Consumers Expect Retailers to Develop a Mobile Strategy to Continue the Overall Customer Experience

Omni Channel ShoppingMobile technology use among shoppers continues to rise among shoppers as retail habits change, according to Sue Yasav, Research Insights Leader, Synchrony Financial. Synchrony Financial’s 2015 Digital Study shows that retailers can differentiate themselves with integrated mobile strategies that, in turn, boost customer engagement and customer loyalty.

Yasav participated in a compelling interview with Loyalty360 to discuss this unique study and its ramifications.

How important is a comprehensive mobile strategy for retailers today to effectively engage shoppers and enhance the CX?Omni-channel shopping

Omni-channel shopping has now become the norm in the retail environment. It is no longer an outlier or limited to specific populations. We conducted the 2015 Digital Study* of consumer digital adoption and usage in April of this year. Our Digital Study shows that 45% of our survey respondents performed some kind of shopping-related task on mobile in the past three months alone. This number keeps increasing every year. Customers expect the digital interaction with a retailer to be seamless and it is important for retailers to develop a mobile strategy, as a continuation of the overall customer experience strategy.

How far has the use of mobile technology come in the past three years for retailers?

The use of mobile technology has grown steadily each year over the past three years, and we anticipate continued growth. Based on our survey, in 2012, only 35% of shoppers said they performed a shopping related task on a mobile device. That number is now 45%. Similarly, three years ago, only 10% of the survey respondents said they made a purchase using a mobile device and today that number is 18%. It is becoming apparent that customers are increasing their use of technology to shop. The question is: Are retailers catching up with this trend? We have found that some retailers provide great examples of customizing experiences to take advantage of these trends. Some tools that retailers can use are customized alerts and responsive design in retail mobile apps.

What was the biggest surprise (either positive or negative) in the report?

The biggest surprise in the report was the degree to which social media impacts retail purchases, especially for younger populations. A third of the survey respondents said they’ve purchased a product after seeing it on social media. For millennials, it is 53%, and 42% of GenX’ers say this is the case. Even though the impact of social media on sales is difficult to track, our research indicates a rise in social media as an influencer in purchase decisions.

What role does social media play in all of this, and how should retailers leverage it?

85% of the survey respondents say they have access to social media sites, so social media is an important channel and should be included in retailers’ plans. And since about half of millennials say they’ve purchased a product after seeing it on social media, if you are a retailer with a large millennial shopper base, or are trying to attract millennials to your brand, social media should be part of the strategy. Not only is a brand presence necessary, but a social media message and content strategy should also be part of the marketing mix. Social media influencers and blogs can also play a part in attracting new customers and getting your message out there.

How important are loyalty programs today, and what trends (if any) do you see regarding them?

Customers are still very interested in loyalty programs and they are impactful; 64% of our survey respondents say they regularly take advantage of loyalty benefits and coupons, and the same percentage say they are more likely to make a purchase if they have a loyalty coupon to redeem. This percentage rises to 75% for retail credit cardholders. So shoppers are interested in, and active in retail loyalty programs. 

The trends we see are the integration of loyalty into the digital experience. In 2012, only 10% of shoppers told us they tracked rewards points through their mobile devices and that number has now grown to 23%.  Similarly, three years ago, only 6% of survey respondents said they received online offers to their mobile phones from retailers they shopped, that number is now 27%, almost a five-fold increase. Retailers must look at their loyalty programs in a multi-channel environment and plan for the growing rise in digital technology as the preferred method of loyalty execution in the coming years.

How are retail habits/customer behavior changing due to mobile technology?

It is hard to overstate the impact that digital technology has on retail habits and behavior. For example, 84% of our survey respondents say they have researched products online before buying.  This price transparency has significant implications for merchandising, pricing strategy, customer experience, and loyalty programs. 

Additionally, 75% say they are more likely to choose a retailer with free shipping.  This also has significant implications to online pricing strategies and drivers of purchase. Retailers who focus on the digital experience of customers in their overall strategies will have the most success in winning the hearts and minds of the current omni-channel shopper.

What are the key challenges facing retailers regarding mobile technology?

Developing new strategies, technology, and associate training to accommodate the new omni-channel environment is not easy, and does not happen overnight. It often requires organizational commitment and strategic planning. Partnering with organizations or companies who have the expertise to help the retailer navigate the new technology can be beneficial. For example, at Synchrony Financial, we have dedicated teams focused on technology that help our partners deliver mobile solutions to their customers. 


*2015 Digital Study surveyed 1,109 respondents in the U.S., who were 18+, participate in household financial decisions, and shopped with a major U.S. retailer in the past six months. The data has been weighted to U.S. census proportions. 

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