Out of Site, Out of Mind? — Retailers React to a Rise in Mobile Shopping

The digital transformation of brick-and-mortar retail is underway, one app update at a time.


An explosion of retail apps is changing the way—and the amount of time—consumers are exposed to products before making a purchase. The easier it is to swipe from one app to the next, the harder retailers must work to maintain a space on users’ home screen. As digital transformation shifts from online to mobile, brands are being challenged by the ‘out of site, out of mind’ mentality of the new digital-driven shopper.

The New York Times reports an increase in mobile shopping has had a direct effect on many brick-and-mortar stores. As a result, retailers are adapting to the seamlessly user-friendly expectations of app users by re-envisioning what it means to walk into a physical store. Creating unique and memorable in-store experiences is a strategy many companies are focused on as part of a continual effort to shift consumers’ brand decisions from impulsive to intentional.

The fleeting chance to shop an exclusive sale, gain access to limited edition styles, or “go live” at a special event—these are some of the in-store-only perks retailers are counting on to bring in customers who will [hopefully] then share their experiences within a broad online community of brand advocates and fans.

In today’s convenience economy, time is in short supply, and there is a high demand amongst retailers to grab—and hold on to—customers’ attention. Although stores cannot stop patrons from powering off, they can provide an in-store experience worth snapping. Retail executives at the GDS Group NG Retail Summit recognize the need for storefronts to adapt digital in a way that enhances, not hinders customers’ in-store experience. Danielle Levitas, Senior Vice President of Research at App Annie, says retailers should not think about mobile apps as taking customers away from stores, rather as an opportunity to browse, buy and connect with brands in new ways. When describing the retail app landscape Danielle notes, “convenience and simplicity trump everything”.

These in-store experiences cannot be replicated on an app, but they can be promoted.

Bruce Hershey, VP Brand Marketing at Tailored Brands Inc. describes mobile as “the connective tissue of the customer”, knowing that users cannot detach from their devices. Men’s Warehouse is leveraging mobile to build and maintain a physical connection to their customers with a loyalty program that acts as a gateway for services like a one-to-one fitting or an on-demand stylist. These in-store experiences cannot be replicated on an app, but they can be promoted. The most successful mobile apps take customers from their screens to their favorite stores (and back again), as part of a frictionless digital-to-physical journey—something Kimiko Thornton, Senior Director of Innovation at Westfield Corporation says is a best practice for innovative retailers.

Salesforce Commerce Cloud mobile app data from Q4 of 2016 shows +12% in the number of visits, with -12% in visit duration. Attention spans are dwindling as app users grow bored of un-personalized product streams. Why go back into an app (or a store) if the content hasn’t changed since your last visit? App update notifications come in daily, and in today’s evolving retail space, storefronts can too.

Consumers are not going to a store just to buy a product; they are expecting something more. During his 2017 trend briefing, Rick Kenney, Head of Consumer Insights at Salesforce Commerce Cloud pointed to retailers such as ModCloth, Uniqlo and M. Gemi who are experimenting with pop-up venues that can mimic the rapidly changing interface of a mobile app. Other retailers like Warby Parker and Adidas have succeeded in creating store experiences that invite consumers to take part in a cultural event that is relevant, memorable and uniquely in-the-moment.

App update notifications come in daily, and in today’s evolving retail space, storefronts can too.

As customers make more and more of their buying decisions on mobile devices, retailers may very well start curating store experiences around Instagram filters and Snapchat geotags. Digital transformation of brick-and-mortar retail is underway, one app update at a time.

Attention span running short? Watch this 1.5-minute video in which Meet the Boss Editor Sasha Qadri offers a quick digest of today’s experience economy and the [re]actions of industry leaders like Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, Executive Director of Customer Marketing at M&S.