Retail Trend: Turning Crowds into Stores


Ten years ago, future-thinking retailers were busy integrating so-called 'bricks and clicks' - basic stuff like providing store locator maps on the company website, and conversely offering extended product ranges through Internet kiosks placed in physical stores. Today, smartphones are taking this integration to a whole new level, anchored by a mobile handset's ability to send GPS data of where the user is, at any given moment.

Retailing through a mobile phone is nothing new - Amazon has already sold over $1bn goods via mobile devices, and every two seconds, an item is sold on eBay mobile. Walmart currently enables its shoppers to scan a barcode into a smartphone from its store to get consumer ratings and reviews for considered purchases from the Walmart website. (Source: Forrester). But where it gets interesting is when geolocation applications are added. Facebook users signed up to its Places feature enables retailers to 'see' where users are browsing from, and serve products to them accordingly. Retailers are already adding stock volume details to these shoppers, pinpointing not just a great price near them, but guaranteed availability too.


What does the future hold? How about retailers being able to offer special price deals to those in a particular place? Traditionally, this might be used for new store opening promotions. But why stop at locations where a store exists? Imagine a music retailer or manufacturer offering exclusive discounts only to the crowd attending a live gig, using the GPS coordinates of the venue as the 'store' boundary.

As with any other channel, the goal of m- commerce (perhaps in conjunction with other physical and e-formats) will be to enhance the customer experience to the point where it encourages loyalty and makes the brand distinctive.