NRF 2014: Is Mobile Lagging As A Retail Investment Priority?

NRFartAlthough 53% of retail marketers now list mobile as their top strategic priority, there is still a disconnect between plans and actual investment, according to a and Forrester Research evaluation of 75 brands.

Based on data highlighted during the “First Look: 2014 Outlook for Digital Retail” track session at the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Big Show in New York City on Monday, retailers are still approaching their mobile investments with caution.

On average, more than half of large, enterprise-level retail brands invest less than $1 million on mobile initiatives spanning smartphones and tablets. This is indicative of classic, “first-mover” challenges said Sucharita Mulpuru, VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research, who led the session along with Jason Goldberg, a VP of strategy at Razorfish.

“In industries where technology is rapidly evolving and customer expectations are evolving [alongside channel changes] the payoff isn’t always definitive [from the outset],” Mulpuru explained. Consequently retailers often import desktop functionalities to mobile.

Nevertheless, Mulpuru predicted the year ahead will yield a move in the direction of what Mulpuru described as “advanced contextual” experiences native to mobile devices, which retailers like Walgreen Co. are popularizing. The move is  due, in part, to the development of the technologies needed to deliver dynamic pricing and mobile promotions at the point of sale, a new wave of “loyalty currency,” she noted.

Walgreen, for example, has seen more than 40% of its Web traffic stem from smartphones and has developed accordingly. Fifty percent of users who have downloaded its apps, ranging from Refill by Scan to Pill Reminders, use those apps within the store environment. The shift to mobile-to-in-store experiences that carry over seamlessly is what’s fueling the contextual development Mulpuru referenced.

Catherine Lindner, formerly Walgreen’s VP of retail marketing, just joined startup company Shelfbucks, which is leveraging iBeacon technology to deliver targeted mobile promotions to shoppers on brick-and-mortar premises. Now chief merchant officer for the mobile company, Lindner said her move was, in part, catalyzed by the digitization of the in-store environment.

“In my world, which was both merchandising and marketing, we always knew that there needed to be a greater shift to digital technology when it came to consumer promotions,” she told AdExchanger. “Yet, Walgreens, like many retailers, [struggled with] ‘How do you [design for] the new consumer, particularly digital natives’” who expect marketer communications to match nimble consumer offerings.

“Those retailers that come up with efficient, effective solutions to deliver the consumer promotion in a personalized way will win,” she said. “The traditional, paper coupon and circular will be obsolete quickly” because of smartphones.


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