Although Australia has a high smartphone penetration rate, few bricks-and-mortar retailers are taking advantage of emerging technologies in a bid to connect with the untethered mobile consumer. That lack of digital enthusiasm means retailers are missing out on valuable marketing opportunities
According to telecommunications research site budde.com, smartphone penetration has reached 90% in Australia. In spite of this, retailers aren’t taking full advantage of this widespread and powerful communication tool or creating integrated multichannel marketing campaigns.
Speaking at the Retail Future Forum held in Australia earlier this year, Chris Sanderson, co-founder of UK trend predictor firm The Future Laboratory, described Australian retailers as slow in their digital uptake.
Australian retailers are too busy “playing catch-up” to their digitally savvy consumers who are driving the need for digital adoption in a bricks-and-mortar setting, effectively letting global brands take the lead, he said
A case in point is US fashion retailer Burberry, which is already trialing creative and engaging ideas in a multichannel digital environment.
By equipping floor staff with iPads to create customer profiles and showcase outfits, Burberry delivers a personalised in-store experience that is boosting sales and engagement. This, combined with a strong mobile-first focus, has led to an increase in sales conversion within Burberry outlets.
Similarly, Nike has cut a deal with digital music service Shazam, offering shoppers access to information and special offers by interacting with the digital radio platform in-store.
However, this kind of digital-focused practice is not commonplace within Australian retailers, despite the high smartphone penetration rate. Rather, it’s global brands, such as Dell, HP, Apple, and Samsung, rather than the local players, that are driving innovation in the e-commerce and digital space, said Damien Cummings, chief marketing officer for Philips ASEAN and Pacific.
Technology To The Rescue
But it’s not too late for local bricks-and-mortar retailers to reverse this trend and adopt a new wave of in-store technologies aimed at enhancing the customer experience, Cummings added.
For example, Near Field Communications (NFC) is a wireless technology that detects applications in smartphones that enable the exchange of data and transactions over a short range. It is steadily gaining ground as a marketing tool in Australia, enabling retailers in their quest to become mobile-first.
“The uptake of NFC and Beacon technology in Asia has been disappointing, but it has huge potential,” Cummings said. Pointing to the launch of ApplePay, and moves by MasterCard and Visa to offer PayPass and PayWave, he added, “This will take emphasis away from the retail counter and will allow a greater focus on the overall store experience.”
The potential to improve in-store experiences for customers with these technologies is huge. According to Phil Guest, vice president at UK-based programmatic marketplace The Exchange Lab, NFC bridges the gap between online and offline. Such technologies enable brands to connect with consumers wherever they are.
“The technology offers a lifeline to bricks-and-mortar stores and will no doubt revive the high streets again with loyalty programs and e-deals being triggered by proximity, eventually doing away with physical vouchers and plastic loyalty cards,” he said. “NFC also offers contactless payment in the form of mobile wallets, providing consumer convenience and speeding up transaction administration.
Although NFC has been around for a while, it’s finally building momentum as brands begin to integrate it into their sales approach. Late in 2014, food and beverage brand Nestle launched a campaign using NFC to provide customers with new recipe ideas in Woolworths supermarkets.
“If there was a clear road map or simple-to-implement technology, then all retailers would be using it,” Cummings said. “The savviest companies are looking outside of their industry to find examples of best practice.”