Making shoppers happy for the right reasons

New Accenture research says retailers are not delivering for their customers. It's the right conclusion, but for the wrong reasons.

scan it mobile retail app
Credit: Adam Hunger/Reuters

While browsing analyst reports this week, new research from Accenture caught my attention. It chastised retailers for “failing to meet consumer demand for increased convenience while shopping with mobile devices.”

The core of the report makes a fair, albeit blindingly obvious: point that a lot of retailers are not sufficiently upgrading their mobile apps and websites to support current mobile devices.

Among the referenced deficiencies: “Only seven percent of retailers said they currently have the ability to send real-time promotions. Furthermore, while nearly one-third (32 percent) of shoppers want to be able to scan products in-store using their mobile devices — up from 27 percent in 2014 — only 17 percent of retailers provide scanning capabilities. At the same time, 42 percent of shoppers want to receive automatic credit for coupons and discounts via their mobile phones — up from 35 percent last year — yet only 16 percent of retailers have the capability to automatically credit coupons.”

The implication is that there is a big deficit between what shoppers want and what they are receiving. Two things about this occurred to me: The deficit isn’t as large as those numbers suggest, and yet that fact does not alter the reality that retailers need to improve their apps.

Let’s take at face value the concern that shoppers want to scan product barcodes. From what Accenture says, there is a problem, in that the ability to do this falls short of the demand, and therefore retailers should scurry to meet that demand.

The thing is, there is no shortage of third-party apps (Qrafter and Red Laser come to mind, along with Google, Yahoo, Bing and Amazon apps) that can scan barcodes. Consumer demand is actually being met. Still, it is correct that retailers need to add this functionality to their own apps. They do not want their customers visiting those other apps — especially not Amazon’s.

Another point from the report: “Only 58 percent of retailers offer smartphone apps with purchase capabilities.” Well, that’s interesting, but how big of a problem is it? Not so big when you consider that most retailers allow purchases to be made from their websites. In other words, if I want to buy something via my smartphone, I can usually do it if I use the retailer’s website instead of its mobile app. The distinction between the two is lost on a huge percentage of shoppers.

Another point to be noted here is that the shoppers in your store who have your app on their phones are already fans of your brand. They have self-selected. Now, knowing who those big fans are is certainly a great thing, and you will want to show your appreciation by providing special offers through the app.

But what you don’t want to do is to make it easier to purchase a product or service via the app. As consumers move closer to the mobile Web and away from dedicated apps, you will regret anything you’ve done that makes mobile-Web purchases more difficult than app purchases.

Keeping shoppers happy is always a great goal. Just make sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons and in the right way.

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