April 02, 2013

Merging the Mobile and Physical Shopping Experience Through Apps and APIs

 

Success in retail equals selling more and more “things”.  For traditional brick and mortar retailers, that means getting people in the doors and keeping them there long enough to make a purchase.   With the advent of the Internet, these traditional retailers have had to adapt and create websites to allow their shoppers to shop online.  Now that the vast majority has figured out websites, mobile is bringing a new threat to the traditional retail model.

Here at Mashery, we like to talk about how APIs can help retailer’s transition into this post-website, mobile world by making it easier to create apps.  Often, the focus is on the mobile shopping experience, with good reason.  In 2012, mobile commerce sales hit almost $25 billion, and are expected to keep rising to hit $86 billion by 2016.

Retailers absolutely have to focus on their mobile shopping experiences.  What often seems to get forgotten, however is that shoppers still go to physical stores.  And that mobile can play a role in the in-person shopping experience as well. 

In the past year, there has been a 50% increase in the use of smartphones to access retail-related information.  Many retailers are concerned about this trend, since much of this increase in smartphone usage can be attributed to “showrooming” – a behavior that consists of a shopper coming in to a store to see a product only to purchase it online.  However, one study by Deloitte found that consumers who use their smartphones while in a store are 14% more likely to make a purchase in that store and are 33% more likely to make a purchase from that store if they access a store’s own website or app from their smartphone.  That’s a nice boost in sales.

Retailers like the make-up giant, Sephora, are catching on and creating apps not only to drive mobile purchases but also to engage and aid users in their in-store shopping experiences.  What retail chains are starting to realize is that the physical and mobile shopping experiences are converging. 

Consumers like to do everything with their mobile device (watch TV, eat, exercise, etc.).  Shopping is no different.  As Mashery’s own CEO, Oren Michels says, apps should grant wishes.  Shoppers in a store have a number of wishes that can be addressed through apps: making a purchase, checking inventory, getting product information, accessing coupons, gift cards, discounts, etc.   By creating apps that grant these wishes to shoppers at their stores, retailers can greatly improve the shopping experience and therefore, increase sales.  And what retailer wouldn’t want to do that?