Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Retail Evolution and Mobility

Farmers once sold their harvest bounty directly to their customers from beneath the branches of their fruit trees.  Customers had a direct face-to-face relationship with the farmer and could express their preferences and demonstrate their buying patterns to the farmer.  Over time farmers developed means to preserve and package their products, and to sell them through retail stores with large customer bases.  Sales expanded, but the personal relationship between the farmers and their customers, and an intimate understanding of each of their customers’ preferences was lost behind the retail shelves of big box stores.

Over time retail stores seeking market expansion and competitive differentiators developed mobile commerce apps that enabled them to sell products across a much wider geographic area, and to larger markets at any time of the day or night. This expanded sales potential, but in the process disconnected customers from the retailer’s physical store and location.

Mass marketing to mass audiences depersonalized the shopping experience.  It reduced the farmer’s products to mere commodities, and retail stores to logistic, warehouse and delivery centers.  It shifted competitive differentiators from customer service, retail locations, store layouts, local product selections and building designs to the designs of mobile commerce apps and websites, their performance and ease of navigation.  In addition, shipping costs and post-sales return policies moved from afterthoughts in fine print, to major competitive differentiators. Few were satisfied with these developments.  Customer service, brand loyalty and the consumer’s retail experience suffered.

Today, however, technologies and business strategies are converging again to offer hope these relationships can be restored, and the quality of the consumer’s mobile commerce experience improved.  The development of MyX (My Experience) personalization strategies and technologies are promising highly personalized digital experiences for consumers, and competitive advantages for businesses that can support them.

Creating highly personalized MyX mobile commerce apps for thousands and even millions of consumers requires business process re-engineering, new IT strategies, technologies, intelligent process automation and upgraded legacy systems and real-time personalized experiences. The competitive battlefields of retail are moving fast and demand urgent action today.

As consumers shift more of their work and personal time to mobile devices, we see rapid growth in both mobile marketing investments and the numbers of mobile commerce transactions.  Today 34 percent of global e-commerce transactions are mobile, even though 73 percent of survey participants continue to use desktop/laptops for most of their online shopping activities.  Mobile shoppers (those that shop online regularly using a smartphone or tablet) shop online more frequently than computer shoppers (those mostly using computers for online shopping activities), and as shoppers continue to migrate to mobile commerce these transaction numbers will see continuing growth.  The bottom line, mobile commerce is growing fast across all demographics and represents the future of retailing. Developing a strategy for personalizing users' experience is the key component.

Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Senior Analyst
The Center for the Future of Work, Cognizant
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.