It’s a fact that women are now responsible for 85 per cent of all purchasing decisions in the United States and recent research shows that they overwhelmingly prefer to shop in physical retail stores.
They like to touch and feel the products they’re considering buying and they enjoy the social interactions that come from shopping with friends and family.
What’s new is that they do so with their smartphones in hand while shopping at brick-and-mortar stores.
Their mobile devices have become valuable decision-making tools for what and where to buy. Retailers have a unique opportunity to take advantage of these new habits by first understanding the purchasing preferences of women: the ones who are choosing when and where to open their designer purse strings.
An independent study of 1,000 women found that 76 per cent of them prefer to shop for apparel and clothes in-store, while only 22 per cent favour online shopping and less than 2 per cent would rather shop on a tablet or smartphone.
But that’s not to say that women aren’t using their smartphones. In fact, according to a recent survey commissioned by Google, over 66 per cent of smartphone owners use their phone to help them shop while in a store. Much has been written about showrooming, the practice of using smartphones to search for lower prices and buy online after visiting a brick and mortar store, but women are also using their smartphones to get style advice and feedback, search for product information, and look for special offers and discounts while they shop. Rather than fear this smartphone-enabled behaviour, retailers can find ways to use it to their advantage.
How? By implementing mobile strategies and technologies that enhance the in-store shopping experience.
Women shop in stores for a variety of reasons, including the ability to see and touch the product (92 per cent), try on clothes for fit (90 per cent) and explore and discover new styles (70 per cent). It’s a sensory and immersive experience that will never be fully replicated online, and it represents a critical consumer touch point for brands.
Savvy retailers are thinking creatively about ways to encourage engagement with consumers while they shop, and in doing so, indirectly reduce showrooming behaviours. Giving consumers something of value on their smartphones rather than discouraging smartphone use in stores is the best way to engender loyalty, increase purchases and drive repeat visits.
Consumers and retailers alike know that sales and offers stimulate purchases. A study of female shoppers revealed that 31 per cent had purchased apparel or shoes more than once from a flash sales site and 33 per cent love it when a sales associate reminds them of in-store sales. But what happens when that offer is presented in a much more personalised and relevant way on a mobile device?
The number of women who would be thrilled if they received a personalised offer on their smartphone while shopping in-store jumps to a whopping 58 per cent. It’s all about context. The most powerful time and place to deliver offers is when and where consumers are shopping.
Interestingly, although privacy and mobile phone location data are becoming increasing concerns for consumers and legislators, women are so interested in receiving relevant offers while they are out shopping that they are willing to make concessions to get them.
In fact, 47 per cent of women would share their location information in return for a $5 store credit. Make that a $25 in-store credit and the percentage of women who would volunteer their location increases to 83 per cent.
The good news for retailers is that women WANT to shop in stores. The personal and sensory experience of shopping in stores is so strong that they prefer it much more to shopping from a computer or a mobile device.
Yes, the majority of them use their smartphones while they shop in stores, but this behaviour represents an incredible opportunity for retailers. Smartphones and location-based marketing have created an entirely new way to engage with consumers and personalise the in-store shopping experience.
It’s what women want, and it’s here today.
Hilmi Ozguc is the CEO of Swirl, an in-store mobile marketing platform provider.
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