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BizReport : Ecommerce archives : October 25, 2018

Expert: How digital storefronts are bringing customers into stores

While more and more shoppers are beginning their shopping expeditions online, not all of their buys are happening online. In fact, one new trend is for shoppers to do product research and price comparisons through browser storefronts and apps and then make purchases in-store. One expert offers advice on how merchants can take advantage of this trend.

by Kristina Knight

Kristina: Some have said that apps and mobile shopping are replacing physical stores - do you believe this is so?
Zephrin Lasker, VP of Ecommerce, Rakuten Viber: At first it seemed as though ecommerce and mobile apps were replacing in-store shopping; however, an emerging trend for brands is leveraging offline and online channels together to create a complete and seamless customer experience.
Every channel has its own strengths and advantages. Shopping on desktop is great for thorough product searches, while mobile is the perfect channel to browse and share with friends. Brick-and-mortar storefronts at their core are experiential - allowing shoppers to touch and try products. By leveraging each channel and finding opportunities to blend the experiences, brands can create a holistic strategy that is appealing to shoppers.
Kristina: What are apps bringing to the shopping experience for consumers?
Zephrin: Mobile apps create new opportunities for personalized shopper experiences. Whether it's understanding size, interests and taste, or even basics like shipping and billing information, all of these details allow brands to anticipate customer needs and improve the overall experience. Furthermore, shopping on mobile allows consumers to easily share products with their friends and family for opinions on products or clothing items.
Kristina: How does this benefit retailers?
Zephrin: For retailers, mobile apps help to forge even deeper connections with customers that aren't possible through traditional channels. For brands getting started on their mobile journeys, a good place to start is by optimizing their mobile websites, as this doesn't require users to download a new app to their smartphone. From there, brands can begin to understand individual shoppers and build trust with them through personalized experiences. In turn, this will compel users to download the app for more meaningful interactions. 
Kristina: How important is it for retailers to have shopping apps now? What about over the next 2-5 years?
Zephrin: There's no doubt that mobile is quickly becoming an important channel; however, developing an app from scratch may not be necessary for every retailer. It all depends on the industry and types / amounts of customers brands serve. For retailers that reach mass audiences an app is a must. But for boutique or niche brands, native apps are not as important. In fact, these smaller brands may be better off focusing on a great mobile website that drives traffic to a store or even leveraging a third-party chat commerce app for more personalized experiences.
How can retailers make the most of apps and app data?
Mobile apps can be simple, but powerful. This means using available data to ensure shopping experiences are tailored to individual users. Of course, it is critical that retailers prioritize user security and balance personalization with data privacy. By offering opportunities for shoppers to opt-in or out of sharing their information, retailers can enable their customers to direct the experience and align with their expectations.

Tags: app commerce, ecommerce, ecommerce trends, mobile marketing, mobile shopping, Rakuten, Viber

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