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AmazonGo opens its second cashierless store in Seattle. Kroger launches self-scanning pilots, with plans to expand to 400 stores by the end of 2018. Sam’s Club Scan & Go transactions have doubled this year. Today’s retail headlines speak volumes: In-store mobile shopping is here to stay, and growing, as mobile-first customers look for new and better ways to shop. And with mobile phone growth outpacing laptops nationwide, is it any wonder?

Online mobile shopping is not new, of course. Many grocery retailers have developed e-commerce websites that can be accessed from a mobile device (tablet or smartphone). Some have extended this to build their own mobile apps, or subscribe to pre-built mobile apps.

Many of these apps simply replicate the retailer’s ecommerce website, so the shopper experience is comfortingly similar whether they’re sitting with their laptop or shopping on their mobile phone. Shoppers can browse the online catalog, add items to their shopping cart and, eventually (whether in that same session or later that day or week), make the purchase and choose their delivery method.

Of course there are other shopping apps offering everything from advance ordering to delivery scheduling to loyalty rewards programs. To date, most of these mobile apps are used:

  • before the shopping trip (find a store, look at inventory)
  • at the checkout (scan a loyalty card or digital coupon for discounts)
  • after the trip (review the digital receipt)

But what about apps for in-aisle mobile shopping – scanning the bar-code of items real-time, bagging them as they are added into the cart itself and even paying on the mobile device? Not surprisingly, there are many of these, too!

But before jumping feet first into self-scanning technology, it’s critical to determine and define three key pillars:

  • your strategy
  • the right technology (and partners)
  • a realistic operational plan

Here, we outline some key considerations related to the first pillar, strategy, and some learnings based on our experience in this heavily watched space.

First, it’s important to determine whether the strategy is geared to mobile shopping online (e-commerce) or mobile shopping in-store. For those new to this, let’s parse out the differences.

  • Mobile shopping online (e-commerce): Many regional and large retailers already have an e-commerce website and provide mobile shopping online via mobile devices. Customers can browse item catalogs, build and save an online basket, make the purchase and determine whether to fulfill with delivery or pickup at the store. There are technological differences in screen size, ability to pop up product information, scroll through the catalog and watch videos – which web and mobile developers accommodate using responsive design to provide consistent experience across platforms.
  • Mobile shopping in-store: This gives the power of mobile shopping a turbo-boost because now the shopper can see, smell, feel the products while minimizing their time in store. Shoppers scan items in-aisle (using mobile device or store-provided scanner), bag as they go, finalize the purchase and walk out. Sometimes referred to as grab-and-go, this shopping method is ideal for larger basket sizes because it reduces the shopper friction at checkout: no more waiting in long checkout lines, no more unloading/bagging by store associates, and real-time access to their shopping lists and coupons.

It also empowers the retailer, who is able to reach the consumer with promotions right at the point of decision rather than relying on impulse item displays at checkout or aisle signage and endcaps as the sole means of incenting the consumer to take advantage of specials and add to their basket.

Once you’ve decided on an in-store mobile shopping strategy, you can then address the questions of why, when and how.

  • Why is this important for your customers and for your store operations? 
  • When does it make sense from budgetary, technology and operational perspectives?
  • How will you actually make this happen?

Here at NCR, we spend a lot of time helping retailers transform their stores and reduce friction in the shopping journey. There are many paths that retailers can take to offer more flexible checkout options: self-checkout, buy online/pickup in store (BOPIS), mobile shopping in-store. It’s a unique journey that each retailer takes, not a one-size-fits-all solution. After all, change management must be built into the strategy, and that takes commitment as well as investment. Over the years, we have shown how these efforts reap numerous benefits, among them:

  • Increased sales/revenues associated with real-time-budget tracking
  • Add-on purchases driven by point-of-decision promotions
  • A better, smoother customer experience at the front-end
  • Reduced wait times in checkout lines
  • Improved operational efficiency
  • Increased throughput
  • Reduced in labor costs/reallocation of labor to higher-impact tasks, such as service

Be sure to check back for our next post in this series, where we explore the technology component of mobile shopping, and how to demystify the sometimes-overwhelming process of incorporating it into your existing IT ecosystem.

In the meantime, take this quick frictionless shopping quiz to see where you are in the path to store transformation, and explore ways to rethink and reimagine your enterprise.