Small Biz Ahead

Retail Customer Engagement

Using Mobile to Engage Customers – and Increase Sales

By Kelly Spors

The mobile revolution isn’t going away, and many large retailers are rolling out apps, mobile payment platforms and other mobile-based programs . Small and independent retailers may not have the budgets to create fancy apps like, say, Starbucks, but there are still plenty of low-cost ways to use mobile to engage with customers and drive sales.

As you use mobile to help generate new business, however, it’s important to consider how such growth will affect your store’s coverage needs so that you’re well prepared for it. We’ve also produced a list of other steps retailers can take to prepare for growth.

Here, then, are some ways that small retailers can use mobile to spark growth:

Third-party mobile loyalty solutions

Instead of using punch cards, some retailers are turning to third-party apps like Belly, Foursquare and FiveStars that let customers rack up and redeem reward points. Belly, for example, allows stores to build a menu of creative, non-traditional rewards that Belly users can choose from. It also lets retailers send offers to Belly users in their vicinity, even if those people have never shopped at the store before. Shoppers can “check in” at the store, earning them points and giving the store useful analytics about who has visited the store and how much they spent.

FoBoGro, a small Washington, D.C.-area grocery store, has used Belly to offer quirky loyalty awards to customers, such as free bananas and a “30-second sweep” in which customers could run through the store for 30 seconds grabbing as much free merchandise as they can. Using Belly has helped the convenience store improve its rewards program and communicate it with customers, co-founder Devlin Keating told USA Today. “If we’re going to stand out, we’ve got to be better at this than CVS,” he said. “We’ve got to make it more fun.”

Use in-store tablets

Some small stores now set up tablets that let customers browse their full product selection, even if some of those products aren’t available immediately in store. “Tablets open up an opportunity for small retailers to expand their product offerings without having the physical merchandise on hand,” Giovanni DeMeo, vice president of global marketing and analytics at retail event marketing firm Interactions, told Business News Daily.

Retailers may also set up tablets in store that allow shoppers to watch product demonstrations or use self-checkout features via technology like Square to make purchases.

Text messaging

Sometimes simple is better – and a text messaging campaign can be affordable and effective. Companies such as Tatango and EZ Texting help businesses execute texting programs.

Retailers can give customers a reward – like $10 off their next purchase – for signing up to receive text messages with special offers and other store promotions. Retailers who have been successful at customer texting programs know the ground rules: They actively ask customers to sign up for their text messaging program in emails and in store, and they don’t abuse it. Most customers don’t want to receive more than one or two texts a week from a retailer.

Texting can also be used to engage with customers in the store. “For example, in an auto parts store, customers could text their car make and model to a keyword displayed in the store aisle, and get back the recommended part number they needed to purchase,” TextMark’s Dan Kamins told Street Fight. “SMS provides another way for marketers to implement in-store targeting that doesn’t require customers to download an app.”

Local retailers can no longer ignore mobile. As more consumers use mobile devices for practically everything, they will expect to be able to use it to engage with retailers as well.