Opinion

TO APP OR NOT TO APP – THAT IS NOT THE QUESTION (ANYMORE)

Customers are constantly being offered more opportunities and methods for consumption, both online and offline. Every retailer has to recognize and follow this trend in order to avoid losing out to the competition. We must find a combination of e-commerce, mobile apps or social media, and traditional retail stores. Today’s end consumers are digitally networked at all times and around 63% of buyers use devices like mobile phones and tablets to learn about products in advance or to buy them online.

BY JÖRG F. BITZER

A strong presence on all channels increases retailers’ sales and awareness of their brands, while also offering the opportunity to understand customers better and align individual advertisements and promotions. Although the latest study by the Austrian Institute for SME Research reports that online retail in Austria accounts for only a 5% share (excl. gas stations) of total retail sales, the combination with bricks-and-mortar stores has become indispensable. 37% of all online sales are made in addition to sales in “bricks and mortar” stores. 16% of these indicated that the product was not available locally.

LIMITED RETAIL SPACE

Online stores therefore offer a diverse selection with which physical shops could never compete to that extent due to limited retail space. The flow of information about the desired product is faster and customers enjoy a higher level of comfort. Stores serve as an addi-tional focal point, build customer relationships, and present products.
A popular example is the clothing manufacturer H&M, which has succeeded in integrating the internet into its retail stores. Customers enjoy flexibility when purchasing or exchanging. They can order their desired articles online and exchange them without complications in the nearest physical store if they change their minds. They don’t have to trek to the post office.

“SOCIAL MIRROR”

Today’s customers are spoiled by experience and benefits and overwhelmed by advertising and offers. How can they make decisions in such an environment and how can retailers stand out from the competition? Adidas Neo came up with a creative concept called the “Social Mirror.” This mirror photographs new outfits in the store and shares them automatically with the Facebook community, which can then assist in making the purchase decision.

International retailers like Ikea, the Swedish furniture manufacturer, and the toy maker Lego have made use of augmented reality apps and integrated these into their marketing strategies. The augmented reality app allows customers to retrieve more information about a product and to view a 3D animation of it from all sides via a scan function on the cell phone.

Retailers must adapt to developments in customer behavior. Customers are becoming increasingly mobile and that must also apply to retailers. Consumption takes place independent of space and time. Omni-channeling offers retailers the possibility of developing new and foreign markets and of proving themselves among fierce competition.

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