The influence of mobile technology continues to make itself felt in retail this month:
Home Depot Canada iPhone App Update – There are many retail apps, and more and more of them are attempting to provide value and functionality that you can’t already get with the standard mobile phone apps. Finding store locations is certainly useful, but not something that will cause users to open an app again and again. The way McDonalds Canada’s app indicates 24 hour sites with different icons on the map, and Starbucks shows whether stores are open or closed at the moment you are searching does add some value for those of us trolling for late night (or early morning) snacks. An interesting update to the Home Depot Canada app adds some value in a different way. The updated app provides a number of tools that are unique to a DIY environment, and more importantly, are actually useful. Among a number of mini apps within the app, the new toolbox has an app that provides for a quick match for nuts and bolts based on aligning a sample on the screen, a great conversion tool, and a tape measure that allows users to estimate a distance by entering in their shoe size and pacing out a distance. Users can even save their measurements with whatever titles they want. This is an excellent example of providing a small but memorable and valuable service on an app that meets the needs of a specific target market.
Selfcheckout on Mobile at Stop & Shop – Further to their iPhone and Android apps, Stop & Shop announced last week that they releasing an app that allows users in stores to scan their own items for checkout. I would enjoy using this app just for price verification – there is so often a shortage of signage and a long walk to a price verifier that would make this a helpful application for me. As far as using the solution to checkout, this turns into a real operational scenario. I’d be fine using it if Stop & Shop trusts me enough to just scan my items, pay and walk out. Unfortunately, security usually requires periodic audits – which could slow this process down for some users. Also note that all of the operational issues I pointed out in an earlier post in 2009 about self-scanning still apply, but with some mobile considerations added in. It’s great technology, and getting better all the time. If it is to have wide success however, these serious operational changes need to be accommodated to ensure that the solution will work as it should for consumers, and any shrink issues are fully understood and dealt with.
Mobile Purchasing – With over 70% mobile penetration in Canada and over 90% in the US (see page 190 of the report), it’s no wonder that these apps continue to roll out, and that retailers target sales directly on the devices. I’m an early adopter, so I’ve purchased tickets, rented and purchased movies, bought music and maybe a book or two. I can see purchasing a lot more on mobile if it was easy enough to do so. I’m seeing more and more retail sites optimized for use with mobile devices that automatically move to a mobile version when you access them on your phone, and that could move more purchases to the device. It would also be nice to have a simple interface to some of the half day sales the likes of the Gap put on. Consumers might be more likely to take advantage of a short term deal if it was only a few screen touches. Expect retailers to improve on the mobile web to take advantage.
Don’t expect the mobile wallet to get solved any time soon however. Even though apple stores are selling the square dongle, there is still much to be worked out on the back end for real full scale consumer payments to take place.