Opinion

Flat battery, flat sales? The impact of nomophobia on retail

With 93% of UK adults using a mobile phone in 2014, according to Ofcom, and a wealth of evidence showing our rising emotional dependence on mobile devices, it is becoming increasingly important for retail property owners and retailers to recognize mobile device usage in store and adapt accordingly.

BY IAN HOBSON

No longer merely a means of communication, smartphones have become our morning alarms, calendars, note-takers, cameras, gaming devices, and even, for some, personal shoppers or a method of payment. So when we run out of battery, it can feel like our life is on hold, and for some people, it may even cause nomophobia, a term first coined by the UK Post Office in 2008 that refers to the fear of being without a mobile device.

The retail sector has seen a rapid increase in mobile device usage over the last decade. With more customers now shopping with their phones or using their device as a means of payment, device usage, apps, battery life, and customer satisfaction are all interlinked. In response, an increasing number of shopping centers have understood the need to engage with customers digitally, through social network apps such as Facebook and Twitter, and by creating their own apps to add to the customer experience.

App usage is dependent on customers’ willingness to invest time, battery power, and data, however. ChargeBox recently conducted customer research that unsurprisingly confirmed shoppers’ emotional involvement with their smartphones, with 62% of those surveyed saying that they are “always” or “often” aware of their phone battery and 71% stating they become anxious when their smartphone runs out of charge. The research supported a clear conclusion that phone usage was an integral part of customers’ shopping experience. If you are encouraging your customers to download and use your app, you therefore need to reassure them that it will not come at the expense of their battery life or their precious data allowance. Most shopping centers have recognized that the data is an issue and provide free Wi-Fi.

The battery issue is more challenging. This is where providing a secure charging service to customers while shopping can be helpful. Customers that enjoy a free charging service are more likely to continue using their mobile devices, increasing app usage and dwell time. Once their fear of an empty battery is alleviated, customer satisfaction improves. Our research has shown that 94% of people agreed that their shopping experience was improved through using a free charging service.

In addition to boosting customer satisfaction, providing a free phone charging service has been shown to increase dwell time, leading to additional spend. In fact, according to our research, 56% of surveyed shoppers spent more time at the shopping center as a direct result of being able to charge their phones and over half of those who used the service spent money while their phone was on charge, eating, drinking, or buying items in the shopping center. Mobile devices clearly play a pivotal role in today’s shopping experience. Shopping center owners and managers, as well as retailers, should recognize the value of integrating the mobile phone into their experience and make it their priority by providing free charging facilities in addition to free Wi-Fi. Fully charged mobile phones mean relaxed customers, free of nomophobia, turning them into happy shoppers and boosting sales.

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