Magazine article CRM Magazine

Stores' Tenuous Hold: Fickle Customers Toting Mobile Devices Are Just One Click Away from Taking Their Business Elsewhere

Magazine article CRM Magazine

Stores' Tenuous Hold: Fickle Customers Toting Mobile Devices Are Just One Click Away from Taking Their Business Elsewhere

Article excerpt

The biggest change in retail during the past year has taken a long time to arrive: The economy is getting better, according to Cathy Hotka, retail consultant at Cathy Hotka & Associates.

With retail showing promise in 2010, businesses can buy newer technology and hire more. Among the technologies is the iPad. "Every CIO had a C-suite executive walk into the IT offices announcing, 'I bought an iPad. Can you integrate this with everything we have?'" Hotka says.

Devices such as the iPad and smart-phones have dramatically changed the retail landscape. Mobile WiFi access lets customers not only research what they see in stores on the spot, but also discover who may sell the item for less money.

The explosion of social media allows customers instantly to share experiences with certain brick-and-mortar locations. Customers can engage with brands in unprecedented ways, which for businesses can lead to benefits or detriments.

"Customers know that they're in the driver's seat," Hotka asserts. "And they have been for the past 10 years, but even more so now."

Many customers "presearch" before hitting the stores--research their prospective purchases before committing to anything. This change in shopping etiquette makes impulse purchases a "whole new concept," says Hotka, who acknowledges that many customers arrive at a store only to buy a specific item, if they even leave their house at all to shop.

Retailers, Hotka says, are aware of this change and aim to create "frictionless experiences," enticing consumers to buy by making the process easy. Common tactics include free shipping and storing credit card data from a previous sale.

The "frictionless experience" is further evidenced in Forrester Research's report, "The State of Retailing Online 2010: Key Metrics and Multichannel and Global Strategies," by Sucharita Mulpuru, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester.

Mulpuru writes, "While the economy continues to sputter and consumer confidence wanes, Web retailers have managed to capture wallet share by offering shoppers the benefits of convenience, selection, and value."

Despite the many shifts in retail, one initiative has remained fundamentally the same: catering to female shoppers.

In the Newsweek article "The Richer Sex," Rana Foroohar says that many women make most of the purchases in double-income households.

"Even before the financial crisis, the spending power of women was increasing in both rich and poor countries," Foroohar writes. In the U.S., for example, men lost more jobs than women, mainly because more men work in the hardest-hit areas, like financial services and manufacturing, while women started more companies. …

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