Engaging shoppers via mobile: you can if you know where to look

Shoppers2We recently filmed 2,000 shoppers in and around retail sites on London’s Oxford Street and in central Guildford – including John Lewis, Debenhams and House of Fraser – to find out where people are most likely to use their mobile phones.

Doing this would uncover opportunities for retailers and other brands to create mobile encounters with shoppers.

The research found huge differences in where people use their devices.

Surprisingly, the biggest hotspot was just outside stores, where 24% of people waiting next to entrances were using their phones for non-voice activities such as social networking, using apps, and accessing the internet.

Other hotspots were in and around escalators and in in-store cafes. Sixteen percent of people on escalators and 9% of people in cafes were seen at any one time to be using their phones for activities other than voice calling.

We were really surprised at the huge differences where people use their phones. We expected to see a lot more ‘show rooming’ behaviours – people using their mobiles when actually looking at retail items. However, we only saw 3% of people who were browsing items actually use their phones whilst doing so.

The ‘in-between’ spaces we identified – where people aren’t looking at store items – are where people are most actively looking for content on their phones or most amenable to receiving it, thus providing some of the biggest opportunities for retailers and other brands.

One of the big opportunities of course is iBeacon, which retailers can use to send messages to people in specific parts of their stores including those identified in the research. (The Swan shopping centre in Eastleigh recently became the country’s first shopping centre to use the technology.) People travelling on an escalator could be sent vouchers or messages about deals available on the next floor, personalised according to their previous shopping habits and other CRM data. A person spending time in a particular section could be sent content and recommendations about a product, or even links to rich media experiences such as music and video.

Another solution provided by iBeacon is indoor mapping. Looking for a particular store, service, item, range or section? Retailers can show them the way through the technology. Or retailers can use it to encourage feedback that stores can act on in real time.

However, a challenge for iBeacon is that it depends upon people having Bluetooth turned on and them having downloaded a retailer’s app. But retailers can encourage both by incentivising customers, for example ‘turn on your Bluetooth and receive a 5% discount’ or ‘a free hot drink in our café’.

A second opportunity is around people’s online social activities whilst in these spaces. When retailers provide personalised messages, vouchers and so on via iBeacon and other in-store media, they need to look to shoppers to then share them on Facebook and Twitter – ‘Share this voucher with your friends’.

The sheer amount of data that Facebook holds about its users means that once Facebook has mobile location advertising enabled, retailers and other consumer brands will be able to more carefully target shoppers who are accessing Facebook with relevant information and advertising. This is especially so given Facebook’s tie in with Data Logix, which collects people’s previous purchase data.

Retailers are also missing out on creating social conversations. We noted instances of people snapping different products in-store and in window displays with their phones, but no instances of retailers encouraging people to do this and then share them on Facebook and Twitter – a simple but effective way of getting fans to market retailers’ products.

A third opportunity for retailers is to use Weve SMS messaging, particularly to tempt in people who are waiting outside stores. Weve is especially useful given the amount of data available from networks. A retailer could target people based upon their sex and residential post code. Or network data can also be used to target people who have been out of the country, very useful for the likes of Debenhams and John Lewis, each of which has its own travel agency in some of its stores.

Lastly, given the high proportion of people waiting outside stores, the research highlights how retailers would do well to leverage out of home advertising near to store fronts. Digital out of home messages can be changed to target different types of people throughout the day, and can also be used to encourage people to download and utilise retail apps, and engage with retailers through social.

Steve Smith is head of thought leadership research at Starcom MediaVest Group