From The Editor | October 25, 2010

Leverage Mobility To Create Business Opportunities

Retail WFM 2011 Post-Show Wrap-Up

By Erin Harris, associate editor

I recently returned from SAP Retail Forum 2010 where retailers such as Target, The Home Depot, Best Buy, and more converged in Las Vegas to weigh in on how mobility is changing the way retailers do business. During his welcome address, Bob McFarland, senior VP and general manager at SAP Retail, explained that "multichannel" is no longer just bricks and clicks — it's become bricks, clicks, cell, pad, and more. Indeed, speakers talked a great deal about how your workforce, merchandise, customers, and analytics are critical across all your channels. To that end, they discussed how retailers encounter numerous hurdles when searching for new ways to reach customers. Therefore, more and more retailers are adopting a mobile strategy. I spoke to several analysts, retailers, and SAP executives, who agree that mobile retailing is white hot, and it's becoming more pervasive by the day. As some retailers develop a mobile strategy, they're realizing the customer's in charge. If you're going down the path of a mobile strategy, what do you want to accomplish? And, how will your strategy benefit your customers?

Kevin Nix, senior VP, mobility at SAP Labs, presented staggering statistics about the explosive adoption of mobile devices and mobile apps. Three million iPads were sold in eighty days, and 1.7 million iPhone 4 devices were sold in three days. As of Nix's presentation, 450,000 mobile apps are in use — a number that will increase to 100 million by 2013. The number of brand-centric mobile apps for retail continues to increase.

But, keep in mind that these statistics aren't valuable if you don't have a mobile platform that reaches the consumers using mobile technologies. Some retailers simply don't yet have the technology needed to deploy a mobile retailing platform. At the show, our friend Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at RSR, stated that according to a recent RSR study, less than 40% of retailers have Wi-Fi. "You can't be mobile-enabled if you aren't mobile-enabled," she explains. Executives from NRF, REI, and Best Buy, agreed with Rosenblum, and they explained that improvements and innovations in mobile retailing will continue to occur over the next few years, giving retailers time to implement a mobile strategy if they so choose.

If mobile retailing is your reality, consider the KPIs (key performance indicators) that you should be monitoring and analyzing, such as application download rates and usage by the day, week, and month. You will need to analyze ratings and customer feedback as well mobile's impact on your business. Your customers are looking for benefits, including mobile coupons, information, and a personal shopping experience. "We strive to continually connect with our mobile, adventurous customers by striking the right mix of ads without saturating them with data," says Angela Owen, VP of merchandising at REI. "In addition, mobile devices enhance the retailer's internal operations team."

Mobile is a channel in your multichannel retailing world, and it enables you to reach your customers no matter how or where they shop.