Nostalgia no doubt helped drive the recent Pokémon Go phenomenon, but another factor — one that will become critical to retailers’ future success — was also at play.
In the past few years, consumers have increasingly embraced smartphones and tablets; indeed, many people now use mobile devices as their primary path online. Not coincidentally, they’ve also been moving their online shopping forays from desktops and laptops to mobile devices. According to a recent study, smartphones were used in 45.1% of visits to online retailers in the first quarter of 2016; from Q2 2013 to Q4 2015, the revenue from sales made via mobile devices almost tripled; and mobile phones will account for 60% of all e-commerce traffic by the end of 2017.
Clearly, retailers need to prepare for the coming mobile takeover of e-commerce. Some stores are ahead of the curve, developing apps designed to enhance their customers’ experiences. Macy’s, for example, is about to test a shopping app called “Macy’s On-Call,” which uses IBM Watson’s artificial-intelligence technology to help customers find precisely what they want in 10 pilot locations. Target’s Cartwheel app, meanwhile, offers in-store shoppers up to 700 discount coupons at any given time, along with store maps to help them navigate the aisles. Per Target, Cartwheel has helped customers save over $475 million since its 2013 launch.
In good part because it offers customers savings and convenience, a well-designed app can also drive greater engagement with them — a critical step in closing sales. According to a study by Google, fully half of all mobile users turn to apps when they’re making purchase decisions, and 29 percent place orders via apps. Just as importantly, research shows that fully engaged customers are much more loyal and profitable to retailers than disengaged customers.
Retailers are in the business of building loyalty and profitability, and successful stores do that by anticipating and meeting the evolving demands of their customers better than their competitors do. As Pokémon Go has shown, the mobile commerce revolution is here, so stores will need to create apps that that combine and enhance shoppers’ online and in-store experiences. While the Pokémon Go fad will likely fade over time, its lessons for retailers will endure as long as mobile devices do.
Tom Caparaso is CEO of Clarus Commerce.