Helping bricks-and-mortar retailers grow sales

Nov 13

Helping bricks-and-mortar retailers grow sales

This is a blog post I did for the Australian Gifts & Homewares Association, November 2012. One of the top stories on !

Smartphones: helping bricks-and-mortar retailers grow sales


I don’t think I have to tell you that smartphones have changed the way shoppers shop. And it’s not a passing trend – 70% of Australian shoppers now use their smartphones in-store, and smartphones are growing at about 500,000 handsets a month. At this rate we will have 100% penetration in 2013. Smartphones are not for ‘youngin’s’ anymore – they’re used by everybody.

I speak to retailers daily, and they are coming to realise that if they want to stay ahead of the competition – and well, just stay – they need to embrace web3.0 – mobile.

If you have seen these Australian figures, move on. But for those who haven’t, prepare to have your eyes opened.

  • 72% of Australian shoppers are using their mobile phones, in-store, right now with:
    – 50% to compare prices
    – 42% to read product reviews and attain extra product information
    – 19% to access QR codes, with another 31% interested in doing so
  • 26% have bought a product using an app
  • 26% use shopping apps, with another 11% interested in doing so

It seems that if you use a shopping apps, you use LOVE THEM. 68% access shopping apps at least once a week, with 27% accessing them at least once a day!

If you think this sounds the death knell for bricks-and-mortar retail however, think again. Over a quarter of shoppers research online and via mobile and then buy offline (I suggest this is higher for some categories like fashion where a UK report put it at 50%).

We hear a lot about ‘multi channel’ and ‘omni-channel’ marketing (the idea there is consistency and sameness across channels so that shoppers experience a brand and not a ‘channel’), but I think it’s better to think about ‘multi-option’ retail which gives shoppers choice about where they want to shop. Multi-option takes into account that some shoppers just want to buy in-store, some online, and the majority fall in the middle by using online and offline shopping and research on their path to purchase.

When mobiles morphed to smartphones a few years ago, some early adopting retailers treated mobile in the same way as their online site (it’s computer in your pocket after all.) But with the introduction of new technologies, especially location-based services (where your mobile senses where you are) and Near Field Communication (the same technology which is used in your chip and pin credit cards), plus mobiles ability to scan barcodes and have instant access to social networks, retailers have realised that mobiles have a unique part to play in the bricks-and-mortar experience.

Big US players like Walmart have realised that using online smarts in the real-world (via QR codes, barcode scanning, loyalty apps and more), they have the advantage over their pure-play rivals like Amazon. They now use mobile to make more of a shopper’s in-store experience and increase the average shopping basket.

I also haven’t covered search – Google knows that a person’s location is where all the action is. 35% of all searches are local and 82% of local searchers follow up offline via an in-store visit, phone call or purchase.

If you’re a retailer, what do you do to make sure you’re not left out? I know it’s confusing, but you need to answer this question:

* How important is discovery to you? Is it more important than getting more business  from your current customers (I’ll call this ‘optimisation’)?

Of course, it depends on where you are at in you product lifecycle (if you’re launching, it’s all about discovery). I find that most mature retailers I speak to have 60 – 80% of their business come from their current customers. That means that getting more from their current customers will have a bigger impact on their business. More than that, cost per sale from your current customers is always cheaper than getting sales from new customers – so it’s best for your bottom line. You need a balance, but I know where I would start!

First of all, whether you are interested in discovery or optimisation, all shops should just be listed on Google Places (so your shop and it’s details appears on Google Search). If a shopper is looking for you, Search is what they’ll use first. Google Places enables you to add your street address and touch-to-call phone number. And it’s FREE. Got to to register your business.

If discovery is important to you, then make sure you are listed on Google Places. Having an m-site is also helpful (esp, for product local search if you think shoppers are looking for specific items on their phone, when they’re out and about), but there are some downsides too. At the moment, agencies in Australia are charging quite a lot for them, and for the most part the user experience is not great because of mobile speed. Try some and see (Harvey Norman has just launched an m-site). However, although expensive, you only have to build one to cover all mobile devices – iOS, Android, Tablet etc.

There are aggregated solutions in this market too that you can access on your mobile phone like Get Price and Lasoo. For fashion retailers, try ShopStyle. There’s an emerging amount of consumer aggregated shopping apps appearing, and why not give them a try? It’s often not too expensive and you’re supporting Australian start-ups (a passion of mine!).

If you want your customers to be able to see what you are selling, and have all your latest news at their finger tips on the go, then the only way to go is apps. That brings me to my second option:

If you want to give your shoppers a personalised and great user experience (so they will come back to your mobile ‘site’ time and time again), plus take advantage of the ‘native’ features of the phone (camera for scanning barcodes and QR codes, location, push notifications (alerts) and digital wallets for easy buying etc), then apps are the only way to go. They can also act as loyalty cards too.

Now, they can also be quite expensive, and multiple apps need to be built for iOS, Android and tablets, but in Australia, with about 60% of users (especially women) having iPhones – it is a good place to start.

Finally, there’s also SMS and Push notifications to shoppers phones. Push can only be done if your customers have a mobile app, and SMS if you have their mobile phone. Some retailers have told me they see a spike in in-store days for 3 days after sending an SMS.

Of course SMS and push-notifications are highly invasive. If you don’t want customers to opt-out of your messages or delete your app, make sure you send personal and relevant messages. This means you have to use data to target messages, or use them very sparingly. People will not put up with spam on mobile for long – it’s as bad as getting unwelcome telemarketing calls.

It’s an exciting – and scary – future for retailers. Disruption – absolutely, devastation – only for some. Those who start experimenting now will have first-mover advantage.

At StreetHawk we’re super-excited to be giving bricks-and-mortar retailers a tool to drive footfall and mobile sales. In a nutshell, we build very affordable white-label apps, and if you want, plug in our ‘RRR Matching Engine’ technology which enables retailers to send personalised and relevant messages to customers when they’re around stores. Vist our website: or call me on 0431 317937 or email me at if you’d like to know more.



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