connected experience.

Although 90% of transactions still happen in-store, bridging the gap between an in-store experience and the digital experience of interacting with a retail app will be the only way to truly own the customer’s loyalty and stay relevant throughout the shopper’s journey.

A mobile-first strategy requires increased emphasis on:

  • Using QR codes and detailed product descriptions to deliver information in-app.
  • Reinforcing confidence with product comparisons, videos, and reviews.
  • Accurate inventory with direct-to-home shipping options for out of stock items.
  • Digital loyalty programs, making account information accessible in-app.
  • Online coupons and exclusive offers, delivered by app, email, and SMS.
  • Augmented reality experiences that can be activated in-app and in-store.
  • Real-time pricing, marketing, and product suggesting using near-field technology.
  • New conveniences that alleviate friction—like curbside pickup or self-checkout.
  • In-app retail media advertising, which increases retail revenue with brand dollars.

How Does a Mobile-First Strategy Benefit Retailers?

The end goal of a mobile-first strategy is to make the shopping experience more seamless, personalized, and connected for customers—and to yield better business outcomes such as improved reputation, higher revenues, and a sustainable future. 

  • Reach

Mobile is the new “front door to the store.” Target found 75% of its guests start their shopping trips on mobile devices, and 1 in 3 shoppers clicked on a mobile search ad before they ended up in the store.

With billions of prospects just one text, search query, or app advertisement away, this is one massive, constantly growing audience that retailers—and CPG brands alike—can’t afford to ignore. Mobile-first retailers are reaching out to consumers through a variety of digital channels, but taking care to ensure their presence is cohesive, recognizable, and impactful with consistent branding and messaging.

  • Convenience

Today, most of the population owns a smartphone and they don’t go anywhere without it—it’s become a digital wallet and a lifeline rather than a luxury. At least 1 in 5 Americans only access the digital realm using a smartphone. For some, it’s a matter of affordability, accessing online deals to save money. For others, it’s a whole new world of multitasking, leveraging mobile apps to accelerate the purchase process. 

Mobile-first retailers are boosting reputation and loyalty by connecting shoppers with rich, personalized advertising, and also capitalizing off new conveniences—mobile checkout, click-and-collect, product scanning, curbside pickup, and dropshipping. 

  • Connection

Customers want the best of both worlds—the ability to enjoy the same shopping experience, whether they are in-app or in-store. They’re still making most of their purchases in-store, but they’re using app content to complement the shopping trip with added information, store maps, product selection tools, mobile wish lists, coupons, and more. Apps can add fun and functionality to an in-store experience— allowing customers to take apparel measurements, try on makeup, or discover recipes using the ingredients they have in their carts, for instance. Moreover, 51% of mobile users check their apps anywhere from 1 to 10 times a day, while 25% of users check them 11–20 times per day—all key moments for a retailer to stay connected and top of mind for consumers. 

For retailers, “connection” means more than strengthening rapport with shoppers; it’s about improving their ability to run an efficient business in the long-term. Mobile technology can be used on the backend to sync up their inventory, aisle restocking, and order forecasts. Digital infrastructure can lend support to checkout processes, save money substituting for weekly paper circulars and coupons, and lead to bigger baskets when 98% of shoppers pop in to pick up a few unplanned treats along with their online orders. Real-time ads can even reflect changing weather, inventory, and individual shopper behavior patterns. Mobile apps can capture data on how long shoppers are looking at a particular item, whether they purchased an item directly after viewing a video ad, which items are frequently bought together, and so much more. Uniting digital interactions with actual in-store purchase data is the only way to get a complete picture of what shoppers are doing and why.  

  • Personalization

Personalized communication is an expectation that, if done properly, can serve as a catalyst to greater retail trust and affinity. As it stands, 75% of consumers prefer that retailers use their personal information to improve their shopping experience—and 35% of mobile shoppers feel companies can do more to personalize their apps and websites.

Providing tailored experiences based on unique shopper preferences improves engagement, customer satisfaction, brand perception, conversions, and acquisition. Best of all, personalization leads to tangible results by reducing customer acquisition costs by up to 50%, lifting revenue 5-15%, and increasing the efficiency of marketing spend by 10-30%. Among millennial shoppers, in particular, brand loyalty increases by 28% on average when personalized marketing communications are delivered.

  • Loyalty

It’s no secret that convenience breeds loyalty. What could be more convenient than a retail app that guarantees frictionless shopping? Long gone are the days where customers must visit a website to learn details of a retail loyalty program. Shoppers expect loyalty point accrual and redemption to be automatic—and retailers who aren’t able to make this desire a reality will be left sitting on the sidelines. 

One Accenture survey found that more than a third of respondents would opt in to in-store mobile offers to earn loyalty points and save money on purchases, and nearly half of respondents said they’d like to receive real-time mobile promotions. Yet, only 28 percent of retailers had the capacity to deliver. 

When a loyalty program is fully integrated with mobile engagement solutions, retailers can send exclusive personal marketing content to their top customers, analyze their behavior, and learn how to attract similar customers to grow a more loyal customer base. Top-performing loyalty programs can boost revenue by 15 to 25% annually by increasing purchasing frequency, basket size, or both. 

By investing in a frictionless mobile and in-store experience, apps that incorporate coupons, rewards, and personalized recommendations allow consumers to choose which channel is most convenient at the moment, and this consistency breeds trust and loyalty.  

It’s also worth considering that brands are doubling down on their loyalty to certain retailers based on advertising opportunities, data sharing arrangements, and partnerships that amplify the results of both loyalty programs. 

Reach, convenience, connection, personalization, and loyalty—these aren’t just “nice to haves”; they’re “must haves” that equate to a big difference in business outcome. There is a pot of gold at the end of the omnichannel marketer’s rainbow; According to MasterCard, customers who buy online and offline spend 250% more. Similarly, Macy’s found their omnichannel shoppers are 8x more valuable than single channel shoppers. So it’s well worth cultivating an audience that engages with mobile, while also stopping by the physical stores to see what’s new and exciting. 

Ready to Level Up Your Mobile Strategy?

The future is mobile. Smartphones are the primary touchpoint for today’s shoppers—used for product search, evaluation, comparison, and transacting. The time for retailers to embrace the shift to mobile is now

We can see this change just starting to unfold with traditionally “offline” discount stores. Dollar General’s DG Go app now has 4 million active users. Is it any wonder why they lead in market share?  

Taking a mobile-first approach when setting up a digital strategy and bridging the gap between on-platform and off-platform advertising will be a key part of a retailer’s future success. Swiftly has the platform and solutions to help you thrive and grow in today’s digital world. As a true technology partner, we provide the retail platform, mobile platform, retail media, insights and analytics in a simple out of the box model to help you get started quickly without needing to hire a team. Contact us so that we can help you fuel your long-term success amid this ever-evolving digital media landscape.

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